New book explores preconditions for social and political change


Resistance often connotes explosive antagonism – but more often it is the small actions, repeated over time, that lead to real change. In her latest book, peace and development researcher Mona Lilja discusses the notion of “constructive resistance” in relation to a number of current topics such as nationalism, climate change, gender, migration and land ownership issues.

Book cover for Constructive Resistance - Repetitions, Emotions and Time.
Constructive Resistance - Repetitions, Emotions and Time can be downloaded via open access.

The book Constructive Resistance – Repetitions, Emotions and Time provides an analysis of how dominant structures and worldviews can be challenged by actions and representations that are repeated over time.

Mona Lilja suggests that the most powerful forms of oppression are the societal norms that define what is acceptable, moral and rational within in a society – and what is not. These norms can be challenged through everyday actions. On their own they are not considered political events. But together, and over time, they will spread through a society and open up for new ideas and worldviews to become accepted. This is how opposition to slavery turned into the abolition movement, how women gained right to vote, and how for example same-sex marriage campaigns are carried out today.

Portait of Mona Lilja.
Mona Lilja's research concerns the concepts of power and resistance with special focus upon the linkages between resistance and social change.
Photo: Johan Wingborg

“In this book, I examine the constructive aspects of resistance when it comes to, for example, street protests, controversial buildings and the use of photographic images, and show their role in local and global political processes. The book looks at how resistance can produce alternative societies, ideas and/or identities,” says Mona Lilja.

According to Mona Lilja, repetition of actions is crucial for how power and productive resistance work. Repetitions are part of how our collective values are communicated within a society and how they are handed down through generations. Constructive resistance explores how we can imagine the world differently.

“All in all, I consider this book to be part of a larger work that has been done by resistance researchers in Scandinavia, where the aim has been to develop and shape the concept of constructive resistance. For example, Stellan Vinthagen, Minoo Koefoed, Majken Jul Sörensen and Kristin Wiksell, among other scholars, have also highlighted the concept of constructive resistance from different perspectives and/or through various empirical analyses on the topic. This book contributes to this novel scholarship,” says Mona Lilja.