First Advisor

Gerald Sussman

Term of Graduation

Spring 2008

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies and Planning




Social movements -- Oregon -- Portland, Social movements -- Washington -- Seattle, Social action -- Oregon -- Portland, Social action -- Washington -- Seattle, Public spaces -- Pacific Northwest, Urban schools -- Pacific Northwest




This project returns to the questions that were once at the center of the urban studies debate over social movements. What are urban social movements, and what impacts do they leave on the cities where they occur? Urban protests in Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington are used as the foundation for exploring the following research questions: What urban social movements occurred in the Pacific Northwest during 1990s? What goals were these movements struggling for? What impacts did urban social movements have on daily life in Portland and Seattle?

While this project has continuity with earlier attempts to identify, describe, and assess the role that urban social movements play in cities, it also represents a significant departure from the established ways of understanding this phenomenon. Manuel Castells' (1983) theory on urban social movements considered local activism ineffectual, if it could not produce serious revolutionary change. A different portrait of urban social movements emerged in this project. Pacific Northwest urban protests challenged existing social relationships in neighborhoods, at work, in public services, in the construction and use of urban space, and in the imagination of the city. These protests grew out of the everyday life experiences of their participants and sought to transform the patterns and relationships of daily life.

Since urban social movements arise from everyday life, their impacts will be evident in a community's use of time, construction of space, development of social relationships, and sense of possibility. The ability of urban social movements to radically alter the everyday lives of their participants and communities of interest is, in and of itself, significant. As these changes reverberate beyond the boundaries of these directly impacted communities, they have the potential to create broader citywide changes. It is these transformations that are the building blocks for the active construction of our urban cultures, spaces, and communities.


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