CFP: Quiet Social Movements


AAG 2017 – April 5-9, Boston

Quiet Social Movements & Everyday Life in the Urban Global South: Towards New Geographies of Social Change

Chair: Linda Peake, York University

Discussant: Sara Koopman, York University & University of Tempere

Organizers: Susmita Rishi, University of Washington, Seattle, Amy Piedalue, Australia India Institute and University of Melbourne

Popular and academic attention to social movements and activism often hinges on visible events or actions (i.e. street protests, legal reform efforts, organizational manifestos, etc.), and/or the efforts of marginalized peoples to make visible forms of oppression, violence, and suffering that continually sink beneath the surface of public attention or action. Activism in this context refers to any activity that “aims to engender change in people’s lives” and as an antithesis to “passivity”, includes many kinds of activities from survival strategies and resistance to sustained forms of collective action and social movements (Bayat, 2000). As Koopman (2015) establishes, feminist geographers have advanced the study of social movements and activism through a critical engagement with the politics of everyday life. This work emphasizes the significance of “small p” politics and the ways in which subjects’ lived experiences shape and are shaped by power – including in intimate spaces (like the home) and through mundane encounters with social institutions (from the family to the market and beyond). Geographies of social movements also specifically attend to the ways in which place and space shape processes and ‘terrains’ of resistance (Routledge 1994). Writing in the context of social movements and social development in the Middle East, Asef Bayat (1997, 2000) defines six types of activism: urban mass protests, trade unionism, community activism, social Islamism, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and quiet encroachment. In this panel, we aim to unpack and build upon these themes and to draw concentrated attention to quieter forms of social movement and activism, which are often intentionally and carefully embedded within place and ‘community’ and extend this analysis to the rest of the urban global South.

Further in this panel we want to pay particularly attention to the “quiet encroachment” type of activism and social movements where individuals, families and communities come together to bring about change in their everyday lives which may or may not fit into the conventional definition of social movements. We are interested in the ways in which such movements might demonstrate the agency and creative organizing of marginalized actors, while simultaneously pointing to the limitations of mainstream social and political organizing that may too easily be hijacked or co-opted in ways that reproduce marginality and suffering. Following Roy (2015) and Bayat (2013), amongst others, we also aim to elicit new narratives of social change in the global South that are not limited by the application of Western paradigms of failed states and reform-resistant societies, but instead explore the place-based modes of everyday social and political change operating in and through the global South.  In this regard, we also encourage potential panelists to think of the global South as a relational category rather than a binary term in opposition to the global North. Rather than defining the global South as a geographical category characterized by the location of a place on the globe (Sparke 2007), we conceptualize the global South as a non-cohesive set of spaces marked by historical marginalization, deprivation, and lack of access to resources, spaces which are simultaneously characterized by innovation, ingenuity and resistance to oppression.

This reorientation toward ‘quiet social movements’ in the urban global South opens the field of study beyond publicly visible social movements that follow a model of street protest and mass gathering and resistance, to consider more closely those more intimate social change efforts happening across cities in the global South – efforts which may be quiet and small in scale, and focus on small incremental change in the everyday lives of the community. While the actors in these movements might not always imagine themselves to be part of social movements, such ‘quiet movements’ may also be more numerous and in some cases bring about more substantive change in people’s everyday lives.

We seek panelists who through their empirical and theoretical research and interests can speak to the above issues, covering topics that may include, but are not limited to:

  • ‘Quiet encroachment of the weak’ in the urban global South,
  • ‘Invisible’ everyday social change,
  • Grassroots organizing at the margins of formal protest,
  • Community-based women’s organizing against intimate violence,
  • Conflict resolution and community-based peace building work,
  • Marginalized people’s movements,
  • Alternative protest strategies and modes of everyday resistance,

Please send enquiries and short abstracts before 7th October, 2016 to Amy Piedalue ( and Susmita Rishi (  We will create a panel of 4-6 scholars whose work intersects these questions. While the style of format will be a panel conversation, with short presentations (5-7 mins) by each author and then discussion, we will ask participants to send (short) papers in advance. It is our aim to eventually curate a special edition from the papers presented at the panel. Once we’ve selected abstracts that will be part of the panel, we will be approaching two Urban Geography journals with the proposal for the special edition.


Bayat, A (1997). Street politics: Poor people’s movements in Iran. New York: Columbia University Press.

Bayat, A (2000). From ‘Dangerous Classes’ to ‘Quiet Rebels’: Politics of the Urban Subaltern in the Global South. International Sociology 15 (3), 533-57.

Bayat, A (2013). Life as Politics How Ordinary People Change the Middle East, Second Edition. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.

Koopman, S (2015). Social Movements in The Wiley Blackwell companion to political geography (Second ed., Wiley-Blackwell companions to geography). eds. Agnew, J., Mamadouh, Virginie, Secor, Anna Jean, & Sharp, Joanne P. Chichester, UK; Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Routledge, P. (1994). Backstreets, barricades, and blackouts: Urban terrains of resistance in Nepal. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 12(5): 559–578.

Roy, A (2015). Introduction: The Aporias of Poverty in Territories of poverty rethinking North and South (Geographies of justice and social transformation; 24). eds. Roy, A., & Crane, Emma Shaw. Athens: University of Georgia Press.

Sparke, M (2007). Everywhere but Always Somewhere: Critical Geographies of the Global South. The Global South, 1(1), 117-126.


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