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Finding the movement: the geographies of social movement scenes

Kimberly Creasap (Department of Sociology, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 10 October 2016



A social movement scene is “a network of people who share a set of subcultural or countercultural beliefs, values, norms, and convictions as well as a network of physical spaces where members of that group are known to congregate” (Leach and Haunss 2009, p. 260, emphasis in the original). The purpose of this paper is to further develop theories of social movement scenes by examining the spatial dimensions of proximity, centrality, visibility, and accessibility, arguing that different scene configurations are shaped by gentrification processes.


This is an ethnographic study based on research conducted in Sweden over a five year period (2007-2012), including several summer research trips and a sustained fieldwork period of 14 months. Using snowball sampling, the author conducted semi-structured interviews with 38 activists involved in autonomous movement scenes. The author interviewed both men (n=26) and women (n=12) who ranged in age from 18 to 37, with most interviewees in their late 20s and early 30s.


Findings suggest that neighborhoods in the early stages of gentrification are most conducive to strong scenes. The author’s findings suggest that, while some of these conditions are locally specific, there were common structural conditions in each city, such as changes in the commercial landscape and housing tenure.


This paper contributes to the specificity of the concept of a social movement scene by presenting three spatial dimensions of scenes: centrality (relative to the Central Business District), concentration (clustering of scene places in one area of the city), and visibility (a visible presence communicated by signs and symbols). A second contribution of this paper is to offer a set of hypotheses about the urban conditions under which social movement scenes thrive (or fizzle).



The author would like to thank Kathleen Blee, Amy McDowell, Marie Skoczylas, Elizabeth Yates, and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback on earlier drafts of this paper.


Creasap, K. (2016), "Finding the movement: the geographies of social movement scenes", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 36 No. 11/12, pp. 792-807.



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