Pragmatic urban protest: How oppression leads to parochial resistance

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4 Scopus citations


Protests struggle to gain traction in societies that are either too open (undermining the need for protest) or too closed (suppressing the possibility of protest). In the United States, there has been a sharp counter-movement responding to the election of President Donald Trump and conservative shift in ideology toward nativism. Given this shift and movement, an inquiry into the possibility of protest is both timely and critical. This ethnographic study of Camden, New Jersey, examines the ways local activists respond to oppression, finding that they use Alinsky-style community organizing that focuses on discrete, local actions and avoid direct confrontation with oppressive forces. These strategies differ from activists in adjacent communities joining in wide-scale, partisan resistance to nativism and President Donald Trump. The Camden strategy appears to be a learned response to failures in opposing wide-scale oppression and fear of loss of access and opportunity. In the face of such continued oppression, Camden activists target pragmatic urban issues to protest in the hopes of gaining small victories. Such a finding indicates that oppression may reify by making systemic changes seem unlikely or even impossible, causing activists in oppressed communities to make the strategic decision to avoid challenging oppression directly by focusing on pragmatic protest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)518-527
Number of pages10
JournalSociological Research Online
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Activism
  • Nativism
  • Protest
  • Right to the city
  • Social movements
  • Urban protest
  • Urban social movements


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