Book Review (Journal of Resistance Studies): Gandhian Nonviolent Struggle and Untouchability in South India: The 1924-25 Vykom Satyagraha and Mechanisms of Change

25 March, 2016

Book Review (Economic & Political Weekly): Gandhian Nonviolent Struggle and Untouchability in South India: The 1924-25 Vykom Satyagraha and Mechanisms of Change

19 December, 2015

Changing Hearts and Minds through Non-violent Protest?, an article by David Hardiman for the Economic & Political Weekly, Dec 19, 2015.

Video: Webinar: Learning from Gandhi, a Campaign against Untouchability, and Human Error

27 October, 2015

Mary Elizabeth King, “Webinar: Learning from Gandhi, a Campaign against Untouchability, and Human Error,” International Center for Nonviolent Conflict, October 27, 2015. Go to

Mary King on Vaikom Satyagraha – Mathrubhumi News Morning Show

15 October, 2015

Dr. Mary King shares her experience in Mathrubhumi news, morning show while visiting Kerala in connection with the release of her new book on Vaikom satyagraha, ‘Gandhian non-violence struggle and untouchability in South India’.

Watch here:

Nonviolent Struggle Twice as Effective as Armed Action

23 September, 2015

View article: Nonviolent Struggle Twice as Effective as Armed Action –  by Navamy Sudhish published in the Indian Express, September 23, 2015

Opinion Piece (The Roanoke Times): The Myth of a “Better” Iran Deal

30 August, 2015

The nuclear deal that the United States and its international partners reached with Iran achieved what it set out to do: prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. This is not solely a White House talking point. Seventy-five nuclear experts have now voiced their support for the deal in addition to top U.S. scientists, generals and admirals,ambassadors, national security experts, and the Israeli security establishment — all of whom agree that the bargain will block all pathways for Iran to build a nuclear weapon.

The agreement is rock solid. As a joint bipartisan statement from a group of national security leaders says, “We . . . conclude that the JCPOA represents the achievement of greater security for us and our partners in the region.” Further, it states, the agreement “meet[s] all of the key objectives.” For instance, it disables Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, reduces Iran’s holdings of nuclear material by 98 percent, and places Iran’s facilities under the most stringent inspections regime ever negotiated. One nonproliferation expert said of this agreement that if Iran ever makes a move toward building a bomb, “the likelihood of getting caught is near 100 percent.”

Yet, critics of the Iran deal rarely, if ever, argue about the technical aspects of this accord. Instead, detractors — many of whom vigorously helped push America into war with Iraq — say that there is a better deal out there, if we just play hardball. Never mind that the agreement has been broadly endorsed by the international community or that it took nearly two years of painstaking negotiations to complete.

Indeed, one could dismiss these charges outright if Congress had not already provided itself with the opportunity to kill the deal. Rather, we must seriously examine the claim that a better deal exists, because if Congress were to prevent the president from implementing the current one, the United States will look weak and untrustworthy, the agreement will fall apart, and the chances for still more war in the Middle East may increase.

The notion that we can negotiate a “better deal” in the event that Congress kills the one agreed to in Vienna is pure fantasy for several reasons.

First, getting a “better” package would not only require the current international sanctions regime to remain firmly in place, but it would also need additional pressure from the international powers that got Iran to the negotiating table in the first place. Indeed, the unity of United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany — a group that doesn’t agree on many things — made possible a final arrangement with Iran. If it is undermined by Congress, the entire sanctions regime will collapse, and with it, the pressure on Iran to comply with any restrictions on its nuclear program.

Second, if Congress trashes the deal, the United States would lose the credibility to negotiate a better one. Our partners will rightly conclude that if the United States can’t follow through on the transaction so laboriously built they would be unlikely to cement another one.

Third, even if by some miracle the sanctions regime and international unity did not collapse, the politics of this issue don’t appear to be changing any time soon. The Republican candidates for president seem opposed to diplomacy with Iran in any shape. On the Democratic side, a President Clinton, Sanders, or O’Malley would confront the same problem faced by President Obama now: a Republican majority in both Houses poised to stop at nothing to kill a deal.

The reality is that any notion of voting down this accord with the goal of negotiating a better one will put the future of resolving this critical matter diplomatically in jeopardy and increase the likelihood of military action. Sen. Mark Warner should support this agreement — as former Sen. John Warner does — because it represents the best chance without going to war that the United States has had, or will have, to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

First published in The Roanoke Times

Mary remembers Julian Bond

17 August, 2015

Julian Bond: In Memoriam

By Mary Elizabeth King
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Book Talk: Gandhi Reaches Civil Rights Leaders

6 May, 2015

View article: Book Talk: Gandhi Reaches Civil Rights Leaders – by Erica Moody published in the Washington Life Magazine.

Gandhian Nonviolent Struggle and Untouchability in South India: The 1924-25 Vykom Satyagraha and Mechanisms of Change

3 March, 2015

Mary King’s latest book, Gandhian Nonviolent Struggle and Untouchability in South India: The 1924-25 Vykom Satyagraha and Mechanisms of Change, is now available.

A note from the author:

A 1920s nonviolent struggle in the Indian village of Vykom (now in Kerala) sought to open the public roads surrounding the Brahmin temple there. For centuries, any Christian, Jew, Muslim, dog, or pig could walk these roads, with the exception of so-called untouchable Hindus, who would “pollute” the high castes should their shadow fall upon them. In what was modern India’s first important social struggle, ordinary people in the princely state of Travancore took action to oppose the extreme practices of untouchability in the Hindu caste system. From April 1924 to November 1925, what Mohandas K. Gandhi called a satyagraha was waged to gain access for excluded groups to the forbidden routes encircling the temple compound. (From Sanskrit satya, truth, and agraha, insistence, satyagraha has come to mean a campaign of nonviolent civil resistance.)
I spent hundreds of hours in archives with both palace and British original documents, and newspaper morgues, in assessing the role of Gandhi, the dilemmas that he faced, and the mistakes that he made. I also interviewed specialist Keralan historians. I have reconstructed a verifiable chronology for what actually happened at Vykom (and its controversial settlement) and in this corrected context, trace the dynamics of civil resistance during this movement. For the first time, scholars and practitioners are able to evaluate this famous and misperceived struggle, which influenced the building of theory on the mechanisms of change in nonviolent civil resistance. Broadening my scope, I give fresh analysis of satyagraha and analyze the impact of the Vykom struggle on the concept and workings of civil resistance on the global level to the present day. Starting in 1919, for four decades, African-American leaders traveled to India searching for strategies on how to change what they thought comparable to a caste system, while Indians lecturing in the United States shared lessons from their nonviolent campaigns, thereby shaping the contours of the coming U.S. civil rights movement.
A note about availability:
My latest book was released by Oxford University press in India on January 27, 2015, and is available for order from OUP India and Flipkart now (which can send it anywhere). It was released in the United Kingdom on March 1, and is available for purchase on Amazon UK. It is available on Amazon (US) now, for delivery from March 25, 2015.

Freedom Summer and the unfinished work of the civil rights movement (al Jazeera)

25 June, 2014

by Alice Driver

A 1965 photograph of a couple in the Mississippi Delta arriving to register to vote [Copyright: Mary Elizabeth King]

You can’t think that the civil rights movement was only Martin Luther King. It was a wide variety of people, black and white, young and old,” explained US civil rights leader Julian Bond.

Bond was a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960. For several years, he worked alongside activist Mary King, handling communications, which sometimes played a life-or-death role for the movement.

“Public understanding was crucial to our strategy,” King notes. 

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