Like utopianism, nonviolence is frequently feared, misunderstood, and/or underestimated. Rather than the passive stance that many attribute to it, nonviolence requires a robust agency that speaks truth to power in the service of radically transforming society. Drawing on my studies and my personal and political experience, in this essay I reflect on the utopian qualities of nonviolence: first in terms of its general characteristics (especially as a form of political agency expressed as witness and intervention and as a way of life) and then in light of the specific lineage that developed in the United States (with a focus on post–World War II radical nonviolence as it developed in the U.S. civil rights and antiwar movements).

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