Book review symposium: Cities and Social Movements

By Walter J Nicholls & Justus Uitermark and reviewed by Ross Beveridge, Virginie Mamadouh and Berna Turam

28 Dec 2020, 2:17 p.m.
Ross Beveridge, Virginie Mamadouh, Berna Turam, Walter J Nicholls & Justus Uitermark

 Cities and Social Movements book cover

Book Review Symposium: Cities and Social Movements: Immigrant Rights Activism in the United States, France, and the Netherlands, 1970–2015

Walter J Nicholls & Justus Uitermark

Oxford and Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2016; 280 pp.: ISBN 978-1-118-75066-7, £19.99 (pbk)


Commentary I

Reviewed by: Ross Beveridge, Urban Studies Foundation Senior Research Fellow, Urban Studies, University of Glasgow, UK

This excellent book by Walter Nicholls and Justus Uitermark consolidates their considerable contribution to scholarship on urban studies and social movements over the last decade. A principal aim is to rethink social movements from the bottom up, but its further achievement is to show how the ‘urban’ (and especially certain types of urban areas) is fundamental to politics, in this case the development of immigrant rights movements. It does this through extensive empirical research – geographical, comparative and, perhaps, most valuably, historical. The book’s study of immigrant rights activism from 1970 to 2015 in three countries (USA, France and the Netherlands) details how ways of being political – organising, building alliances, articulating demands, claiming rights – are shaped by changing urban conditions, especially the growing reach – and ferocity – of the market and state over this period. This review reflects on what we learn generally about urban politics from reading this book. As such it does not delve into the intricacies of the comparative case studies or engage with all of the book’s many layered arguments about social movements and immigrant rights activism.

Debates on urban politics ultimately hinge on the potential for and of political action in towns and cities. Generally, of course, this potential is seen as restricted as a result of both global conditions of, for example, neoliberalism, and the conditions of politics more specific to the urban scale. Nicholl’s and Uitermark’s contribution is to show the highly contingent possibilities for achieving political change prior to and within different phases of neoliberal urban governance. The authors’ approach might be seen to depart from the question posed by Rodgers et al. (2014): ‘where is urban politics?’ The stress is on empirical richness, tracing geographies of political mobilisation in Los Angeles, Paris and Amsterdam and outlining the commonalities (or not) across the cases. Politics is not confined to a specific realm, nor centred on formal institutions of state or friend/enemy conflict. The politicisation of immigrants occurs in both private and public worlds and is riveted to a grievance at once theoretical and lived every day. This is a politics rooted in spatial networks (of activists), micro as well as macro, expanding and contracting, shaped by but struggling against other networks through which state and market forces operate. Building and maintaining bonds to generate solidarity is as central to this account of politics as the necessity for struggle.

The authors make two main arguments about the urban conditions of politics. First, the ‘urban’ is seen as a governmental field, or a series of spaces, which can become contested, characterised by the interplay of policies and regulations and the grievances and resistances they provoke. The policies and regulations of government are instruments through which space is shaped according to political agendas or neutralised when it becomes too unruly. The struggle for immigrant rights is shown in this book as resting, in part, on a struggle for certain types of urban space, where political networks can flourish in the shadow of the state. Indeed, one of the more general messages of this book is that the means and extent of state and market intrusion into towns and cities has increased since the 1970s, requiring innovation in terms of network building and mobilisation amongst immigrants, especially those with legal status. Governments do their utmost to knowremake and control them, their purpose often aggressive – to disrupt and neutralise the potential of these people and the places they tend to live in. The book provides a striking illustration of this. In the USA, the Bracero Program sought to control the spatial dispersal of immigrants, to keep them away from large urban areas with stronger unions, and to place them in rural areas where work and social life where more easily determined and where immigrants were more isolated and dependent upon individual employers.

Second, urbanity as a way of life is viewed as a crucial condition for political mobilisation in and beyond urban areas. The potential for political agency and organisation to emerge lies deep in the urban conditions of proximity, density, diversity and mass (of persons), which shape everyday encounters in neighbourhoods. Some urban areas, like Eastside Los Angeles, provide a context of closeness to those similar (immigrants with/without rights), sympathetic (other social movements) and hostile (forces of state and market). But the authors do not assume the relation between urbanity and politics. Rather, urban settings provide ‘relational resources’ (p. 227) with which actors can, for example, turn small into large mobilisations. In this way, then, the political potential of the urban itself has to be mobilised. The urban way of life offers conducive conditions, but they are realised and enacted. The urban is thus not merely a convenient setting for immigrant rights politics, but is central to its very possibility.

What, then, of the wider implications of this study for our understanding of urban politics? The authors’ use of the term ‘infrastructure’ has interesting parallels with Simone’s (2004) notion of people as infrastructure and the idea that the performance of the urban is bound up in the (mis)alignments of a range of human actions. Similarly, Nicholls and Uitermark argue that sustained social movements in particular need these alignments of urban resources too. There is a more general sense of politics as being strongly cumulative and performative, one that is bound up in urbanity itself, dependent on ‘the ability of residents to engage complex combinations of objects, spaces, persons, and practices’ (Simone, 2004: 407–408). Immigrant rights activism in the three cities studied rests on both heroic and post-heroic (Boudreau, 2017) political action: daring acts and individual bravery as well as cumulative gains and networked strength. Politics is shown to be ongoing, emergent, bubbling away with occasional moments of overflow and eruption. Its ultimate potential is rooted in the dynamics of everyday urban life, with the seemingly decisive big demonstrations just moments in the continuing ‘process of constructing counter-hegemonic spaces’ (p. 230) for the activists themselves.

This is a substantial piece of work, but one might ask if a book on cities and social movements should be more specific in its engagements with the ‘urban’ and ‘politics’ and reflect more on what the findings imply for the relations between the two, as well as positioning itself more overtly in ongoing debates in urban studies. It would have been fascinating to see the authors reflect on the possible tensions in their account of the urban conditions of politics. For instance, they may have asked, tentatively of course, if the urban is ‘a particular way of being political’ (Roy, 2016: 819), a governmental category or something much more encompassing, ‘the very form of the political’ (Magnusson, 2014: 1561). If urbanity as a way of life is so essential to political mobilisation, and often so precarious in current urban conditions, then is it in some way a part of all or most contemporary struggles? Is the urban a political stake in itself? Put differently, might we say that politics is becoming more urban? The authors tend to swerve such questions, but their book still speaks to and enlightens crucial debates in the field.



Boudreau, J-A (2017) Global Urban Politics: Informalization of the State. Malden, MA: Polity Press.
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Magnusson, W (2014) The symbiosis of the urban and the political. International Journal of Urban and Region Research 38(5): 1561–1575.
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Rodgers, S, Barnett, C, Cochrane, A (2014) Where is urban politics? International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 38(5): 1551–1560.
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Roy, A (2016) What is urban about critical urban theory? Urban Geography 37(6): 810–823.
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Simone, A (2004) People as infrastructure: Intersecting fragments in Johannesburg. Public Culture 16(3): 407–429.
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Commentary II

Reviewed by: Virginie Mamadouh, Associate Professor of Political and Cultural Geography, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

More than urban social movements: Immigrants’ movements, cities and states – and the border

The Wiley-Blackwell Studies in Urban and Social Change series is an established collection of key texts published in association with the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. This volume emerged from the fruitful and prolific collaboration between Walter Nicholls and Justus Uitermark and from a series of individually or co-authored articles and chapters (p. x) published in IJURR but also in AntipodeEnvironment and Planning AJournal of Ethnic and Migration StudiesTheory and Society and Political Geography. Despite these many publications, the three research sites and the two authors, the book reads as a strong and coherent monograph.

The synergy between two authors with each a considerable expertise in urban and migration politics results in a particularly inspiring analysis of three cities. The three cities are not mentioned in the title or the subtitle of the book, which instead foreground the three states in whose territories they are located: the United States, France and the Netherlands. And rightly so, in the sense that immigrant rights activism targets primarily the state and its relation to immigrants. Moreover, the main title, Cities and Social Movements, might be misleading. This is not a book about urban social movements (after the expression coined by Manuel Castells, 1983) or about the city as a stake in an urban struggle. It does not resolve around the right to the city (Lefebvre, 1974), around urban struggles against technocratic planners (Jacobs, 1961) or around gentrification and dispossession (Harvey, 2012). Instead, it focuses on the city as a resource in struggles against the state.

Likewise, it focuses on migrants but not on their contribution to city-making (Çaglar and Schiller, 2018). Instead, it addresses the question of the city as a site of contestation. When precarious immigrants press for rights, how does a particular place help or hinder their endeavour? Cities are ecosystems of solidarity, and new assemblages are emerging from local interactions, the authors contend. In this way, they discuss the political opportunity structure not only at the national level but also at the levels of the city and the neighbourhood. They also successfully navigate the political and policing as two interconnected domains.


A relational and geographical approach to social movements

The book offers a well-documented narrative about the collective mobilisation of immigrants to defend their rights against the restrictive policies of the state in three different cities. It all starts with small resistances, since ‘where there are borders there are resistances’ (p. 3). The book then traces how sparks of resistance in the early 1970s evolved into wildfires – or not.

The authors present a strong critique on the more common poststructuralist approach to social movements with its focus on framing and discursive practices and on the role of social movements in developing new discourses. The authors foreground grievances relating to ever harsher migration policies and deportation regimes. These state policies have particular repercussions for immigrants labelled as ‘illegal, underserving and unwanted’ (p. 23). The authors also focus on the networks through which these grievances are expressed and communicated.

The structure of the book is straightforward. It consists of two introductory chapters and one concluding chapter about the book’s approach, with nine empirical chapters making up the main body of the text. These nine main chapters are grouped into three periods, with a chapter on each city (Los Angeles, Paris, Amsterdam) in each period. This structure highlights the commonalities between the three cities in the different phases: (1) the birth of immigrant rights activism in the 1970s, (2) the urban landscapes of control and contention in the 1980s and 1990s, and (3) the new geographies of immigrant rights movements in the 2000s and early 2010s.

In the first series of chapters, cities are conceived as relational incubators: aggregating grievances, harnessing resources in what the authors call specialised activist clusters, connecting these clusters and providing hubs in the social movement space. This phase is arguably rather similar in each of the three cities, where a strong activist cluster was already present. In the second series of chapters, cities are sites where the state attempts to control the grassroots. To research this, the authors chose a Foucauldian governmentality perspective but they also wanted to examine the limits of governmentality and the uneven reach of government. As a result, the new geographies of immigrant rights movements are very variegated. These geographies are the objects of the third series of chapters.


Empirical grounding

The selection of the cities is never really justified. It is most likely the result of pragmatic path-dependent decisions in previous research projects. Commonalities and differences help understand the dynamics of social movements formation. However, the depth of the fieldwork and the quality of the analysis are uneven. The French case is the least thorough and convincing; it is clearly a context that is less familiar to the two authors than Los Angeles and Amsterdam, of which they have intimate knowledge. Nevertheless, Paris/France is a welcome third entry point in the analysis. It creates a kind of triangulation. It is a case where they can take more distance, but foremost it enables them to avoid the kind of binary conclusions a twin study would have implicitly generated: Amsterdam as non-LA, and LA as non-Amsterdam.

The empirical chapters are rich and very compact. A great deal of relevant information remains concealed, such as the fact that Dutch mayors are not elected or the complicated administrative structure of Paris and its region. Similarly, the local situations differ greatly in the extent to which the informal sector provides labour opportunities (more so in LA than in Paris, more so in Paris than in Amsterdam) and the extent to which participation in city life is constrained for illegal residents (more so in Amsterdam than in Paris, more so in Paris than in LA). The reader is expected to be able to contextualise the selected information.

At times, the social boundaries between different categories of migrants and their descendants are ignored. In LA, the distinction is somewhat blurred between immigrants and minorities among citizens (for example, discussing the role of the minority communities including Latinos in Tom Bradley’s mayoral electoral campaign in 1969 and 1973 and the decision to run a Spanish-speaking campaign).

Issues of labels and categories could have been discussed more thoroughly. Who is an immigrant? Immigrant rights are not defined explicitly but they encompass rights associated with mobility and residency for non-nationals: political, social and cultural rights, access to the state territory, residence rights, access to citizenship (through naturalisation). More fundamentally, they are rights pertaining to the right to be there, the right to be. This allows for some context-dependent specificities. The struggle of the descendants of immigrants is included, especially in the countries where they are seen as ‘second-generation immigrants’ despite being born in the country and often holding national citizenship. Nevertheless, the differences between migrants, asylum seekers and refugees could have been addressed more explicitly.

Moreover, the postcolonial heritage of France and the Netherlands is hardly touched upon: this is particularly important in the case of Algerian immigrants, since at independence in 1962 special arrangements were agreed regarding migration (and citizenship). Repatriates from the former Dutch colonies (Indonesia, Suriname) in the Netherlands, and from former French colonies (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Indochina, Western and Central Africa, Madagascar) in France remain invisible. Some were nationals, but many are not (yet?), and they have struggled with similar limits to their rights as many other immigrants.

The case studies focus on the largest groups of labour migrants in the respective cities, but the importance of international law cannot be overestimated for the rights of certain categories of migrants (asylum seekers/refugees), even if restrictive national migration laws since the 1970s have impacted on the self-definition of many migrants’ journeys and blurred differences between these categories. Moreover, mobile EU citizens in Paris and Amsterdam have entitlements that immigrants from third countries (i.e. from countries outside the EU) do not have, but they are nevertheless immigrants and are confronted with similar integration challenges (language, culture, etc.) and exclusionary social mechanisms, and might be mobilised in similar, or even in common, struggles.

Finally, the diaspora politics of the state of origin could have warranted further attention (Dijkink and Van der Welle, 2009), since they alter the processes of cities of residence. More general policy discourses and practices, such as the balance between the territorial versus the ethnic framing of stereotyping and discrimination on the one hand and policies targeting those in a socially precarious situation on the other hand, differ between the three states and could have been taken more explicitly into account. They also shape the context in which immigrants struggle for their rights.


Relations across borders and scales

The points mentioned above are unavoidable shortcomings when one tries to cover so much empirical ground in such a compact book. Three others are in my opinion more problematic in the light of the proposed framework.

First, although the authors explicitly analyse the role of Los Angeles, Paris and Amsterdam respectively as hubs in the national immigrant rights movements, cross-national networks between cities remain less visible. More specifically, the Europeanisation of migration and integration policies, of urban policies and of collective mobilisation (Imig and Tarrow, 2001) remains unclear. How Europeani-sation impacts migration, immigrant rights, immigrant rights activism and immigrant rights movements is not addressed.

Second, a chapter seems missing before the case studies, as a complement to the excellent chapter on social movements: a conceptual discussion of the state, the border and the city. The authors do acknowledge that state borders are located in the cities and that bordering processes are shaped in the cities (Chapter 1), but do not engage with the large literature of critical border studies and more specifically mobile borders (such as the collection edited by Amilhat Szary and Giraut, 2015, on borderities that is centred too on the concept of governmentality applied to borders). It remains a (yet) unfulfilled promise of a potential fruitful dialogue between critical urban studies and critical border studies.

Third, the 45-year period under study closes in 2015: the year of the so-called migration crisis in Europe, that could more appropriately be called a reception policy and hospitality crisis. In effect, the French case study ends almost 10 years earlier. In Europe, ‘2015’ has re-actualised the tension between cities and states regarding migration, all the more since cities (as political entities, i.e. as municipalities or local states) have claimed more agency by developing their own policies towards migrants and refugees (for legal implications, see Versteeghe, 2016, or the ongoing project on Cities of Refuge headed by Barbara Oomen at the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights). Moreover, the impact of the very existence of the European Union on city–state relations deserved more attention in the French and Dutch cases. It has also been enhanced recently with the adoption of the Urban Agenda of the European Union in June 2016. One of the partnerships pertains specifically to the integration of migrants and refugees (Mamadouh, 2018).

Most likely, the foregrounding of these three unfulfilled promises reveals more my own reading as a political geographer than a serious flaw in Nicholls and Uitermark’s approach, and should not be seen as a reservation against the book. The volume has clearly a wide relevance in urban studies. The empirical chapters offer precious insights into the local political cultures of the three cities under scrutiny and the political institutions of the states that aim at controlling them, and should be of value to a broad readership interested in politics in those sites, but not necessarily in social movements. Moreover, Chapter 2, ‘Rethinking Movements from the Bottom Up’, is a must-read for anyone interested in social movements in cities.



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Commentary III

Reviewed by: Berna Turam, Director of International Affairs Program; Professor of Sociology and International Affairs, Northeastern University, USA

Immigration has become one of the most divisive political issues across the world. Whether one is pro- or anti-immigrant has become the main underlying factor of deep fault lines at multiple scales, neighbourhoods, cities, states and world politics. As we witness the reversal of democracies along with the erosion of human and civil rights, cities take on new roles in becoming shields that protect immigrants. This new urbanism is manifested in the increasing involvement of municipalities and cities in immigration policies and activism (Mullenkopf and Pastor, 2016Varsanyi, 2010). In this political milieu, Nicholls and Uitermark make a remarkable contribution to the debate with their detailed analysis of immigrant rights activism in three cities on both sides of the Atlantic. They provide a rich historical and socio-political detail and in-depth analysis – a combination that is not very common to comparative works.

Cities and Social Movements is a must-read for those who study the geography of resistance in the US, France and the Netherlands of the past 40 years. However, rather than providing a historical timeline for immigrant activisms, Amsterdam, Paris and Los Angeles are used as case studies to study the effect of immigrant movements. The book emplaces the immigration question and brings the city to the centre of immigration activism and politics. By presenting us with an inclusive account of immigrant movements from 1970 to 2015, the authors ask an extremely timely question: how do precarious immigrants press for their rights in increasingly inhospitable countries? Chronologically, the book begins with an analysis of the early phases of immigration with the arrival of guest workers in the 1960s and 1970s, and the emergence of immigrant activism in cities. While each case has distinctions owing to different types of states and policies, the authors also draw attention to similarities. The analysis raises curiosity about other cities that are hubs of immigration. Hence, the book is a very reliable source and a reference book for scholars who wish to expand the comparison to other parts of Europe and the United States and to examine the recent shifts and developments in the face of the massive refugee influx since 2015.

Throughout the book, the reader is consistently invited to think ‘how particular places help or block [immigrants’] ability to engage in these struggles’. It makes an important point by showing how the hardening of attitudes and policies against working-class immigrants coincides with a growing urban struggle to expand immigrant rights and protection. We are presented with the two sides of the coin: ‘As illegality becomes locally constituted and enforced, this is also where it is circumvented, compromised or contested outright’ (p. 228).

Importantly, bringing immigration politics to the local level, Nicholls and Uitermark do not ignore or downplay the central importance of the state in their analysis. For example, in line with Joel Migdal’s (2001) ‘state in society’ perspective, they highlight how a variety of officials are charged with guarding and closing off the borders, such as doctors and taxi drivers in the Netherlands and mayors in France. Accordingly, the book not only does justice to the multi-layered manifestations of the state in immigration politics, but also points to the remarkable spatiality of inclusion and exclusion. ‘A border’, the authors state, ‘is no longer something geographically or socially distant, but something that is proximate and carried in daily life’ (p. 3). This puts daily immigrant struggles into perspective, which is a very welcome contribution to former works on everyday life politics and its multi-scalarity (e.g. Bayat, 2010Monroe, 2016Turam, 2015). Furthermore, it invites further thinking about how both ordinary actors and activists interact with and defy state officials in their resistance to submitting to deportation regimes.

One of the biggest strengths of the book is its ability to link social movements and political institutions. While many studies of collective action neglect the importance of the interaction between states and social movements, Nicholls and Uitermark do an excellent job in bridging these largely disconnected conversations. This gap in the literature is not trivial: for example, the American Sociological Association has two separate sections for political sociology with an emphasis on political processes and institutions, and social movements with a focus on collective action. By underlining the centrality of different types of states and national immigration policies, the second part of the book brilliantly juxtaposes the case of LA against that of European cities. While LA is under weak government control in a federal and laissez-faire state, Paris and Amsterdam are distinguished by strong state control over immigration in centralised nation-states. The authors juxtapose LA to Paris and Amsterdam by arguing that the key concept that shapes immigration policy in Paris and Amsterdam is ‘political integration’. By linking various forms of immigrant activism and the type of the state, the book successfully illuminates the different responses of both cities and states to the intensifying immigration problem.

The book also made me rethink the relationship between the politics of cities and of civil society. Although it impressively takes the city as the main locus of analysis to compare various forms of immigrant movements, civil society also comes into the picture as the basis of immigrant activism. While urban politics and civil societies are by no means mutually exclusive realms or disconnected processes, I tend to think that the city – rather than civil society – as the unit of analysis is both conceptually and theoretically more explanatory of distinctions between immigrant politics in different geographies. This is partly because immigrant politics in a city is more multifaceted and is not limited to civil society organisations, and partly because it is difficult to perceive civil society as a city-specific entity that could explain the different forms of resistance between localities.

To conclude, Cities and Social Movements opens new venues of thinking on burning debates on immigration, including but not limited to sanctuary cities. The historical, socio-political and spatial analysis in the book sheds light on the current struggle of sanctuary cities of the United States and the cities of refuge of Europe. Accordingly, the book will be also appreciated by both policy makers and sanctuary movement activists, who welcome and protect vulnerable immigrant populations. By filling a big gap on cities and local immigrant activism at a time when the populist regimes reinforce increasingly anti-immigrant policies, the book offers a much-needed analysis at the right time. It will definitely be used widely by scholars across disciplines for research, classroom teaching and policy making.



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Author Response

Walter Nicholls, Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy, University of California, Irvine, USA

Justus L. Uitermark, Professor of Urban Geography, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

We would like to thank our interlocutors for their engagement with our work and their thoughtful and stimulating comments. Through Cities and Social Movements, we were hoping to make contributions to a number of disciplines and research fields simultaneously and we feel that the constructive comments from this diverse set of reviewers demonstrate that we succeeded to a satisfactory extent.

Perhaps we should start with an admission: as Virginie Mamadouh states, the title of the book ‘might be misleading’. Many prospective readers will come to a book with this title –Cities and Social Movements– in the expectation to read about urban movements, a distinct class of social movements as theorised by Manuel Castells, among others (e.g. Castells, 1983Mayer et al., 2016). They might further expect, as Ross Beveridge perhaps did, that the book would discuss the many ways in which ‘the urban’ might be defined in relation to politics.

We set out to write a somewhat different kind of book. The ‘urban’ was not our starting point; it was not even our primary concern. In this sense, this is not a book of urban studies. Instead, we intended to write a book about the rise and fall of social movements, specifically immigrant rights movements. We do not turn to movements to understand cities but to cities to understand how people become politicised and develop into activists. We argue that cities potentially (not always) provide environments where aggrieved groups politicise, get together and launch mobilisations that reach far beyond the boundaries of the city. In a nutshell, we ‘develop a relational approach by examining how and why the networks constituting movements develop in specific places and evolve across space’ (Nicholls and Uitermark, 2017: 13, emphasis in original).

One implication is that the rise of mass movements, or even revolutions, can be explained in part by looking at the particular places and environments in which they grow. As Beveridge argues, this ‘is a politics rooted in spatial networks (of activists), micro as well as macro, expanding and contracting, shaped by but struggling against other networks through which state and market forces operate’. To understand the ferocity and tactics of social movements, we must attend to the environments where they originate and develop. Emplacing the immigration question, as Berna Turam explains, ‘brings the city to the centre of immigration activism and politics’. As such, the urban is ‘not merely a convenient setting for immigrant rights politics, but is central to its very possibility’ (Beveridge).

Our focus on space further brings into view relations between movements. It is customary for social movement scholars to isolate one movement for study, but this becomes difficult when we incorporate space. Once we identify the cultural centres, educational institutions, squats, cafes and religious institutions where immigrant rights activists get together and coordinate, we find that they are prodigious environments for a range of movements. Three prodigious environments for social movements that we study in the book – East LA, north Paris and the historical centre of Amsterdam in the 1970s – functioned as relational incubators: they were the places where many of the networks constituting movements were established and indeed coordinated. In this respect, our argument draws upon and is analogous to arguments by Michael Storper, Saskia Sassen and others who argue that the coordination of complex and extensive operations (of the financial industry in their case, of social movements in our case) requires geographically concentrated interactions between clusters specialising in different functions (extraction and accumulation in their case, protests and campaigns in our case).

While we argue that cities, or rather specific places within cities, provide the conditions for social movements to emerge and grow, we insist they do not always do so (see also Uitermark and Nicholls, 2014). Where most of our earlier publications sought to explain why and where contention comes about, we devote a considerable portion of Cities and Social Movements to explaining why revolutionary sentiments and movements fade out or do not arise in the first place. In this context, state strategies of ‘political integration’ play a critical role in shaping the networks of activists. In Paris, the state sought to contain local associations to the scale of the neighbourhood and to deter their connections to radical outsiders. In Amsterdam, the government channelled once-radical activists into citywide ethnic councils that served to manage migrant populations rather than politicise them. Strategies of political integration do not simply achieve control through co-optation or repression. Instead, they penetrate into the fabric of urban civil society and rewire networks to produce more manageable and controllable people. This process of rationalising activist relations helps transform once-disruptive political activists into captive subjects whose scope for action is restrained to the reproduction of the status quo. Though drawing inspiration from governmentality theory, we also suggest that the power of the state to embrace, rewire and subdue political subjects is uneven and incomplete. We use the case of Los Angeles to show that the roll-back neoliberalism of the 1980s deprived the local state of the resources and governing capacities to subdue new networks of radical immigrants. The absence of state control provided immigrant activists the opening to develop strong relations with a diverse range of likeminded radicals. Our assertion concerning the uneven reach of state controls helps to explain the geographical unevenness of social movements, with activists in some cities maintaining their politicising potential while activists in others succumb to state control.

As all three reviewers indicate, part of the effort to account for the rise and fall of social movements is to study their relations within and across places, or what we refer to as their social movement space. Our intent was to lay the foundations for a broader inter-urban geography of social movements. Cities provide conditions where small sparks of resistance can become wildfires of political revolt. The complex relations found in cities nurture these sparks through the mobilisation of resources and the brokering of ties. As relations evolve and competencies develop, early mobilisations form into activist clusters. Relations within each city foster activist clusters, and relations across cities bind each of these clusters into a distinctive social movement space. Though similar conditions (relations and political openings) give rise to this network, only a handful of clusters mature into major activist hubs. Such hubs are equivalent to the alpha cities found in the world cities literature. The most potent of hubs, Los Angeles for instance, can exert enormous influence over the entire network because of their ability to draw in resources and assert legitimacy. Lastly, we would suggest that such a social movement space is contradictory. The social movement space enhances the collective powers of all activists in the network, but it also introduces cleavages between centrally and peripherally located activists. Peripherally located activists find themselves having to follow the lead of their centrally located comrades and competing with them for resources, attention and legitimacy. In this way, the social movement space is politically productive, but it also plants seeds of internal conflict between centrally and peripherally located activists. Thus, our theory of social movement space is grounded in the particular places where resistances emerge, but it extends outward to include the geographically uneven political relations between activists within and across countries.

More could be done to bring out this movement space. For instance, Virginie Mamadouh is correct in noticing that cross-national networks between cities are not so visible in our analysis. We touched upon this topic in a couple of places, but there is no sustained engagement. Our methods were not designed to follow activists as they traversed national boundaries, and we did not want to add further complexity to an already complicated and wide-ranging exposition. Exploring these kinds of relations, following for example Routledge (2003), would be a natural extension of the analysis in the book. One way to do this at scale would be to draw on digital data, including social media traffic. By examining the origins and destinations of messages, it becomes possible to develop a geographical network analysis that provides insight into relations across and within different localities and sectors (Van Haperen et al., 2018).

A final thought. If the making of all kinds of social movements requires the making of movement spaces, the struggles over urban space are not just about living environments. They are also about creating the preconditions for critique and counter-hegemonic projects. The remaking of society in no small part requires the remaking of cities.



Castells, M (1983) The City and the Grassroots. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
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Mayer, M, Thörn, H, Thörn, C (eds) (2016) Urban Uprisings: Challenging Neoliberal Urbanism in Europe. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
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Routledge, P (2003) Convergence space: Process geographies of grassroots globalization networks. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 28(3): 333–349.
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Uitermark, J, Nicholls, W (2014) From politicization to policing: The rise and decline of new social movements in Amsterdam and Paris. Antipode 46(4): 970–991.
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Van Haperen, S, Nicholls, W, Uitermark, J (2018) Building protest online: Engagement with the digitally networked #not1more protest campaign on Twitter. Social Movement Studies 17(4): 408–423.
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