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The international travels, history, and influence of a traditional song

We Shall Not Be Moved/No nos moverán

Biography of a Song of Struggle

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David Spener

"We Shall Not Be Moved/No nos moverán is the fascinating history of a famous song of struggle. Through his exploration of how floating bridges were constructed between distant communities to support and defend social justice in a variety of political contexts, Spener has made a significant contribution to the anthropology of music."
Joaquina Labajo, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid

The activist anthem "We Shall Not Be Moved" expresses resolve in the face of adversity; it helps members of social movements persevere in their struggles to build a better world. The exact origins of the song are unknown, but it appears to have begun as a Protestant revival song sung by rural whites and African slaves in the southeastern United States in the early nineteenth century. The song was subsequently adopted by U.S. labor and civil rights activists, students and workers opposing the Franco dictatorship in Spain, and by Chilean supporters of that country's socialist government in the early 1970s.

In his fascinating biography, We Shall Not Be Moved, David Spener details the history and the role the song has played in each of the movements in which it has been sung. He analyzes its dissemination, function, and meaning through a number of different sociological and anthropological lenses to explore how songs can serve as an invaluable resource to participants in movements for social change.

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Excerpt

Read the Introduction (pdf).

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Reviews

"We Shall Not Be Moved/No nos moverán is an intriguing and inspiring book. The story of the evolution of 'We Shall Not Be Moved' illuminates the significance of songs as a resource in social movements. This story teaches us a great deal about how major movements in the United States, in Spain, and in Latin America not only made history but also made culture. But there is more: This book uncovers the international structures of communication and shared identity that help constitute processes of globalization from below."
Richard Flacks, University of California, Santa Barbara

"(A) concise, readable examination of the arts of resistance and the inspiration of left-wing internationalism. Rich in its multidisciplinary fluency, the book draws theory and method from musicology, sociology, anthropology, and history to trace how the English language 'We Shall Not Be Moved' originated as an African American antebellum spiritual, then became a militant twentieth-century labor tune, and then a Civil Rights freedom song, and ultimately a 'transnational social movement anthem' reconceived in Spanish-speaking communities on both sides of the Atlantic as 'No Nos Moverán.' Spener navigates a lot of territory—linguistically, culturally, geographically, and historically—in the book, and he does it well. The text is lean and learned. The author is steeped in the traditions and orientations of social justice movement culture. He writes with authority and with clear admiration for his subject matter"
Peace & Change

"In We Shall Not Be Moved/No nos moverán David Spener has written the story of a song, or to frame it in more general terms, a case study of a cultural object empowering and connecting collective action across broad historical eras and substantially different societies. Written to inspire and analyze, this engaging and insightful book describes and makes sociological sense of the story of 'We Shall Not Be Moved'.... (He) enriches our understanding of how cultural objects operate in social movements.... Perhaps Spener's most original contribution is his discussion of the translation and transcendence in the travels of a song, in which he analyzes the work that is required to take songs from one cultural context to another. This is especially interesting for a song that is translated from one language to another.... (R)eaders will find its story and analysis appealing."
Contemporary Sociology

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Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction

I: HISTORY OF A SONG OF STRUGGLE
1. A Song, Socialism, and the 1973 Military Coup in Chile
2. "I Shall Not Be Moved" in the U.S. South: Blacks and Whites, Slavery and Spirituals
3. From Worship to Work: A Spiritual Is Adopted by the U.S. Labor Movement and the Left
4. From Union Song to Freedom Song: Civil Rights Activists Sing an Old Tune for a New Cause
5. From English in the U.S. South to Spanish in the U.S. Southwest: "We Shall Not Be Moved" Becomes "No nos moverán"
6. Across the Atlantic to Spain

II: MOVEMENTS AND MEANINGS
7. Social Movement: A Song's Journey across Time and Space
8. Translation and Transcendence in the Travels of a Song

Conclusion: An Internationalist Culture of the Singing Left in the Twentieth Century

Coda
Appendix: Note on Methods and Sourcesy
Notes
References
Index

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About the Author(s)

David Spener is Chairperson of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. He is the co-author (with Moisés Chaparro and José Seves) of Canto de las estrellas: Un homenaje a Víctor Jara and the author of Clandestine Crossings: Migrants and Coyotes on the Texas-Mexico Border. He is also the co-editor (with Gary Gereffi and Jennifer Bair) of Free Trade and Uneven Development: The North American Apparel Industry after NAFTA (Temple).

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Subject Categories

Sociology
Anthropology
Music and Dance


  

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