What explains when, where, and why people come together to engage in acts of political protest? How do we understand the emergence and growth of social movements? Of political upheavals dramatic enough to be understood as revolutions? What explains when grievances foment riots and when they motivate long-term movements for social change? As recent events in the Middle East show, it is difficult to understand politics without taking a careful look at moments when people organize outside of established political institutions to demand change. Through readings, lectures, discussion, and films, this course will introduce students to the main theoretical and empirical themes in the study of contentious politics. We will focus on social movements, revolutions, and riots, addressing both the theoretical literature and specific case studies. The course will touch on a number of 20th century social movements and revolutions but will focus specifically on the U.S. civil rights movement, the 1989 student movement in China, the Mexican Revolution, the Cuban Revolution, The Iranian Revolution, and the Arab Uprising.