A Question of Place

Boggs, Grace Lee
http://monthlyreview.org/2015/12/01/a-question-of-place-2/

Publisher:  Monthly Review
Date Written:  27/03/2000
Year Published:  2000  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX18671

Global capitalism relentlessly displaces people and abandons places because it views local communities, cities, and even nations as inconveniences in the path of progress. Place-consciousness, on the other hand, encourages us to come together around common, local experiences and organize around our hopes for the future of our communities and cities. While global capitalism doesn't give a damn about the people or the natural environment of any particular place because it can always move on to other people and other places, place-based civic activism is concerned about the health and safety of people and places.

Abstract: 
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Excerpt:

transnational corporations and the media are trying to erase place-consciousness from our minds altogether because they sense that it can seed a movement against global capitalism. That is why deepening our consciousness of place and organizing around place have become so important to movement-building in this period. Place-consciousness, in the words of Duke University historian Arif Dirlik, is the "radical other" of global capitalism. Global capitalism relentlessly displaces people and abandons places because it views local communities, cities, and even nations as inconveniences in the path of progress.

Place-consciousness, on the other hand, encourages us to come together around common, local experiences and organize around our hopes for the future of our communities and cities. While global capitalism doesn't give a damn about the people or the natural environment of any particular place because it can always move on to other people and other places, place-based civic activism is concerned about the health and safety of people and places.

Place-based civic activism is also unique in the way that it links issues. Thus the Environmental Justice movement calls on people of color to struggle against environmental racism, which results in disproportionate air and land pollution in our communities. Inspired by the Environmental Justice movement, the Labor/community Strategy Center in Los Angeles decided that, whereas the struggle against transit racism in the 1950s centered around direct actions like Rosa Park' refusal to give up her seat, today it means engaging bus riders, who are mostly people of color and minimum-wage workers, in the struggle for timely, clean, and safe public transit.

Place-based civic activism also has important advantages over activism based on racial and gender identity which, in the last few decades, has consumed the energies of most progressives. Important as these identity struggles have been in the continuing struggle to humanize our society, they can lock us into single aspects of ourselves and ignore the multiple ways that we relate to one another in our communities -- as neighbors, housewives, working parents, parents of schoolchildren, elders, children, sufferers from asthma and other disabilities, consumers, pedestrians, commuters, bus riders, citizens. Thus they have tended to isolate rather than to unite different constituencies. On the other hand, place-based civic activism provides opportunities to struggle around race, gender, and class issues inside struggles around place. Equally important, women naturally assume leadership of place-based struggles because they are so pivotal to neighborhood life.

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