Connecting urban activism to historical, philosophical and theoretical ideas of the dialectic, this book builds a new theoretical framework for reimagining the work of anarchist organizing and social movements

Summary

Urban activism can manifest in many guises, from community gardening to mass naked bike rides. But how might we theorize the evidence of the collisions between social forces that take place in our streets and public commons? Cities are formed through these collective collisions in time. This book draws on the author’s own vast experience as an activist to make links between a theory of practice with rich discussion of the histories of conflicts over public space. Each chapter examines activist responses to a range of issues that have confronted New Yorkers, from the struggle for green space and non-polluting transportation, for housing and the fight for sexual civil liberties. The cases are shaped through interplay between multiple data sources, including the author’s own voice as an observing participant, as well as interviews with other participant activists, historic accounts and theoretical discussion. Taken together, these highlight a story of urban public space movements and the ways they shape cities and are shaped by history.

Reviews

Benjamin Heim Shepard is an exuberant and indispensable chronicler of contemporary urban life and grassroots organizing. With this volume, he brings together the energy of the street and the nuances of theory to produce a fascinating account of how activists are contesting and redefining urbanism for our time. L.A. Kauffman, Author of Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism

This volume is an epic and essential activist primer exploring the many current Social Movements with a serious personal investment as well as a sense of humor. Ben is not only a dedicated activist but also a scholar, historian and a very gifted writer. He tackles a huge range of issues but is able to give them a coherence and context which ultimately makes the whole greater than the parts. A celebration of the activism of everyday life! Fly-O, Comic Book Artist and Illustrator; Peops: Portraits and Stories

Table of Contents

Introduction / 1. Cities as DIY Spaces: On Dialectical Anarchism/Activism and the Future of Cities / 2. From Emma Goldman to Riot Grrl, Sex Work, Autonomy and the Transformation of Streets / 3. Bridging the Divide between Queer Theory and Anarchism / 4. Harm Reduction as Pleasure Activism / 5. Revolutionary Games and Ludic Anarchism / 6. Squats, Primitive Accumulation and the Struggle for a Home in a Neoliberal City / 7. Dialectical Times: Cycling, Non-Polluting Transportation, and Urban Fortunes from Times Up to Right of Way! / 8. Public Spaces and Urban Vistas: From Gardens to Libraries and the Struggle against the Negative / 9. Urban Spaces as a Living Theater: Toward a Public Space Party for Poems, Art and Performance / 10. On a Dialectical Urban Activism:Concluding Thoughts on Public Space, Activist History and Theoretical Mergings

Author Bio

Benjamin Heim Shepard is associate professor of Human Services at New York City College of Technology.