The Spatial Dimensions of Community Organizing: A New Direction for Theory and Practice

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Literature on progressive community organizing tends to focus on building powerful relationships and other social dimensions. In addition to building relationships, community organizers appear to make choices about space and place in their practice, and have meaningful spatially situated experiences. Due to the under-theorization of space and place in scholarship on community organizing, the spatial dimensions of community organizing are often unseen. This study situates community organizing within a fuller context that includes the spatial dimensions to help us understand what organizers actually do.
Through an ethnographic case study and narrative inquiry this thesis first considers how organizers from a rural community-based energy efficiency project experienced the spaces and places in their communities. Through their narratives we hear how emotions, meaning, history, power, and choice are several dimensions of how organizers experience everyday spaces and places. Secondly, the thesis examines community organizing as a spatial practice in light of earlier research on free space, power as performance, and world traveling. The conclusions have implications for both the practice and theory of organizing. The research supports the notion that organizing is indeed relational work, but is additionally a spatial practice. As a spatial practice, community organizing has the potential to create or embellish spaces and places where people can build power together. Additionally, the conclusions propose a new emphasis on effective spatial practice in trainings and writings for community organizers.

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community organizing; space; place; practice; spatial dimensions; energy efficiency; narrative inquiry; ethnography; free space; performance; world-traveling; social geography; spatial practice; third space; trialectics; transformational margins; democracy; social change; situated interaction; grassroots; neighborhood organizing; sustainable development
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dissertation or thesis
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