“Should be required reading in every classroom.”

Judith Malina, founder of Living Theater

New Modules

Here you’ll find Beautiful Trouble modules that we’ve added since the publication of our original encyclopedic volume.

Case Study: Countering Homophobic Policing in the UK

Contributed by
March 2, 2016

In the UK in the 1980s, thousands of men were being continually prosecuted for consensual gay behavior — a level of institutionalized police and judicial discrimination greater than any other European Community member at the time. In 1989, convictions for “gross indecency” (a consensual, gay-only offense) were more than three   …Continue Reading

Case Study: Standing Man

Contributed by
February 2, 2016

“They asked me whether I was waiting for someone. Did I have a problem? I remained calm and mute. I didn’t have a problem, but in the following hours, as my picture and the mysterious alias “Standing Man” spread on Twitter, I became one.”

Case Study: Pyramid of Shoes (to protest landmines)

Contributed by
January 5, 2016

“The pyramid of shoes worked because it was visually arresting, emotionally powerful, and easy both to participate in and to understand.”

“…the sculpture that arose from the accumulation of each of these simple acts, told a big, complex story that captured the scale of the problem.”

Tactic: Inflatables

Contributed by
December 1, 2015

To bring playfulness to a protest; to soften a tense standoff with police; to ridicule the authorities.

Case Study: Park(ing) Day

Contributed by
September 16, 2015

Who knows what exciting initiatives might come about thanks to the efforts of par(k)ticipants inspired and excited by all the ways a parking space could be put to use!

Case Study: Conflict Kitchen

Contributed by
May 1, 2015

Believing that the quickest way to a person’s heart is through their stomach, Conflict Kitchen seeks to build cross-cultural understanding and promote peace by introducing people to the food and culture of places with which their government is in conflict. Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the brainchild of artist/activists Jon   …Continue Reading

Principle: Use your cultural assets

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July 30, 2014

By drawing on the cultural assets of the community, organizers can deepen the involvement of participants, disorient opponents, and shift the cultural terrain in their favor.

Case Study: Idle No More and the Round Dance Flash Mob

Contributed by
July 16, 2014

“The round dance flash mobs represented both a powerful expression of resistance and a practice of cultural regeneration.”

Practitioner: Free Fare Movement (Movimento Passe Livre)

Contributed by
July 2, 2014

The Free Fare Movement (Movimento Passe Livre) is an independent and nonpartisan social movement in Brazil that fights to change the current private transportation system to a free public transportation system available to everyone. The movement started in the 2000s, with several important campaigns in various cities that led up   …Continue Reading

Case Study: Brazil’s Free Fare Movement

Contributed by and
July 1, 2014

Ten years ago in Brazil, a horizontal, autonomous, independent and non-partisan movement called the Free Fare Movement (Movimento Passe Livre) was formed to fight for free, high-quality public transportation. Since then, every time a municipal government in Brazil has tried to increase public transportation fares, the Free Fare Movement has   …Continue Reading

Tactic: Cacerolazo

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June 18, 2014

To express popular dissent; to overcome fear in repressive settings; to draw wide swaths of the population into active participation in civil disobedience.

Practitioner: Enmedio Collective

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June 6, 2014

The Enmedio Collective is a group of image professionals (designers, filmmakers, artists) that, unsatisfied by the lack of connections between art and politics action, decided to abandon their usual fields and work to situate themselves in-between, in no specific place at all and in all places simultaneously. From there they explore the power of   …Continue Reading

Principle: Jury-rig solutions (or, How would MacGyver protest?)

Contributed by
June 3, 2014

Fix a problem as best you can to pressure authorities to fix it properly.

Case Study: World Record for the Number of People Shouting “No Vas a Tener Casa En La Puta Vida”

Contributed by and
May 20, 2014

On October 6, 2007, thousands of people gathered in front of city halls in various Spanish cities to break the world record for the number of people simultaneously shouting “No vas a tener casa en la puta vida!” (You’re never going to have a home in your fucking life!). How   …Continue Reading

Tactic: Legislative theater

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May 6, 2014

Legislative theater takes Augusto Boal’s interactive forum theater exercises from the stage into the real world – as a tool for proposing and enacting legislative and policy changes at any level of government.

Case Study: Pimp My… Carroça!

Contributed by , , and
April 22, 2014

Carroça is the Portuguese word for carriage — that is, a wheeled vehicle for conveying people, often drawn by horses, and designed for comfort and elegance. Curiously, in Brazil this word also refers to the ramshackle carts that some human beings are compelled to use. These are the collectors of   …Continue Reading

Practitioner: Escola de Ativismo

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April 21, 2014

Escola de Ativismo is an independent, non-partisan collective based in São Paulo and active in different regions of Brazil. The school provides training in grassroots and campaign strategies to organizations, collectives, movements and individuals working for greater democracy.

Principle: Recapture the flag

Contributed by and
April 1, 2014

Love your country, and fight so that its flag and other national symbols evoke its most egalitarian and noble values.

Case Study: Champions of Unemployment

Contributed by and
March 13, 2014

In June 2013, Barcelona’s city council shocked residents by renting out the iconic Columbus Monument to two multinational companies to use as a billboard — just another case of public goods being sold off or rented while private companies make massive profits. Immediately thereafter, those two companies put an enormous   …Continue Reading

Theory: Dunbar’s number

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March 6, 2014

Dunbar’s number refers to the approximate number of primary, care-based relationships people can maintain. The concept carries interesting implications for navigating the leap from organizing among friends to organizing under formal structures.

Case Study: Public Art Nanny Hotline

Contributed by
February 20, 2014

Nannies, housekeepers, and elder care providers have long been excluded from basic labor protections in the United States, but thankfully, this is now starting to change. In 2010, New York passed the very first Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, followed by Hawaii and California, with other states soon to follow.   …Continue Reading

Principle: The real action is your target’s reaction

Contributed by and
February 5, 2014

When taking on a big and well-known target, it is often the target’s reaction to your action that’s the key to success. Therefore, anticipate your target’s reactions and write them into your script.

Theory: Framing

Contributed by and
January 21, 2014

In the words of media researcher Charlotte Ryan, “A frame is a thought organizer, highlighting certain events and facts as important, and rendering others invisible.” Framing a message correctly can make or break an entire campaign.

Tactic: Light Brigade

Contributed by
January 8, 2014

To broadcast a message through collective action; to frame nighttime actions with a key message; to make creative use of overlooked public spaces.

Practitioner: Overpass Light Brigade & the Light Brigade Network

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January 8, 2014

The Overpass Light Brigade was forged in the Wisconsin Uprising of 2011, and at first focused upon the campaign to recall right-wing governor Scott Walker. Out of that regional action the international Light Brigade Network was formed, and is behind the national coordination of messages such as the WALKOUT ON   …Continue Reading