Producing abolition : public space and protest in Seattle’s Black Lives Matter movement

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Bissiri, Anthony Daniel

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Scholars in planning and geography have relied on Henri Lefebvre's theory of the social production of space to understand how urban protest is a practice through which subaltern groups contest hegemonic political structures. However, few who use Lefebvre's theories have researched the protests of U.S. social movements centered on abolitionist politics, including the immensely influential Black Lives Matter movement. In this thesis, I investigate the Black Lives Matter protests that took place during the summer of 2020 in Seattle to better understand the specific role that the production of space played in furthering the abolitionist goals of the movement. Drawing on informal interviews and personal experience, I identify the embodied actions that protesters took to produce uniquely abolitionist space. I discuss both the usefulness and limits of applying Lefebvrian theory to the case, suggesting that the social production of space in conjunction with abolitionist political thought reveals the importance of embodied actions of protest for new urban social movements resisting racial capitalism.


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