Call for Papers – AAG Chicago 2015 – Geographies of activism and protest

Call for Papers: Geographies of activism and protest

Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting

Chicago, April 21-25, 2015

Session Organizers: Tricia Wood (York University, Canada) and Richard J White (Sheffield Hallam University, UK)

The world has witnessed many significant large-scale protests, and highly effective (anonymous, individual) forms of direct activism in recent years.  A few particularly visible examples of these would include the ongoing anti-government and anti-austerity protests in Spain, Argentina, Greece, Libya, Turkey, Thailand; the Occupy movement; and UK student-led protests against higher tuition fees and the rampant commodification of higher education.  By successfully engaging with alternative forms of governance and radical democracy that take place in a meaningful way beyond the State, these geographies of activism and protests continue to inspire new expressions of identity, relationships, resistance and solidarity into being. However, unsurprisingly, the (perceived) success and traction that these popular protests movements have gained and stand to gain can also be demonstrated in the increased forms of (state) surveillance, militarization of police forces, and other highly aggressive and intrusive forms of censorship and repression.

At a time of seemingly entrenched economic, political, social and environmental crises, it is vital that these radical forms of activism and protest continue to challenge and incite the popular imagination, and foreground “alternative” futures that are not only desirable, but are both practical and enactable. In this context, the session seeks to underscore what geographers and spatial analysis can contribute to our understanding of dissenting political action.

Some questions that we would like to encourage greater reflection on include:

  • What creates the possibility of protest?
  • What are the political and social conditions that tip frustration over into action?
  • What kinds of subjectivity make dissent possible?
  • Where does activism begin and end? What are the relationships between individual acts of activism (without organisation) and more organised forms of activism?
  • At what point does activism and protest beyond the State become necessary?
  • Can an individual ‘do activism’ without ‘becoming an activist’?
  • What role do activist organizations play in mobilizing protests?
  • What is the importance of the protest camp, and other forms of encampment, within contemporary social movement tactics?
  • How does the built landscape affect the possibilities?
  • What makes activism a “success” or “failure”?
  • Are large-scale protests more significant or effective?
  • What role(s) does media coverage play in our understandings of public protest?

We welcome papers addressing empirical or theoretical aspects of the geographies of activism and protest, in any part of the world and at any scale.

Please send your proposed title, abstract (250 words) and conference pin number if known to Tricia ( and Richard ( by October 15, 2014.  For further information and guidance on AAG submissions see:

Occupy! Zuccotti Park, New York, March 2012

Occupy! Zuccotti Park, New York, March 2012


About Richard J White

I am currently employed as a Reader in Human Geography. Having completed my doctoral thesis at The University of Leicester (Department of Geography) I worked as Research Assistant at The University of Warwick (Institute for Employment Research). I joined Sheffield Hallam University as a Lecturer in Economic Geography in 2006, and was the Course Leader for the B.A. (Hons) Human Geography degree between 2013-2015. Teaching Interests I have a broad interest in many radical approaches within both Human Geography, and other related social sciences. My particular expertise explores alternative/ post-capitalist forms of work and organization; anarchist and dissident geographies; geographies of activism and resistance; and critical animal geographies.
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