First Advisor

Amy Lubitow

Date of Publication

Spring 6-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Sociology






Social movements -- Oregon -- Portland -- Case studies, Food relief -- Political aspects -- Oregon -- Portland -- Case studies, Public spaces -- Political aspects -- Oregon -- Portland -- Case studies, Public spaces -- Social aspects -- Oregon -- Portland -- Case studies



Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 108 pages)


The implementation of neoliberal economic and political policies is often touted as a way to increase overall individual well-being and freedom. While these policies may benefit those already wielding economic security and political power, marginalized populations often bear the negative cost associated with such policies. As deregulation and privatization increases, social safety nets and social spending are dramatically reduced. At the local level, liberalization has resulted in increased surveillance and regulation of public space. Organized resistance to global corporatization and increased economic and political marginalization has occurred across the globe. Resisting neoliberalism is complex as the adaptability of the state and capital requires an adaptive form of resistance. Portland Food Not Bombs provides an empirical example of an oppositional social movement organization that resists neoliberal logic and reclaims public space for collective use by serving free meals. This case study includes participant observation of both Portland FNB chapters conducted at chapter specific meal preparation and serving sites. It also includes ten interviews with individuals who are heavily involved with the SMO. Publicly available documents such as Facebook pages, chapter specific websites, and the FNB website provided important contextual information as well. This study finds that the organizational structure of Portland FNB lends itself to more democratic practices and ideals, coinciding with the values of the respondents. Through transparent, consensus decision-making and a resistance to formal leadership, Portland FNB facilitates a different form of political engagement. By using public space, Portland FNB temporarily alters the physical urban environment by socially constructing a more inclusive space, emphasizing that collectively using public space, is indeed a human right. Portland FNB seeks to create a more just society within the existing institutional framework, while rejecting practices associated with 501(c)(3) organizations and other mainstream SMOs.


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