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Book Review: From ACT UP to the WTO: Urban Protest and Community Building In the Era of Globalisation

Book Review: From ACT UP to the WTO: Urban Protest and Community Building In the Era of Globalisation
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Transcript  Progress in Development Studies online version of this article can be found at: DOI: 10.1177/146499340400400116 2004 4: 90 Progress in Development Studies  Gregory Cowan in the era of globalisationBook Review: From ACT UP to the WTO: urban protest and community building  Published by:  can be found at: Progress in Development Studies  Additional services and information for Email Alerts: Subscriptions: Reprints: Permissions: Citations: What is This? - Jan 1, 2004Version of Record >> at University of Westminster on February 19, 2014pdj.sagepub.comDownloaded from at University of Westminster on February 19, 2014pdj.sagepub.comDownloaded from   90 Book reviews  the ability of local citizens to define their own conditions of development, but tensionsexisting between goals and capacities of actorsworking from different places (north, south,urban, rural) is only noted as ‘needing morecritical investigation’.Robinson’s chapter on the new spaces of development, cities, gives a finer analysis of dis-placements than the other chapters by detailingthe flows of people and capital that can bothcause and solve development complexitiesrelated to urban restructuring, yet still fails toadequately explain the relationships betweenplace and process. International financialnetworks, global fluxes of people, resources,commodities and the establishment of ‘worldclass cities’ are juxtaposed with the importanceof strengthening territorially organizedmunicipal governments. But Robinson providesno analysis as to how these networks and flowscan work to undermine local government byacting as globalizing processes of the economy;or how its neoliberal ideology can reorderresponsibilities of local governance structuresthrough processes of decentralization and priva-tization. This is also seen in the concludingchapter of the text. This chapter investigates theimplications of a ‘displaced’ developmentapproach for the concept of governance. But thepossibilities of deterritorialized governancestructures are equated only with the positiveconceptions of a global citizenship (its benefitsfor state-less people), and not extended to thespreading of an equally deterritorializedgovernance structure dominated by decisions of trans-national companies and the private sector.The World Bank’s promotion of a private-sectorpartnership-led development also operates onthe premise of a lack of connection betweenplaces where decisions are made and where theyare enacted. However, as this form of globalgovernance opens up areas for (foreign) privateinvestment (especially into social serviceprovision), it usually decreases, not increases,the rights of local citizens (to participation, topublic goods). The deterritorialization of thearena in which crucial development decisionsare made holds the potential for both positiveand negative interventions, but any promotionof displaced, global governance must examinethe contexts of local places where theseprocesses occur. In conclusion, Robinson’s compilation of alternative conceptions of ‘development anddisplacement’ is, in its complexity and seemingcontradictions, a ‘textbook case’ of developmentpractice. And, while the cohesiveness of thechapters under the framework of displacementis questionable, the illustration of a new way of approaching development provides a refresh-ingly empowering approach to displacements.However, if the re-appropriation of a termassociated with the negative processes of dislocation is not to be a glib erasure of the harshrealities of forced migration, adequate attentionmust be given to the conditions withinparticular places that allow citizens to enact dis-placement as a solution to, rather than suffer asnegative effects of, development crises. Giventhat the term displacement already carries soladen a connotation within internationaldevelopment (recognized and codified with inWorld Bank policy), is there not a betterframework within which to analyse the positiveand negative impacts of a rapidly re-spatializingworld, while giving students a more balancedunderstanding of complex relationships between people, place, and displacingprocesses?  Michelle KooyDepartment of GeographyUniversity of British Columbia Shepard, B. and Hayduk, R., editors 2002: From ACT UP to the WTO: urban protest and community building in the era of globalisation. London: Verso. xii + 429 pp. £45.00 cloth, £15.00paper. ISBN 1 85984 653 X cloth, 1 85984 356 5paper. Atext for a course for activists of the twenty-firstcentury – this is Eric Rofe’s description of  ACT UP to the WTO in the foreword. This bookhonours the pioneering work of the AIDSCoalition to Unleash Power in the USA,weaving a thread of ACT UP’s wider impact onactivism through the book. Marshall Berman(All that is solid melts into air, 1982) endorsesthe book as a work that indicates where the first‘movement’ of the twenty-first century iscoming from, perhaps vindicating its aim of identifying a literature for a new generation of activism. There is an explicit editorial concernwith liberating this activists’ textbook from thelegacy of associations with the previous ‘BabyBoomer’ generation of activists (p. xi). Many of   at University of Westminster on February 19, 2014pdj.sagepub.comDownloaded from   the contributors to this work are themselvesactively engaged in passing on inspiration andskills to future activists. Rofe considers, from histeaching experience, however, that ‘Boomer’generation activism reflects the ideals of theparents and grandparents of today’s activistsand is no longer current. For the new generationof activists, the cultural significance of thevideos of Julia ‘Butterfly’ Hill (2002) and music by ‘Rage Against the Machine’ have apparentlyovertaken those of Martin Luther, Jr and JoanBaez, respectively (p. xi).This book helps the uninitiated reader to chartthe development of a new kind of socialactivism in the period of 12 years from ACTUP’s first demonstration in 1987 to the Battle inSeattle in 1999, notably a period prior to 11September 2001, after which social and politicalactivism have taken some new turns.The US administration, long before 11September 2001, was seeking to delegitimizeactivists as terrorists – perhaps ‘barking up thewrong tree’. FBI director Louis Freeh testified ina 10 May 2001 senate committee hearing that‘anarchists and extreme socialist groups – suchas ... Reclaim the Streets ... have an interna-tional presence ... and represent a potentialthreat in the United States’ (p.16 and Hoffman,2001). This collection of essays and interviews,however, provides much needed informationand commentary on this and other socialmovements of global importance today.This collection of 41 essays is a useful contri- bution to the culture and literature on activismand organizing at this time in history, the earlytwenty-first century. The manuscript hadalready been turned in when two planes crashedinto the World Trade Center in New York.However, as global justice movements attemptto ‘find their legs’ after 11 September 2001, thereis a message that justice delayed may become justice denied for another generation (p. 16). The book will provide material for debate, and theappearance of this sort of material, for exampleat the Conservatives Bookshop alongsideMargaret Thatcher’s Statecraft (2002) is an ironicexample of its wider availability.Story telling and community building are theprimary objectives of activism that stand out inthis anthology of essays and interviews. Thecollection suggests that narratives are asimportant to building social movements as orga-nization. However, the tone of this workemphasizes activism as praxis rather thantheory. ‘Direct Action is the driving force behindthe new unrest’ says radical historian L.A.Kaufmann, contrasting the effectiveness of thisstrategy with endless rallies where speakersdrone on and on, with meetings after meetingsand studies that never end (p. 17).Political science academic at CUNYandformer social worker Ronald Hayduk has col-laborated with Benjamin Shepard, housingprogramme director for people with HIV/AIDSin the South Bronx in selecting a very diverse setof essays and interviews around five themes.There are correspondingly five sections of the book, addressing: the new social movements;public and private space and the use of streettheatre to reclaim public space; queer and sexualpolitics; media and electronic civil disobedience;and race and community building.The first section, on global proclivities, mapsout the context of this work and the new socialmovements, and profiles actions such as CriticalMass, Reclaim the Streets and the Battle inSeattle. The communiqués of the Acmecollective, explaining the targets of the WTOprotest targets – those involved in gentrification,abusive labour practices or human rightsviolation – are illuminated to provide betterunderstanding of the intentions of these actions.Sexuality and gender liberation is theimportant theme running through the develop-ments in US activism extending from ACT UP,and this is developed in the second section, onqueer community organizing. Seven essays andthree interviews cover issues from protestsaround Matthew Shepard’s murder to the con-stitution of the public and private city space andaction on same-sex marriage.Part three extends the idea of making the cityand access to space: ‘Public versus privatespaces, battlegrounds and movements’. Theexclusion from and closure of public spaces tomarginalised communities is addressed in‘Culture jamming a sexpanic’. KirstinMikalbrown narrates the rise and fall of acommunity garden and its giant frog, the Coquiat El Jardin de la Esperanza. It tells a tragic storyof the community activists occupying the Coquiuntil their protest was finally destroyed bypolice and bulldozers. Her conclusion, however,reflecting on urban life, is poetic. ‘When youwalk down the street where you live tomorrow,... look for the cracks in the concrete whereseeds could be squeezed in, and a communitycould start to grow’ (p. 233). Book reviews  91  at University of Westminster on February 19, 2014pdj.sagepub.comDownloaded from   92 Book reviews  Poignant in this section on public and privateis the work on the maligned Reclaim the Streetsmovement. Stephen Duncombe’s article notonly provides a first-hand narrative of the 4October 1998 action in New York City, but alsoprovides a history of the movement fromLondon in 1991 and the Claremont Roadoccupation in 1994. Here, there is some valuablescholarly analysis of protest, and the advantagesof the medieval carnival model over thenineteenth-century parade and rally model(p. 222).Part Four of the book looks at the use of mediain actions including electronic civil disobedi-ence, alternative video and the Indymediarevolution. From Naomi Klein’s critique of media coverage of Seattle, to occupations of Starbucks in New York City, the contributorsagain narrate some ingenious occupations likecell phone operas and spat theatre perfor-mances, but also reflect on the potentials of thenew media strategies for activists.The final section offers broader reflections on‘world making’, assessing the roles of race andpoverty. Lessons in global resistance fromSeattle, Black radicalism and the fight for wageslead effectively into housing and community building movements, and the frequentopposition between community developmentand community organization is discussed in anessay by Stoecker. Ashort conclusion ties together some of thediverse and complex threads of this project, andexplains the aim of the editors in showing thediverse oppressions of marginal groups aslinked, rather than competitive. The root goal of democratizing public sphere and the project of globalisation is worthy indeed.While the US-based editors indicate that thesestrategies are indebted to the work of the AIDSCoalition to Unleash Power in the USA, perhapsthey underemphasize the importance of globaland marginal protest in Adelaide, Madrid andFreiburg (RTS, 2002). While the topic is a clearlya global one, the approach taken in the contribu-tions is appropriately glocal (p. 5). It is slightly jarring that the book refers to the activismigniting ‘our nation’ (xii.) As recent develop-ments of social movements – especially in thelast year – have suggested, this work reachesclearly to all the corners of our globe.This book indicates that the new activism of Seattle 1999 had created optimism about theeffectiveness of organizing social movementsusing three main strategies; non-violent disobe-dience, guerrilla theatre, and sophisticatedmedia work.  ACT UP to the WTO inspiresreaders, students and activists alike to debateand to continue to put its ideas into practice. Gregory Cowan (architect)Curtin University, Australia Hill, Julia ‘Butterfly’2002: Online: (last accessed23 June 2003).Hoffman, Hank 2001: In these times . (1 October2001). Online: (last accessed23 June 2003).Reclaim the Streets (RTS) 2002: Online: (lastaccessed 23 June 2003).Thatcher, M. 2002: Statecraft : Strategies for achanging world. New York: HarperCollins. Zarsky, L. editor 2002: Human rights and the environment: conflicts and norms in a globalizing world. London: Earthscan. 288 pp. cloth, 299 pp.paper. £48.00 cloth, £17.95 paper. ISBN:1–85383–814–4 cloth, 1–85383–815–2 paper. I suppose the first thing you look for in a textabout the environment is to check the paperused and if they have identified the particularforest. I can report it is on elemental-chlorine-free paper.Bearing in mind the media interest in businessethics and the ‘need’ to locate other oil sources,this is a timely text emanating from the NautilusInstitute in California. This is a well constructedand composed contribution to the negativeforces present in the environmental/ethicaldebate and, like the poor and disadvantaged,ever with us. (See also the review of Louka(2002) Biodiversity and human rights , earlier inthis section.) However, the intended audiencefor this book edited by Zarsky appears to be theconverted that favour an academic style. Iwould hope to see a follow up targeted atdiffering audiences using a range of media. Thesubject of human rights and environment is tooimportant to be confined to the status of areference text alone, where it is used only as asource for other works.The whole text was born out of, anddeveloped from the work of, the Earth Council,  at University of Westminster on February 19, 2014pdj.sagepub.comDownloaded from 
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