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“Place‐Framing” as Place‐Making: Constituting a Neighborhood for Organizing and Activism


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This article uses social-movement theory to analyze how neighborhood organizations portray activism as grounded in a particular place and scale. I apply the concept of collective-action frames to a case study of four organizations in a single neighborhood in St. Paul, Minnesota. Using organizational documents such as annual reports, comprehensive plans, and flyers, I present a discourse analysis of the ways that organizations describe their goals and agenda. In particular, I assess the extent to which the organizations characterize the neighborhood in their justifications of organizational goals and actions. In order to legitimate their own agendas and empower community activism, neighborhood organizations foster a neighborhood identity that obscures social differences, such as ethnicity and class, among residents. They do so by describing the physical condition of the neighborhood and the daily life experiences of its residents. These “place-frames” constitute a motivating discourse for organizations seeking to unite residents for a neighborhood-oriented agenda, despite very different substantive issues, from crime to land-use planning. This perspective allows for a more effective understanding of how place informs activism at a variety of spatial scales. Further, by inserting place into theories of collective-action framing, this research helps to introduce a new research agenda that addresses the gap between geographical analyses of territorial identities and activism and other scholarly literatures on contentious politics.
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‘‘Place-Framing’’ as Place-Making: Constituting
a Neighborhood for Organizing and Activism
Deborah G. Martin
Department of Geography, University of Georgia
This article uses social-movement theory to analyze how neighborhood organizations portray activism as grounded
in a particular place and scale. I apply the concept of collective-action frames to a case study of four organizations in a
single neighborhood in St. Paul, Minnesota. Using organizational documents such as annual reports, comprehensive
plans, and flyers, I present a discourse analysis of the ways that organizations describe their goals and agenda. In
particular, I assess the extent to which the organizations characterize the neighborhood in their justifications of
organizational goals and actions. In order to legitimate their own agendas and empower community activism,
neighborhood organizations foster a neighborhood identity that obscures social differences, such as ethnicity and
class, among residents. They do so by describing the physical condition of the neighborhood and the daily life
experiences of its residents. These ‘‘place-frames’’ constitute a motivating discourse for organizations seeking to
unite residents for a neighborhood-oriented agenda, despite very different substantive issues, from crime to land-use
planning. This perspective allows for a more effective understanding of how place informs activism at a variety of
spatial scales. Further, by inserting place into theories of collective-action framing, this research helps to introduce a
new research agenda that addresses the gap between geographical analyses of territorial identities and activism and
other scholarly literatures on contentious politics. Key Words: collective action, discourse, neighborhood organizing,
We’re dealing with the neighborhood. Community is culture,
faith, etc. Neighborhood is geographic, and we all have [it]
in common. Regardless of community. ( Johnny Howard,
Executive Director, Thomas-Dale Block Clubs, conversation
with author, St. Paul, MN, 10 July 1996).
The neighborhood functions as a site of political
activism. The statement above, made by a neigh-
borhood organizer who founded a block-club
organization in his neighborhood in St. Paul, Minnesota,
illustrates the importance of geographic location in his
organizing efforts, although it also implies additional
complexities in relations among residents. Indeed, it
highlights an important difference between community
and propinquity, one stressed by scholars as well (Cox
1982; Lyon 1989; Menahem and Spiro 1989; Johnston
1994). ‘‘Community’’-based organizing is traditionally
thought to rely not on territory per se, but upon identifying
multiple issues of common interest—such as health or
housing concerns, schools, or job conditions—among a
group of people (Bailey 1974; Alinsky 1989; Davis 1991).
Proximity fosters common experiences of problems and
thus common interests, but location does not, in itself,
make a community (Cox and Mair 1988; Alinsky 1989;
Davis 1991). Yet many scholars have argued that place
fosters a common identity, based on common experiences,
interests, and values (Tuan 1974, 1977; Pred 1984; Purcell
1997, 1998; Jonas 1998). The question is not whether the
local context structures common interests and goals, but
how. In this article, I explore the connection between place
and organizing by arguing that, for neighborhood-based
organizations, place provides an important mobilizing
discourse and identity for collective action, one that
can obviate diverse facets of social identity in order to de-
fine a neighborhood-based polity. Further, this analysis
introduces a framework for analyzing the ‘‘place-making’’
that occurs at a variety of spatial scales through collec-
tive action.
Scholars have convincingly demonstrated the persis-
tence of local activism and local identities in the face of
globalizing economies, politics, and cultures (Massey
1991, 1994, 1998; Keith and Pile 1997). Indeed, words
like ‘‘glocalization’’ (Swyngedouw 1992; Robertson 1995)
highlight the dialectical relationship between the global
and local, in which both dynamics shape peoples’ daily
lives and experiences. Neighborhood organizing occurs
across and within varied sets of contexts and relationships,
ranging from the daily life experiences of residents and
organizers to the local economic and political context and
broader national and global forces operating on and
affecting the urban area in which the neighborhood is
situated (Wilson 1993; Jonas 1998; Haughton and While
Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 93(3), 2003, pp. 730–750
r2003 by Association of American Geographers
Published by Blackwell Publishing, 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, and 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, U.K.
1999; Wilson and Grammenos 2000). Its focus, none-
theless, is on the local context (Alinsky 1989; Davis 1991).
Neighborhood-level activism in U.S. urban areas
increasingly operates in a political context dominated by
an elite agenda of urban growth through civic boosterism
and redevelopment projects (Logan and Molotch 1987;
Jonas and Wilson 1999). Neighborhood- or community-
based organizations are increasingly responsible for local
services in neoliberal governance schemes, while regional
and local states prioritize economic relations and the
‘‘business climate’’ (Raco 2000; Ward 2000). The concept
of local dependence (Cox and Mair 1988) articulates how
diverse urban political-economic interests can be united
in growth-oriented coalitions in which one urban econ-
omy competes against others. But local dependence
addresses urban economies; it does not conceptualize
place-coalitions at scales within urban areas, differenti-
ated from the broader community. Within any particular
urban economy, neighborhood-based or community
groups may challenge redevelopment schemes, demand-
ing greater attention to local, community-based identities
and concerns (Haughton and While 1999; Bu
ˆcek and
Smith 2000; Wilson and Grammenos 2000; Robinson
2001). These community groups assert place concerns and
identity at a more local scale than that of the entire urban
area. Robinson (2001), Wilson (1993), and Wilson and
Grammenos (2000) argue that space—the setting, geog-
raphical location, and sociospatial context of a neighbor-
hood—influences the formation of collective identities
and activist agendas. Indeed, Wilson and Grammenos
(2000, 367) suggest that political movements must appeal
to ideals about community, or ‘‘terrains of civility,’’ which
refer to characteristics or spatial processes such as ‘‘the
gentrified aesthetic, ‘stable’ blue-collar orderliness,
the suburban ideal, and the city beautiful ethic’’ (see also
Purcell 1997).
Asserting a spatial grounding or discourse in neighbor-
hood activism is but a first step in understanding the
dynamics of spatial processes and appeals in activism.
Geographers recognize the importance of place to social
life (Tuan 1974, 1977; Mitchell 1993; Purcell 1997), but
our theoretical tools for demonstrating where and how
place is deployed in polities are still being developed.
Following Mitchell (1993), Boyle (1999), and Gilbert
(1999), I argue that scholars need to ‘‘uncover ’’ (Mitchell
1993, 288) the meanings and representations of activism
at the local level, particularly as they constitute place-
based activist communities. I do so here by examining how
neighborhood organizations draw upon and represent
experiences of daily life in the material spaces of a
neighborhood. I seek to uncover how common interests,
imputed in the shared spaces of residential neighborhoods,
are constructed and portrayed in discourses of neighbor-
hood organizations operating in a ‘‘racially’’ and ethnically
diverse urban area.
These references to shared daily life in
the spaces of a neighborhood seek to legitimate commu-
nity organizing at the neighborhood scale.
In the following sections, I define the terms ‘‘place’’
and ‘‘neighborhood’’ as I use them here and develop a
framework for analysis of neighborhood-based activism
that draws upon and extends theories of social move-
ments, which have been used to provide explanations for
the structure and actions of collective organizations. In
particular, the concept of ‘‘collective-action frames’’
(Snow et al. 1986; Snow and Benford 1988, 1992)
provides a basis for exploring how organizational dis-
courses situate and legitimate activism in a neighborhood.
I use the idea of ‘‘frames’’ (Goffman 1974) to examine
the place-oriented discourses of four organizations in the
Frogtown neighborhood of St. Paul, Minnesota.
I conclude this article by arguing that organizations
discursively relate the conditions of the place—the
common experiences of people in place—to their different
agendas for collective action. In doing so, they construct
the local scale of the neighborhood and its organizations as
the appropriate sphere for political activism, consolidating
the ‘‘neighborhood’’ as a salient political place. This
‘‘place-framing’’ asserts a neighborhood identity, albeit
one based on partial accounts of the neighborhood,
emphasizing only some social characteristics of residents
and portrayals of the physical landscape to support the
organizations’ different activities. These framings empow-
er a neighborhood-based political community while
rhetorically diminishing alternative axes of mobilization
through social identities or at other territorial scales. The
framings represent a powerful activist discourse, one that
may be deployed to constitute places and polities at a
number of spatial scales.
Conceptual Framework: Background
and Definitions
I employ the term ‘‘neighborhood’’ in this article to refer
to an urban residential district—one codified in local
politics—but I simultaneously problematize the notion of
neighborhood as a salient, given territory of experience, as
planning practice assumes. ‘‘Place’’ and ‘‘neighborhood’’
connote two distinct yet related local-level social con-
structions and processes. Place, as geographers have
argued, is socially constructed through several complex
and intertwined elements, including interactions among
Place-Framing as Place-Making 731
people and groups, institutionalized land uses, political
and economic decisions that favor some places and
neglect others, and the language of representation (Pred
1984, 1986; Massey 1991; Barnes and Duncan 1992a;
Duncan and Ley 1993; McDowell 1999). Harvey (1989),
Lefebvre (1991), and Merrifield (1993a, b) have suggested
that place represents a ‘‘spatialized moment’’ of global
flows of labor, goods, and capital exchange. Place is both a
setting for and situated in the operation of social and
economic processes, and it also provides a ‘‘grounding’’ for
everyday life and experience. In this latter sense of daily
life, place as a territorially bounded residential district
(physically, as by railroads or highways or waterways, or
mentally, as in a social imaginary) embodies the concept of
neighborhood on which I draw here.
‘‘Neighborhood’’ is a frustratingly vague term, as
exemplified by Johnston’s (1994, 409) definition in The
Dictionary of Human Geography: ‘‘a district within an
urban area.’’ Many cities base political decisions on some
notion of neighborhood units (Haeberle 1988, 618),
including decisions that organize voters on the basis of
location. Although neighborhoods ‘‘are certainly not easy
to identify empirically’’ ( Johnston 1994, 409), they persist
as an idea among many urban residents and as a reality in
local politics, where neighborhood planning units—or
‘‘citizen participation districts,’’ as in the case of St. Paul,
Minnesota—are designated (often by city planners) to
organize and categorize residents in various parts of
the city.
At one time in urban history, neighborhoods comprised
relatively homogeneous cultural, ethnic, and income
groups reliant upon one another for mutual aid (Cox
1982). These residential districts fostered territorially
based communities of interest.
Although neighborhood
and community are not synonymous, Logan and Molotch
(1987, 108) hint at an implicit connection between the
two in their definition of neighborhood as ‘‘a shared
interest in overlapping use values (identity, security, and
so on) in a single area.’’ Their definition highlights the
notion that neighborhoods become meaningful to inha-
bitants because of the interactions among people in them
or from shared values and interests. Thus, neighborhoods
are the site of and encompass a variety of interactions and
exchanges that form a complex set of social and economic
relations. The pernicious problem of how physically to
specify a neighborhood remains. The vagueness of the idea
of ‘‘neighborhood’’ seems to be inherent to its very nature;
neighborhoods are socially constructed in particular times
and places, and therefore they are not fixed and specific.
As the setting for daily life, however, socially constructed
neighborhoods have real, material consequences for
people who live in them.
Neighborhood Organizations, Social Movements,
and Collective Action
Neighborhood organizations can be thought of as
groups of residents and organizers dedicated to addressing
one or a range of issues, including social, political,
economic, and quality-of-life concerns at the neighbor-
hood level. It is useful to conceptualize neighborhood
organizations as part of what can broadly be characterized
as ‘‘contentious politics’’ (McAdam, Tarrow, and Tilly
2001). Although they often work within an existing
political structure, neighborhood organizations are not
formally part of an appointed or elected body, and at times
they explicitly challenge governance structures. Neighbor-
hood organizations interact with anddemand services from
existing political institutions while they strive to define
collective polities at a scale different from that of local
government. Although there is no nationwide or globally-
coordinated neighborhood movement, the presence of
neighborhood organizing in countless cities in North
America and around the world constitutes a form of ‘‘social
movement’’ that is helping to reshape local governance
by demanding neighborhood-based decision-making. It
is useful conceptually, therefore, to draw upon social-
movement scholarship in investigating the efforts of neigh-
borhood organizations to mobilize neighborhood action.
Social-movement scholars examine why and how
collective action occurs. Some have argued that resour-
ces—primarily money and leadership—have been a key to
motivating action (McCarthy and Zald 1973, 1977;
Jenkins 1983; Gamson 1990). Other scholars have
focused on the political structure (Kitschelt 1986;
Klandermans, Kriesi, and Tarrow 1988) or quality of life
and the desire of identity groups such as gays or women to
be recognized in the broader political culture (Habermas
1981; Melucci 1988; Laran
˜a, Johnston, and Gusfield
1994). All of these perspectives point to a variety of
influences on collective action and to the need for
grievances among a group to coexist with some definition
of a collective sense of agency or community to address
the grievance.
The question that remains for scholars is how and why
certain collective identities motivate activism at given
times and places. Social movements can foster activism by
drawing upon class, ethnicity, gender, race, sexuality, and
other identities as ‘‘positions’’ from which to unite coali-
tions of citizens for common goals (Laclau and Mouffe
1987; Staeheli and Lawson 1995). Neighborhood organi-
zations seek to link social goals and activism at the scale of
a neighborhood, but basing community politics at that
scale is just one possible position for urban activism. In
St. Paul, however, neighborhood organizations have a
place-based mandate in the local polity. By using that
mandate to further define and demarcate neighborhoods
as political communities, organizations prioritize placeover
other social identities. Frame analysis exposes the ways
that organizations highlight particular social positions and
the inclusions and exclusions such choices entail.
Collective-Action Framing
Social movements draw upon social identities to foster
collective activism by framing their goals and activities in
order to appeal to the collective group (Snow et al. 1986;
Snow and Benford 1992; Benford 1993, 1997). Collective-
action frames denote how social movements articulate
issues, values, and concerns in ways that foster collec-
tive identity and activism (Snow et al. 1986; Snow
and Benford 1992; Benford 1993, 1997; Hunt, Benford,
and Snow 1994; Silver 1997). Broadly speaking, ‘‘frames’’
—or ‘‘framing’’—is a term that refers to how individuals
organize experiences or make sense of events (Goffman
1974). Collective-action framing makes sense of events in
ways that highlight a collective set of values, beliefs, and
goals for some sort of change.
Frames are also discourses—‘‘frameworks that embrace
particular combinations of narratives, concepts, ideologies
and signifying practices’’ (Barnes and Duncan 1992a, 8)—
oriented to collective action. Johnston (1995, 219) argues
that there is ‘‘an inextricable link between discourse and
frames’’ in which collective-action frames articulate the
embedded, discursive relationship between shared values,
cultural understandings, and activism. Frames are collec-
tive organizational narratives negotiated from a combina-
tion of cultural values within a movement and from some
degree of deliberate framing choices by social-movement
leaders (Roy 1994; Benford 1997; Paige 1997). Collective-
action frames are not fixed and internally cohesive, but
they may contain contradictions and they certainly
change over time (Giddens 1976).
Focusing on neighborhood organizations, I extend the
conceptualization of framing to explore how neighbor-
hood organizations advance or constitute a place identity
as part of their articulating of reasons and goals for
activism. I have created the term ‘‘place-based collective-
action frames,’’ or ‘‘place-frames,’’ to highlight the potential
relationship between activism based on an idea of
neighborhood and the material experiences of that place.
Scholars have suggested that real, tangible places can be a
basis for identity-based activism, in which groups of people
draw upon distinct political and economic frameworks
that shape identity (Castells 1983; Routledge 1993), their
shared ideals about residential places (Purcell 1997, 1998;
Robinson 2001), and specific sites of resistance and
domination (Clark 1994; Keith and Pile 1997). Place-
frames conceptually identify this relationship between
place and activism by situating activism in place and
defining a collective identity in terms of the common
place that people—mostly neighborhood residents—share.
Place-frames describe common experiences among people
in a place, as well as imagining an ideal of how the
neighborhood ought to be (Mitchell 1988; Anderson 1991;
Purcell 1997, 1998). Place-frames thus define the scope
and scale of the shared neighborhood of collective concern.
As discourses that reveal ideologies about activism and
place, frames have material consequences both in shaping
people’s ideas about places and in fostering social action.
While some collective-action frames are aimed primarily
at motivating activism among members, frames affect
external perspectives of a community as well. For example,
Martin (2000) demonstrates how media representations
of a neighborhood shifted from mostly negative portrayals
of crime to more positive acknowledgements of residents’
agency in tandem with organizational discourses about
neighborhood activism.
In this article, I examine whether the frames of four St.
Paul neighborhood organizations advance a common
place-identity, or characterization, even as they advocate
multiple (and different) agendas, by assessing how they
describe problems, characteristics, and activities that
make a neighborhood a unique place.
Studying place-
frames provides the conceptual framework for under-
standing how community organizations create a discursive
place-identity to situate and legitimate their activism. I
focus on the internal, neighborhood-based ‘‘place-
making’’ of the organizations, but their place-frames also
form part of the external rhetorical negotiations over the
meaning and status of the place (Martin 2000). This
research reveals a reification of the local, neighborhood
scale for community organizing. It demonstrates how
organizations define the neighborhood community as a
universal, common interest among residents who might
otherwise see themselves as or be represented by alter-
native identities based on race, ethnicity, religion, culture,
or household type. In the sections that follow, I describe
the research site and explore how place is discursively
constituted by neighborhood organizations through col-
lective action place-frames.
The Frogtown Neighborhood, the Local
State, and Neighborhood Organizing
This research examines the Frogtown, or Thomas-
Dale/District 7 (as it is officially called in city documents
and plans) neighborhood, just northwest of downtown
Place-Framing as Place-Making 733
St. Paul, Minnesota. Frogtown is a mostly working-class
neighborhood, and in 1990 it had 50 percent minority
residents (non-Hispanic), with 35.5 percent of residents
living below the poverty line. Frogtown has a reputation in
the Twin Cities (especially in the media; see Martin 2000)
as a dangerous (crime-ridden) neighborhood.
The four neighborhood-based organizations in this
study address four broad but overlapping themes. The
oldest organization is the one that has a formal ‘‘contract’’
or relationship with the city of St. Paul, stemming from the
mid-1970s, when the city mandated official urban
‘‘neighborhoods’’ for citizen participation in local spend-
ing and planning initiatives (Figure 1).
The Thomas-
Dale District Seven Planning Council, or District Council,
acts as an official liaison to the city and its planning
agencies on issues such as long-range planning, zoning,
and land-use policies. Its primary mission is to foster
participation and communication about land-use and
planning among local government, residents, social-
service providers, and businesses. The organization has a
small office and staff, which is funded in part by the city of
St. Paul.
All residents of the officially designated district,
as well as property and business owners and employees of
Frogtown businesses, are considered ‘‘members’’ of the
council, with the right to vote for the board of directors.
The organization sponsors social events and neighbor-
hood clean-ups, but most of its activities are conducted in
meetings that address city and neighborhood land-use and
zoning policies.
In the late 1980s, the District Council developed
a program called the Sherburne Initiative to buy, reha-
bilitate, and sell several properties on a particularly run-
down street. In 1995, the Greater Frogtown Community
Development Corporation (GFCDC) was established as
a separate organization, with a mission to maintain and
develop the housing stock in Frogtown, continuing
and expanding the work of the Sherburne Initiative (Dawn
Goldschmitz, Director, GFCDC, interview, St. Paul, MN,
4 September 1996; Michael Samuelson, Director, District
Seven Planning Council, interview, St. Paul, MN, 23 July
1996). The GFCDC was initially financed by a national
nonprofit, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation,
which wanted to support low-income housing develop-
ment in St. Paul. The GFCDC identifies vacant lots for
housing construction and builds new homes that are
designed to fit into the scale and architecture of the
surrounding houses. It also targets abandoned homes for
rehabilitation and buys homes forfeited to the city for tax
arrears, rehabilitates them, and then sells them for single-
family residential use. In addition, the GFCDC acts as an
information clearinghouse for prospective homebuyers
in the neighborhood and for homeowners interested in
rehabilitation and maintenance. Because of the technical
nature of much of its work, the GFCDC does not set out to
formally organize residents. Its board of directors, how-
ever, is composed of neighborhood residents, who set the
mission and direct the activities of the organization, and
its staff spends a fair amount of time in the neighborhood
talking with residents about current or upcoming con-
struction and rehabilitation projects.
Another development-oriented agency was established
in the early 1990s with support from the Minnesota-based
McKnight Foundation.
The primary goals of the Frog-
town Action Alliance (the FAA) are to address economic
development, jobs, and training in Frogtown. One of its
main activities in this regard is to provide resources
for residents to become more involved in the busi-
ness community, primarily through entrepreneurship
classes (which have been geared especially to African
Figure 1. Frogtown/Thomas-Dale and the citizen planning districts
in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Americans). The second area of emphasis has been to
improve the ‘‘business climate,’’ which has involved
initiating and coordinating infrastructural improvements
to commercial districts and corridors, including working
with the city to repave a major corridor through Frogtown
and to help businesses in a shopping center to design and
finance a new fac¸ade.
The final organization in this study, which was
established in 1990 by two residents, addresses crime
and public safety in the neighborhood. The Thomas-Dale
Block Clubs organizes residents into block clubs and
mobilizes them to build community and protest illegal
activities in the neighborhood. Its funding comes from a
combination of private foundations, member donations,
and city contracts for specific projects. The Block Club
coordinates activities for youth and seniors and maintains
public and private property through agreements with the
city and through programs—such as a ‘‘beautiful block’’
contest—that encourage people to care for their yards and
homes. In many ways, the Block Club is the most visible
of the four organizations, as it holds block meetings
and conducts street marches, complete with bullhorn and
signs that call for residents to work for a better com-
munity. The primary goal of the group is to create pride in
the neighborhood.
In the mid-1990s, at the time of this study, all of these
organizations had various formal and informal relations
with city agencies, including annual payments to the
District Council for its citizen participation program,
planning coordination and initiatives among the District
Council, the FAA, and planning and economic develop-
ment units at the city, and contracts with the GFCDC and
the Block Club for housing development and mainte-
nance of publicly owned property in the neighborhood,
respectively. Despite these many relationships with the
city and its agencies, however, each organization operated
as an autonomous entity, responsible for its own planning
and agenda-setting for activism in the neighborhood, with
little city oversight other than required audits of financial
records (Nancy Homans, planner with St. Paul Depart-
ment of Planning and Economic Development and liaison
to District Seven during the development of the Thomas-
Dale Small Area Plan, interview, St. Paul, MN, 22 August
1996; Hope Melton, former St. Paul city planner, inter-
view, St. Paul, MN, 11 September 1996).
Formal city
efforts at planning and urban development were concen-
trated on improving the manufacturing-job base with
industrial district redevelopments—including a site partly
in Thomas-Dale—and downtown development. The
planning staff was cut in the mid-1990s as part of efforts
to reduce the size of government, leading to less interac-
tion between individual planners and neighborhood
organizations (Homans, interview, 1996; Melton, inter-
view 1996).
The basis for activism and organization within the city
framework is its district-council system and boundaries,
which assumes common interests and experiences among
residents within districts like Frogtown, providing resour-
ces and autonomy for neighborhood groups to act within
their communities. In Frogtown, the district-council
system had evolved by the mid-1990s into an amalgam
of organizations addressing issues far beyond citizen input
into planning and zoning. Although the district bound-
aries were, at one time, created in part by neighborhood
organizations, the continuing salience of the neighbor-
hood ‘‘district’’ may rely in part upon fostering a sense of
identity and community among its diverse residents.
Organizations working to improve the level of citizen
participation, physical infrastructure, economy, and safety
of the neighborhood, therefore, define a neighborhood-
scale, place-based identity as part of their discourses
for activism.
Research Approach
Examining the ways in which organizations use place to
situate and structure neighborhood collective action
requires attention to the discursive frames of neighbor-
hood-based organizations. Since discourses are narratives,
conceptual frameworks, and ideologies (Barnes and
Duncan 1992b), they may be manifest in several ways in
a given social enterprise. For the purpose of this research
(conducted in 1996 and 1997), I sought representations of
the neighborhood and organizational activism by acti-
vists—most of whom are residents—including group and
individual portrayals, written and spoken accounts, in
public and in private. I focus here on a primarily internal
neighborhood dialogue: organizational discourses aimed
at neighborhood residents and businesses.
The sources
for these accounts include announcements in a local
neighborhood newspaper (the Frogtown Times
); organi-
zational documents such as annual reports, comprehen-
sive plans, meeting minutes, brochures, leaflets, and flyers;
and my own notes of announcements and conversations
during public, board, or committee meetings that I
attended for each of the four organizations.
For each organization, I had a least one major doc-
ument that set out the purpose and scope of the
organization, with supplementary literature that provided
some insight into the activities and discourses of each
organization in 1996–1997. I examined the documents
and notes repeatedly, reading documents individually as
well as grouping them by topics and organizations. I looked
for themes and words that explained the activities of the
Place-Framing as Place-Making 735
organization or indicated representations of the neighbor-
hood and neighborhood issues. I used the discourses of the
organizations to identify their frames, specifically those
elements of the frames that referred to and described
the neighborhood and its characteristics. What I include
here as my findings are the themes that described the
neighborhood and organizational visions for its improve-
ment—a discourse about place and collective action.
Although I refer to the frames as ‘‘organizational
discourses,’’ I recognize and stress that they were devel-
oped by people—especially organizational leaders, staff,
and board members—through interaction and negotia-
tion with one another. As Benford (1997) has emphasized,
organizations do not act—people do. Once assembled into
formal documents, presented at meetings and in the local
neighborhood newspaper as coherent messages, how-
ever, these discourses must be understood as organiza-
tional. In this sense, therefore, it is useful to conceptualize
the frames as organizational, rather than individual,
Although Frogtown’s organizations have staff members
who are not neighborhood residents, the discourses
cannot be dismissed as outsiders’ views of Frogtown.
Indeed, the participation in and direction of organiza-
tional discourses by resident members makes these
discourses part of internal, neighborhood-based represen-
tations of residents’ daily life and perspectives. While not
all neighborhood residents are involved in organizing, the
residents who are active in these organizations help to
shape their agendas and discourses. The majority of these
residents were homeowners, but many were not: my
interviews with residents active in organizational boards
and events in 1996 included 33 percent current or one-
time renters in the neighborhood—compared with 56
percent of all neighborhood households comprised of
renters in the 1990 census (Wilder Research Center
2002). Furthermore, all of the organizations seek resident
participation and support of their missions, and as
such, aim to appeal to residents on the basis of shared
concerns in the neighborhood. Consequently, I expect
these organizational discourses to say something about
the context or site—the neighborhood—of the activism,
and I examine these discourses with the question in
mind of how the organizations portray the context of
their activism.
Collective-Action Frames:
Discourses of Place
Analyzing collective-action frames involves examining
both language and practices that describe or exemplify
motives and goals of collective activism. One way to do so
is to use a conceptual heuristic from Snow and Benford
(1988, 1992). They argued that collective-action frames
consist of three functions: a motivational element, which
defines the community that acts collectively; a diagnostic
element, specifying a problem and its cause; and a prognosis
of the solution that involves collective action. Thus,
collective-action frames articulate or define a community
of people who identify a particular problem and who else
might be affected by it, how the problem occurred, and
actions to solve or remediate the problem.
Using Snow and Benford’s (1988, 1992) heuristic of
motivational, diagnostic, and prognostic frames, I break
organizational discourses into three parts: characterizing
and defining the community (motivation), describing
problems and assigning blame (diagnoses), and advocat-
ing for certain types of action to solve problems (prog-
noses). Examining neighborhood organizations as social
movements—with collective-action frames that articu-
late values and agenda for activism—posits such move-
ments as full actors in the local political arena, with
strategies that construct the urban neighborhood as an
important site of citizenship. Indeed, the framework of St.
Paul’s district-council system also posits neighborhood
districts as a basis for citizen involvement in the local
polity. The collective-action frames identified here illus-
trate how organizations construct those neighborhood
districts as places for collective community and political
identity. I start the frame analysis with definitions of the
activist community.
Motivation Frames
Motivation frames define the community that acts
collectively (Snow and Benford 1988, 1992), describing
the group of actors and potential actors and exhorting
people to act. Scholars also refer to motivational framing
as ‘‘frame resonance’’ because motivational frames articu-
late community values (or ought to, to be successful)
(Snow et al. 1986; Snow and Benford 1988; Marullo,
Pagnucco, and Smith 1996). Motivation place-frames
should refer to the daily-life experiences residents are
likely to have in the neighborhood (such as common sights
or conditions in the neighborhood) in order to foster
recognition by residents of their location-based common-
alities. In the frames of Frogtown’s neighborhood organi-
zations, I identified several discursive characterizations of
the neighborhood, as well as its residents, that form the
core of the motivation frames (Table 1).
The most explicit motivation frames are those that call
upon residents to get involved in activism in the
neighborhood. These frames do not all reference place
explicitly. Instead, they address individual residents and
suggest that residents ought to think of themselves as part
of a community and as responsible to that community. In
particular, Table 1 shows that the Block Club and the
District Council evoked community and personal respon-
sibility in their calls to action. A key theme of this
discourse was that all individuals in the neighborhood
share the responsibility for being active in the community.
The Block Club was the most blatant in calling for
individual responsibility: ‘‘You are either part of the
problem OR part of the solution’’ (TDBC 1996b, 4), but
both it and the District Council used the theme of
neighborhood commitment in their motivation frames.
The references to place are subtle (deciding how to live in
Frogtown, making the neighborhood great), but the
implicit message is that Frogtown is a territorially defined
Some motivation frames addressed and made explicit a
relationship between people and place. The GFCDC and
the District Council called for residents to ensure that
everyone has a ‘‘decent home’’ (GFCDC 1996c, 14) and
referred to the neighborhood as a place to raise families.
The Block Club admonished residents to maintain the
landscape: ‘‘[T]ake ownership of the space you occupy’’
Table 1. Motivational Framing by Organization
Thomas-Dale District Seven
Planning Council (TDD7PC)
Greater Frogtown Community
Development Corporation
Frogtown Action Alliance
Thomas-Dale Block Clubs
Wake up—our children need
us (1996a, 7)
There’s power in numbers
(1996b, 10)
Only with your involvement
can . . .Thomas-Dale . . . be
a great place to live, work,
and raise our families!
Join our . . . planning efforts
(1996e, 12–13)
A community is stronger
when its residents are linked
together around shared
concerns and a common
purpose (PED 1996, 20)
Don’t miss Clean-up Day
(1996c, 16)
Welcome . . . We appreciate
[our community] for its
strength [from] . . .
diversity—racial, cultural,
and economic (1996g)
Thomas-Dale . . . an
attractive residential option
. . . across the . . . racial,
cultural, and socioeconomic
spectrums (PED 1996, 10)
You will notice . . . working-
class Victorian cottages and
quaint, brick railroad houses
Learn how to buy a home
(1996b, 15)
We need your help!
Frogtown housing will only
get better if residents are
involved . . .so everyone has
a decent home (1996c, 14)
The area contains . . . homes
having architectural and
historic significance . . .
[T]hese modest-priced
homes represent an
opportunity to create pride
and a cohesive sense of place
among area residents
(1995, 2)
Many houses have been
insensitively altered,
resulting in eyesore houses
(1995, 2)
Make it a reality (1996a, 16)
Many . . . problems . . . can
be resolved with a high level
of neighborhood
participation (1994, 20)
Problems affecting the
neighborhood . . . are
common to Frogtown’s
residents without regard to
racial or ethnic distinctions
(1994, 4)
Frogtown . . . sustains about
$850 million in economic
activity per year (Meter
1994, 1)
It’s your home—it should do
you proud (Reporter 1995,
You are either part of the
problem OR part of the
solution (1996b, 4)
You can stand for something.
Or you can get stepped on
(Reporter 1997, 20)
Take ownership of the
space you occupy (Reporter
1996a, 10)
Together we really can decide
how we’re going to live in
Frogtown (Howard 1994, 7)
Win great prizes in TDBC’s
first bright and beautiful
block contest (Reporter
1996b, 13)
Frogtown or Pigtown? . . .
[S]tart cleaning or start
oinking (Reporter 1996c, 7)
Our community is diversely
rich in the creeds, cultures,
and colors of its people
(1996b, 13)
Youth . . . are less than 27%
of our population but 100%
of our future (1996b, 6;
Howard 1996b)
The future is in our children
(Paulson 1995, 5)
Note: The excerpts in this table are quotations from the organizations. They were chosen as representative of the words or themes used repeatedly in organizational
documents for each group. Sources cited here are fully listed in the references section under the name of the organization in the column heading unless otherwise
specified. The dotted line in each column indicates a break between frames that mostly exhort people to act (above the line) and those that describe the physical/
economic conditions or social characteristics, of the neighborhood (below the line).
Place-Framing as Place-Making 737
(Reporter 1996a, 10). They announced contests for ‘‘most
beautiful’’ block, linking residents’ lifestyles with the
physical landscape. These exhortations implied that
homeowners and renters ought to have common interests
in maintaining the area (see Davis 1991). A call to
residents to ‘‘take ownership’’ of space is important in an
area with 56 percent of housing units occupied by renters.
It recognizes that residents have varying economic
relationships to their homes. At the same time, however,
the Block Club did not use this tenure differential to call
for sweeping social change. It sought to unify residents
around landscape maintenance, rather than to constitute
identities around tenure status.
In describing why he became active in his neighbor-
hood by founding the Block Club, the executive director of
the organization, Johnny Howard, said, ‘‘Five years ago I
looked out my window and realized that there was a drug
house on my block’’ (Howard 1994, 7). By invoking drug-
dealing on his street, Howard illustrated the very real
connection between individual daily life and the local
environment. He suggested, therefore, that residents, by
virtue of their common location, also share concerns and
problems, and can work together to address them.
While one aspect of motivational frames—illustrated
in the top sections of each column in Table 1—comprises
exhortations to residents to act, giving self- or community-
interested individuals reasons for doing so, another
element of motivation frames defines or characterizes
the community itself. In Frogtown, these references—
illustrated in the bottom sections of each column in
Table 1—described characteristics of neighborhood re-
sidents and the look of the physical landscape.
The organizations that characterized the neighborhood
most frequently in terms of its people were those two that
also had strong responsibility-oriented motivation frames:
the District Council and the Block Club. Both of these
groups referred to the ethnic, racial, and cultural diversity
of the neighborhood in a celebratory tone (see Table 1).
The references to diversity, though, were generic; they
did not specify particular groups or cultures. Thus, they did
not problematize relations among diverse residents or
question the ability of people to identify and share
common needs or interests in the neighborhood. The
FAA took a different approach. They hinted that diversity
could be a basis for fragmentation in the neighborhood,
but they argued that everyone in the neighborhood faces
the same problems. The implication, of course, was that
propinquity does foster common problems, a foundational
notion in neighborhood-based organizing (Alinsky 1989).
All of these references to a diverse neighborhood popula-
tion, therefore, ignored potentially pressing concerns, for
example, of Asian immigrants, some of whom came to
Minnesota as refugees, or of African-American residents
who face racialized experiences in the housing market,
schools, and everyday social interaction.
References to children and families constituted an-
other means of universalizing individual residents into a
generic neighborhood population who share a place.
Evocations of children sought to define a broad respon-
sibility among neighbors for one another, but they also
defined the neighborhood as a family-oriented place. The
Block Club described the high percentage of children
living in the neighborhood and, like the District Council’s
announcement that children ‘‘need us,’’ argued that
children were the ‘‘future’’ of Frogtown. People who do not
have children still have some responsibility to them as
adults, the organizations implicitly suggested—ignoring
the potential sense of exclusion adults without children
might feel upon hearing a ‘‘family’’ discourse. Asserting
generic ‘‘neighborhood-ness’’ (people sharing a common
location, common experiences, raising families and with
some responsibility to each other) is one way to situate and
mobilize residents for place-based organizing. It illustrates,
however, the inherent exclusions of the frames in
attempting to define a territorially inclusive community.
Motivational frames did not focus only on residents,
however. In fact, the GFCDC and FAA made few
references to residents in their motivation frames (Table
1). Instead, these organizations focused on the economic
and physical characteristics of the neighborhood—two
elements of place that related directly to their own
agendas. The FAA characterized the neighborhood
through statistical analyses of economic activity in the
neighborhood. In doing so, it constituted its primary
activism issue—the economy—as coherent with its
territorial scope of Frogtown. Yet this construction
belies—or, at a minimum, ignores—the broader context
of the neighborhood. Frogtown is but one neighborhood in
the larger city of St. Paul, which itself is situated as part of a
metropolitan regional economy, within a broader mid-
western, national, and international economy. Thus, it is
almost peculiar to view or describe Frogtown as a separate
entity in what the FAA surely recognized as an integrated
global economy. By situating Frogtown as an economic
region, the FAA supported or perhaps even sought to
legitimate its own mission of economic development in
Frogtown. Clearly, describing Frogtown as a distinct
economic place was an important frame for the organiza-
tion, as part of establishing the importance of its work for
the neighborhood. In doing so, the frames could foster
activism as well as legitimating the existence and focus of
the organization.
Perhaps the most obvious place-oriented motivational
frames are those that addressed the physical condition of
the neighborhood. All four of Frogtown’s organizations
characterized the neighborhood by describing its land-
scape or physical infrastructure, but these frames were
most evident with the GFCDC. These physical descrip-
tions blurred the line somewhat between mobilizing
discourses that define the community and diagnostic
discourses that describe problems needing action. None-
theless, they clearly defined the neighborhood as a place
with certain landscape features that were distinctively
‘‘Frogtown.’’ The District Council and the GFCDC, for
example, described the housing as ‘‘Victorian’’ and
‘‘cottages.’’ These and other references highlighted the
neighborhood as a residential community with a particular
As I indicated earlier, Frogtown was settled by working-
class immigrants, and although the District Council and
the GFCDC have undertaken historic rehabilitation and
renovation, little if any private-market gentrification has
occurred there. In contrast, the district directly to the
south of Frogtown—also a neighborhood with high levels
of people in poverty and of minority residents—has
experienced considerable gentrification since the mid-
1980s, in Victorian-style homes that were once part of
a solidly middle- and upper-income neighborhood. In
suggesting that Frogtown’s smaller ‘‘railroad houses’’ or
‘‘workers’ cottages’’ that date from the Victorian era have
‘‘architectural significance’’ in their own right, the
GFCDC and the District Council were highlighting
‘‘workers’’ as a neighborhood class identity of which
residents could be proud. These organizations claimed
working-class residences as a strength of the neighbor-
hood, distinguishing it from gentrifying areas while also
asserting an economic value for its smaller houses. In
doing so, the organizations challenged economic valuing
of larger, ‘‘historic’’ houses and distinguished the Frogtown
housing market as different from other areas in St. Paul.
At the same time, however, the organizations did not
challenge the functions or logic of the housing market
overall, nor did they criticize gentrification as a pro-
cess. Perhaps because of their own territorial limits, the
organizations inscribed Frogtown’s working-class housing
as valuable for and valued in the neighborhood, rather
than questioning the forces that devalued it.
The organizations that drew attention to the physical
infrastructure in their mobilizing frames did not simply
discursively celebrate the housing stock. The GFCDC, in
particular, wrote positively of a neighborhood ‘‘look’’ but
also indicated negative features of the physical landscape,
suggesting that many houses had been ‘‘insensitively
altered’’ (GFCDC 1995, 2). The GFCDC frame described
the neighborhood in a way that suggested a need for
residents to restore a previous history and pride. Although
the GFCDC board was one of the most diverse of the four
organizations in the neighborhood in the mid-1990s (40
percent of its members were Asian or African American),
its references to a working-class history ironically evoked a
time when the neighborhood was primarily white,
populated mostly by European immigrants. The focus on
the material, built landscape of the neighborhood ob-
scured the flexible, shifting character of the place as its
residents change over time.
The motivation frames that described the physical
features or general socioeconomic conditions of the
neighborhood made a discursive connection between
the goals and missions of the neighborhood organizations
and the daily life experiences of residents. In doing so, they
generated a universalizing discourse that simplified the
characteristics of place as ‘‘diversity,’’ ‘‘children,’’ and a
generic working-class identity. These frames may be the
most important element of organizational portrayals of
their place- or neighborhood-based missions, because
they attempted to link individuals to the experience of
neighborhood and to activism. The motivation frames
sought to draw upon residents’ experiences in place and
use them dialectically, both to articulate and to create
a place identity based on organizations’ activities. But
collective-action frames do not only characterize actors
and places; they also define problems and propose
solutions (Snow and Benford 1988, 1992). To analyze
neighborhood organizational place-frames fully, therefore,
it is also necessary to examine how they diagnose and
assign blame for problems and recommend action in the
Diagnostic Frames
According to Snow and Benford (1988, 1992), when
collective-action organizations describe problems that
they purport to address and assign blame or causes for the
problems, they are framing diagnostically. We might
expect the diagnostic frames of these neighborhood-based
groups to locate the problems in the place. Diagnostic
frames should also provide a notion of what organizations
believe the neighborhood should be like if it had no
problems. By describing problems, organizations identified
those activities or elements in the neighborhood that they
conceived as ‘‘out of place,’’ not belonging in Frogtown or
in a residential place more generally (Cresswell 1996). As
in the mobilization frames, a crucial way for organizations
to describe problems was to evoke the physical landscape.
The District Council lamented a lack of public space, the
Block Club cited problems with dirty or unkempt public
and private spaces, and the GFCDC, as in its motivation
frames, referred to degraded housing (Table 2).
Place-Framing as Place-Making 739
The District Council’s 1996 Small Area Plan contained
many diagnoses of neighborhood problems (see PED 1996
references in Table 2, column 1). The Small Area Plan
(PED 1996) was a planning document for Frogtown in
which the District Council described a broad range of
problems in the neighborhood and solutions for improving
the community. It was developed with the assistance of St.
Paul’s Planning and Economic Development (PED) staff,
with a committee of neighborhood residents to direct
the project. Such area plans were a regular part of city
business, managed through the planning department, up
until the mid-1990s, when budget cutbacks reduced such
activities (Homans, interview, 1996). The Thomas-Dale
Small Area Plan represents one of the last such plans
created by a St. Paul neighborhood, funded and shep-
herded through PED.
The plan highlighted a series of issues and problems
facing the neighborhood. Those problems that directly
referred to the neighborhood landscape involved con-
cerns about the need for public space to foster the informal
social interactions that help to create or support a
neighborhood community. The plan—and therefore the
District Council—cited an ‘‘acute lack of . . . space’’ in
the neighborhood (PED 1996, 23), and pointed out that
Thomas-Dale had much less public green space per
resident than other neighborhoods in the city. This
attention to a lack of public space indicated an ideal of how
a neighborhood—specifically Frogtown—should look and
function (Purcell 1997, 1998).
A different approach to the problems of the physical
landscape was to highlight the decay or deterioration of
the neighborhood and the need for people to maintain
Table 2. Diagnostic Place-Framing by Organization
Thomas-Dale District Seven
Planning Council (TDD7PC)
Greater Frogtown Community
Development Corporation
Frogtown Action Alliance
Thomas-Dale Block Clubs
Gathering places play an
important role in the life of
any community . . .
[A]mong the challenges . . .
is the acute lack of . . . space
(PED 1996, 23)
Thomas-Dale has among the
smallest amount of green
space per resident of any
neighborhood in the city
(PED 1996, 35)
Thomas-Dale . . . [is] in
danger of being caught in a
continuing cycle of
disinvestments and isolation
(PED 1996, 10)
Metropolitan decisions . . .
health and vitality of . . .
Thomas-Dale (PED 1996, 24)
Access to quality, affordable
health care is a national issue
. . . with particular concern
for Thomas-Dale (PED
1996, 32)
Vacant lots: expensive
eyesores (1996d, 7)
Many houses have been
insensitively altered,
resulting in . . . loss of
neighborhood character and
value . . . [T]he good points
of the area’s housing are
obscured . . . [by] the media
(1995, 2)
Some of the infrastructure
has been altered or destroyed
(1995, 2)
This big old house has been
vacant . . . [I]t’s still a solid
building (1996e, 13)
Frogtown has an increasing
number of vacant lots due to
the aggressive efforts of the
City’s Environmental Health
Division . . . Frogtown’s tax
base is declining, and gives
the perception that there are
not many good reasons to
invest . . . in the neighborhood
(1996a, 2)
[The CDC] expects to gain
. . . insight into . . . the
financial impediments [to]
. . . improving . . . housing
(Biko Associates 1997, 4)
!Action to meet problems is
frequently fractured along
racial and ethnic lines
(1994, 4)
Frogtown residents pay . . .
$8 million of income taxes,
which more than covers the
$7 million of public
assistance collected by all
households (Meter 1994, 1)
None of [St. Paul’s economic
development] programs have
been implemented in the
Frogtown neighborhood in the
last two years (1994, 11)
[Perceptual issues in
Frogtown include] lack of
clear, action-oriented
priorities . . . negative image
of the neighborhood . . .
undeveloped leadership . . .
shallow capacity . . . poor
coordination . . . poorly
defined sense of geographic
identity (1994, 4–5)
[Residents] shouldn’t have
to live with garbage, disrepair
(Reporter 1996c, 18)
There has been blowing trash
and broken glass in this area
that needs to be cleaned
It’s not the economics. It’s
attitude (Howard, interview,
1996; Howard 1996a,
There are drug dealers in
some of your homes . . . [L]et
[the police] take care of them
(Howard 1996b)
Neighbors are tired of all
types of disrespectful
behavior (1996c)
Note: The excerpts in this table are quotations from the organizations. They were chosen as representative of the words or themes used repeatedly in organizational
documents for each group. Sources cited here are fully listed in the references section under the name of the organization in the column heading unless otherwise
the streets and yards of Frogtown. The Block Club was the
most strident in calling for individual and collective
responsibility for the existing (public and private) space,
saying that there was too much garbage littering the
neighborhood: ‘‘[Residents] shouldn’t have to live with
garbage, disrepair’’ (Reporter 1996d, 18). The Block Club’s
place-frame diagnoses, like the District Council’s, had a
normative element in referring to the landscape. Quite
simply, according to the Club, a degraded landscape
‘‘should not’’ exist. The Block Club assigned blame for
the problem simply by noting that garbage was in the
streets and spaces of the neighborhood and, in its
motivation frames, calling for every resident to help clean
up the neighborhood. By leaving the culprit for garbage
unspecified, the Block Club suggested a universal respon-
sibility among all residents for the problem. The solu-
tion—or prognosis, which will be explored in greater detail
shortly—was quite simple: individual and collective
action, coordinated by the Block Club. The collective-
action frame located problems in the physical condition of
the neighborhood, and blamed it on a lack of action on the
part of residents. In a flyer, the Block Club also specifically
cited ‘‘disrespectful behavior’’ for problems in the neigh-
borhood. It did not define such behavior, but problems
of drugs, trash, and dilapidated property were also men-
tioned (TDBC 1996c). In this vague reference to beha-
vior, every neighborhood resident was potentially the
source of the problem or responsible for the solution. Only
the Block Club explicitly blamed individuals for problems.
Indeed, the assigning of blame in these diagnostic
frames reflects important differences between the Block
Club and the other three Frogtown organizations. I
identify two main sources or causes of neighbor-
hood problems: those that focused on structural forces
(mostly political-economic) that shaped the neighbor-
hood, evident in frames of the FAA, the GFCDC, and
District Council; and those that cited individual behavior
as a dominant force for both problems and solutions
in the neighborhood, most common with the Block
These differing views indicate contrasting perspectives
on the scope and scale of neighborhood problems. The
FAA, for example, stressed Frogtown’s connections to
broader economic forces, including the state, in situating
the neighborhood as a site of poverty and underdevelop-
ment. It blamed a lack of funding by the city for econo-
mic development programs in the neighborhood. The
GFCDC, meanwhile, attributed causes of neighborhood
decay to homeowners or (often absentee) landlords who
failed to maintain their houses, reconstructed houses
without regard to architectural style, or abandoned homes
entirely. Even more so, however, the GFCDC blamed city
policies for abandoned and decaying housing in Frogtown.
They argued that the ‘‘aggressive efforts of the City’s
Environmental Health Division’’ led to the razing of
housing in the neighborhood, which increased vacant lots
and decreased the tax base in the neighborhood (GFCDC
1996a, 2, excerpted in Table 2). Both the GFCDC and the
FAA situated problems in the structural relationship
between the neighborhood and the local state. Thus, they
fostered an image of the neighborhood as a coherent
territory maligned by outside government forces. As we
will see in the section on prognosis frames, the solution is
to take government functions of planning and develop-
ment and conduct them in/have them conducted by the
In contrast to these two more structural causes of
neighborhood decay, the Block Club identified the causal
forces at the level of neighborhood residency and citizens’
actions and responsibilities to a local community: ‘‘It’s not
the economics. It’s attitude’’ ( Johnny Howard, Executive
Director, Thomas-Dale Block Clubs, interview, St. Paul,
MN, 25 June 1996; Howard 1996). Yet it addressed
problems of degradation and crime that could also be
construed as having structural causes, such as poverty,
lack of job opportunities, or investments in local infra-
These divergent attributions of blame highlight how
differently the organizations framed their actions and the
situation of the neighborhood. The FAA, like the GFCDC
and the District Council’s Small Area Plan, blamed state
policies for at least some of the physical and socioeconomic
problems in the neighborhood. These organizations
implied that the neighborhood ought to assert its needs
to the state, demanding greater financial assistance from
the city or decision-making at higher levels of government
that attended to their impacts at the neighborhood level.
But these frames had another, more important effect: they
conceptually and discursively broadened the scope and
scale of the neighborhood’s problems beyond its own
residents and territory to the local and national economy.
The neighborhood in these portrayals was not a separate,
isolated and ideal place, but one grounded in a broader
reality of actors and political and economic forces that
were outside of, and acting upon, the neighborhood itself.
Nonetheless, these organizations worked to constitute a
neighborhood-scale community in order to assert their
demands and claims to the local state.
The Block Club focused much more on the very local
and immediate scale of the neighborhood in characteriz-
ing the sources of problems, commenting on the ‘‘atti-
tudes’’ and ‘‘behavior’’ of neighborhood residents. In
doing so, the Block Club represented neighborhood
residents—and neighborhood organizations—as the only
Place-Framing as Place-Making 741
actors who could truly make a difference in the neighbor-
hood. Outside actors or influences seemed, in their
absence, irrelevant to the Block Club’s imaginings and
portrayals of struggles in the neighborhood.
Given these very different descriptions of neighbor-
hood problems and, especially, causes for the problems, the
organizations proposed very different solutions.
Prognostic Frames
According to Snow and Benford’s (1988, 1992) frame-
work, prognostic frames identify the actions that collec-
tive organizations take, the solutions that they propose to
solve the problems that they have identified. Like their
diagnoses, the prognoses of the four Frogtown organiza-
tions highlighted the differences among the organizations
in their approaches to problem-solving in the neighbor-
hood, because they focused on the actions of each group
(Table 3).
One theme that resonated throughout all the phases of
the collective-action frames was that of the physical
condition of the neighborhood. The specific solutions that
the organizations undertook and advocated, therefore,
included attention to the physical landscape. There were
two elements to this discourse. One, used by the District
Council and Block Club, cited the importance of residents
Table 3. Prognostic Framing by Organization
Thomas-Dale District Seven
Planning Council (TDD7PC)
Greater Frogtown Community
Development Corporation
Frogtown Action Alliance
Thomas-Dale Block Clubs
[D7’s goals are] to stimulate
greater interest . . . in
planning [and] . . .
improving the physical,
economic, and social quality
of life (1995, 3)
The council strives to
conserve, foster, and restore
the well-being of our
neighborhood (1996h)
We . . . work . . . to
strengthen families;
[support] decent, affordable
. . . homes; provide
opportunities for
employment; create . . .
productive businesses; make
Thomas-Dale a safe, clean
place to live (PED 1996, 1)
Spring Clean-up Day . . .
resulted in . . . tons of trash
. . . being cleaned from our
alleys, garages, and back
yards (1996f, 17)
Here’s our people’s plan for
Thomas-Dale! (1996e:
Join our Dale Street/Maxson
Steel Industrial Park
planning efforts (1996d, 17)
The mission of the [CDC
includes] promoting the
area’s advantages as an
affordable, diverse, safe,
and congenial place to live
(1995, 1)
GFCDC would like to . . .
[build] single family homes
[to achieve] . . . land . . .
back on the tax roles . . .
market interest . . . in
Frogtown . . . residents can
take pride (1996a, 2)
The mission of the FAA is to
bring together diverse
individuals and organizations
in Frogtown (1996b, 6)
Key elements of the FAA
structure [include] building
a sense of geographic identity
(1996b, 6)
The Frogtown community
needs to be revitalized in a
way that is responsive to
resident needs, leads to
greater community control,
and develops local capacity
(1994, 5)
[FAA] achieves its goals and
objectives by working . . . in
collaboration with other
organizations (1995a, 16)
Shop Frogtown (1995b, 16)
Our business is building
business for the Frogtown
neighborhood (1997)
Neighbors helping neighbors
(1995, 1996b)
[Development of pocket
parks] has turned space
used for illegal activity into
places of peace and beauty
(1996b, 8)
[Giving away flowers] not
only changes the perception
others have of our
community, it changes our
perspective (1996b, 7)
Events have been a staple
. . . [T]hey bring neighbors
together . . . to share in the
struggle for a clean, safe, and
comfortable community
(1996b, 5)
[TDBC works to] close down
drug houses, clean up our
blocks and hold neglectful
property owners accountable
(Lammers 1994, 3)
[Street protests] increase
neighborhood visibility,
disrupt disrespectful and
illegal behavior, and . . .
encourage pride (1995, 16)
When neighbors know who
is REPSONSIBLE . . . and
. . . hold themselves and
the POSSIBLITYof a better
neighborhood becomes
reality (1996a)
Note: The excerpts in this table are quotations from the organizations. They were chosen as representative of the words or themes used repeatedly in organizational
documents for each group. Sources cited here are fully listed in the references section under the name of the organization in the column heading unless otherwise
coming together to clean and maintain various spaces in
the neighborhood. The second, used by the GFCDC,
referred to the physical infrastructure of housing stock
(Table 3).
The Block Club and District Council referred to actions
that they had taken and were continuing to take to keep
the neighborhood looking clean and pleasant. In parti-
cular, the Block Club explained its organizational belief
that the physical look of the neighborhood affects
perceptions of the neighborhood: ‘‘[Giving away flowers]
. . . changes our perspective’’ (TDBC 1996b, 7). Images of
the neighborhood clearly mattered to these organizations,
which sought to change the way the place was both
perceived and experienced. Actions to clean and maintain
the neighborhood, therefore, were essential for fostering a
positive place-image. The solutions that the Block Club
advocated included marches against drug dealing and
prostitution, protests of police inaction, pickets of property
owned by landlords identified by the organization as
irresponsible, building pocket parks, maintaining empty
neighborhood lots, and citizen watch programs.
While the District Council and Block Club emphasized
cleaning the neighborhood as one way to enhance its
image, the GFCDC, FAA, and District Council also all
participated in and advocated for various long-term
planning and development strategies, each focused on a
different area or component of development. The Council
and the FAA collaborated on planning for an abandoned
industrial site, with the FAA doing so as part of its broader
business development and the District Council partici-
pating as part of a comprehensive look at land use in the
neighborhood. Each organization stressed planning and
local, community involvement—‘‘community control,’’
according to the FAA (FAA 1994, 5).
In the case of the industrial redevelopment, both the
FAA and the District Council referred to the redevelop-
ment of the site as being about jobs and economic growth
in Frogtown; their discourses ignored the broader St. Paul
economy. Although the site itself crossed Frogtown’s
district boundary into another neighborhood and was part
of the city’s economic development strategy, the FAA and
the District Council referred to the site as ‘‘Dale Street
Shops’’ or ‘‘Maxson Steel,’’ names of two entities that had
existed on the Frogtown side of the industrial site. For
these organizations, the site was a neighborhood one, and
their actions were situated in and addressed at the
neighborhood level. In its diagnostic frames, the FAA
explicitly blamed the local state for some of Frogtown’s
woes; prognostically, however, it situated solutions for
economic growth in planning at the neighborhood scale.
To constitute neighborhood-based solutions, the orga-
nizations called for residents to help direct planning
efforts. Residents could—and should—attend meetings,
listen to presentations about land-use planning, and help
decide future redevelopment schemes, including types of
businesses to attract and neighborhood amenities to
include in the construction. The FAA also suggested that
business development in Frogtown relied in part on
individual consumer actions. A solution, therefore, was
for residents of the neighborhood to ‘‘Shop Frogtown’’
(FAA 1995b, 16). This was a very simple, direct, and
explicit prognosis frame on the part of the FAA. It
continued a discursive theme for the organization of
referring to Frogtown as an economic entity, a focus of the
organization’s own business development and support
for neighborhood entrepreneurs. This role of individual
consumers on the local economy contrasted with the
FAA’s main activities, which focused on: coordinating
citizen and business input in industrial redevelopment,
particularly for physical infrastructure; entrepreneurial
skills and opportunities, including a business incubator;
business coalition development in two commercial corri-
dor areas; and other long-range planning and develop-
ment for economic growth in the neighborhood.
The GFCDC’s main development strategy, of course,
focused on the housing stock. Its prognosis discourse
linked housing to the broader economic and physical
health of the neighborhood by describing the need to build
houses for families, adding to the tax value of neighbor-
hood property and, according to the GFCDC (1996a, 2),
developing greater neighborhood pride among residents.
The GFCDC’s representation of its activities in buy-
ing abandoned houses and fixing them or building new
houses on vacant lots suggested impacts far beyond any
single house or homeowner. The GFCDC connected its
housing-development efforts to financial investments in
the neighborhood and to the overall character and the
perception of the neighborhood by residents and outsiders
(potential investors and residents, and even the tax
assessors). For the GFCDC, individual and group deci-
sions to invest in housing through ownership or rehabi-
litation provided tangible evidence of support for the
neighborhood as a community.
The prognoses by the FAA, the GFCDC, and the
District Council for physical development and community
planning reflected a broader theme of community develop-
ment. For example, the Block Club was quite explicit about
the role of organizational gatherings in fostering a sense of
community. It used events to ‘‘bring neighbors together’’
(TDBC 1996b, 5); the FAA talked about developing
‘‘local capacity’’ (FAA 1994, 5); the District Council
spoke of the need for space for neighbors to gather and get
to know one another; and the GFCDC presented the
neighborhood as a ‘‘congenial’’ place to live (GFCDC
Place-Framing as Place-Making 743
1995, 1) (Table 3). These many references to community
reflected the goal of connecting residents and organiza-
tions together in the place called Frogtown. In other
words, these organizations worked discursively to consti-
tute the place as a ‘‘neighborhood,’’ with the connotations
that word carried of community or shared residential
experiences. The actions of these organizations ranged
from block parties and street protests against crime and
inadequate policing to meetings about zoning ordinances,
development of business associations, arranging for new
businesses, and building new houses. Their discourses
and actions strove to foster a sense of place, one that
emphasized the local dependence of residents, in which
positive events and investments were good for everyone
(Cox and Mair 1988). But the local dependence of
Frogtown, its organizations asserted discursively, was not
based in St. Paul or the metropolitan area: it was a
dependence situated at the neighborhood scale of daily life
interactions in and near people’s residences.
The unifying theme of community and shared neigh-
borhood commitments was also apparent in a prognosis of
collaboration. The FAA was most blatant in advocating
for cooperation among the four Frogtown organizations,
arguing that ‘‘[A]n organization with the word alliance in
its name achieves its goals and objectives by working
with others’’ (FAA 1995a, 16, emphasis in original). In
different ways in their discourses and actions, each of
the Frogtown neighborhood organizations recognized the
actions of the others and the importance of working
together to achieve certain ends. It was in this shared
concern and collaboration among organizations that a
neighborhood dependence was most apparent. The FAA
and the District Council collaborated to solicit input and
plan with city officials for the redevelopment of an
industrial corridor along the northern part—and bound-
ary—of the neighborhood. The GFCDC and the Block
Club cooperated in efforts to notify residents and seek
their input on housing rehabilitation and construction
projects through door-to-door visits and public meetings.
The GFCDC also met regularly with the physical planning
committee of the District Council in order to discuss
particular sites for housing rehabilitation or construction.
In addition, the organizations’ leaders cooperated in their
interactions with the city, such as when they demanded
resident input on a street-paving plan for which city
officials had failed to consider street design and traffic-
calming, replacing lead pipes, and funds for housing
improvements in conjunction with the paving project.
Like a city with competing interests among its boosters,
however, Frogtown organizations’ prognosis discourses
evidenced competing agendas as well. The District
Council encouraged and coordinated planning and
physical improvements to the neighborhood (such as
through an annual clean-up). The GFCDC highlighted its
role as a developer of housing but linked its actions to the
overall quality of life in the neighborhood; in this respect,
it remained quite focused on the neighborhood environ-
ment—and perceptions thereof—as the locus of its
problem-solving activity. The FAA sought solutions
oriented around business development, primarily plan-
ning-related ones as well as some fostering local invest-
ments in businesses. Finally, the Block Club helped
residents to get to know one another through block parties
and anticrime rallies and cleaned up the neighborhood
through planting flowers and creating small parks on
vacant lots.
In the next section, I discuss how the analytic
separation of collective-action frames into the three-part
heuristic of mobilization, diagnoses, and prognoses is
useful for understanding how territorially based action is
discursively sited.
Place-Framing as Place-Making
Ultimately, the four organizations in Frogtown in 1996
and 1997 were all trying to solve—or at least address—
problems in and of a place. Thus, by all logic, the ways that
they presented themselves and their agendas should have
referred to the neighborhood in which they were located.
Yet it is too simple to say that a concept of place was
evident in the discourses of the organizations. Rather, it
is more important to examine how place appeared in the
discourses of the organizations, and why. Unraveling
the elements of place in neighborhood-based community
organizing illustrates how local dependence is constituted
at multiple scales within urban areas. Through local
governance structures, the neighborhood organizations in
Frogtown were locally dependent at multiple scales, those
of the urban area and of the neighborhood in which they
operate. They used place-framing to legitimate and
circumscribe their neighborhood sphere of activism by
drawing upon presumed daily experiences of life in the
neighborhood to locate both problems and potential
solutions at the scale of the residential place. In doing so,
the organizations constituted themselves and their resi-
dent-members as citizens, not just of a broader city, but of a
particular location within the city, with needs and
demands that were directed at the local state and its
officials, even as they cast the neighborhood as the most
salient sphere of community.
The framework of collective-action frames facilitates
an analytical separation of motivational, diagnostic, and
prognostic elements. Although it is somewhat artificial to
separate dynamic, integrated organizational discourses
about the neighborhood and activism into such fine-
grained parts, theoretically it permits an examination of
the construction of place-based agendas for activism.
Separating the components of framing discourses reveals
that place was invoked by the organizations primarily in
motivational and diagnostic frames (Table 4).
Motivation frames included descriptions of the neigh-
borhood in terms of its population—as being diverse
racially and ethnically, having high numbers of children,
and being mixed by housing tenure (renters and home-
owners). These characterizations of the neighborhood
represented the place and its residents in a universali-
zing manner, identifying them as having shared character-
istics, rather than divided by differences. Frogtown’s
diversity was reduced to a set of general elements with
which residents presumably could identity. In acknowl-
edging difference among residents, the organizations’
Table 4. Themes in Organizational Frames by Type (Summary of Tables 1–3)
Motivational Frames
Exhort action and define/
describe the community
(who, what)
Diagnostic Frames
Describe problems and
assign cause/blame
Prognostic Frames
Solutions (specific actions)
Thomas-Dale District Seven
Planning Council (TDD7PC)
Plan for future
Clean up neighborhood
Support/protect children
Create community
Racial, cultural, economic
Historic homes (railroad,
Lack of green, public space
Cycle of disinvestment
Broader processes/decisions
affect local conditions
Plan for future development:
comprehensive plan
Clean-up days
Greater Frogtown Community
Development Corporation
Buy a home
Families need homes
Architectural and
historically significant
Modest prices
Degraded, run-down houses
City policies increase
number of vacant lots
Lack of investment
Financial barriers to
Negative images of
Promote neighborhood as a
residential location
Build and rehabilitate houses
Frogtown Action Alliance (FAA) Exhortations:
Everyone faces the same
problems and should help
solve them
Economic activity in
Fracturing by race, ethnicity
More money leaves
neighborhood than is
Frogtown is neglected by the
Negative perceptions,
undefined geographic
Unite individuals and
*Create geographic
*Foster community control
Entrepreneurship classes
Business development and
Thomas-Dale Block Clubs
Keep neighborhood and
homes clean
Individuals responsible for
Win prizes
Cultural, religious, racial
Garbage in streets, yards
Poor attitudes, behavior, and
lack of responsibility by
Foster residential
interactions and
neighborhood pride
Clean up area, plant flowers,
and build pocket parks
Protest criminal behavior:
*Work with police
*Hold property owners
accountable for tenants,
clean up
Place-Framing as Place-Making 745
motivational frames aimed to portray difference as merely
another descriptive feature of a single, place-oriented
community. This strategy reveals a place-based identity
construction, one that sought to subsume other social
identities under a territorial identity in order to establish
and maintain place-based collective-action agendas.
The organizations also highlighted the physical features
of the neighborhood in their motivation frames, either by
celebrating historic housing stock or by deploring run-
down and unkempt landscapes. The organizations argued
that residents had a responsibility to the physical land-
scape and to each other. In all of these discourses, the
neighborhood was taken for granted as a place, an entity in
which people experienced life in a particular way. The
FAA even sought to establish it as an economic region by
citing government taxing and spending statistics at the
level of the neighborhood.
The organizations continued to describe the physical
and economic conditions of the neighborhood in their
diagnostic frames, thereby locating the problems that
organizations addressed in the material realities of
the place (Table 4). They cited the degradation of the
neighborhood in terms of a lack of cleanliness and
decaying buildings, as well as the lack of green space.
The causes of problems cited in the organizational
diagnostic frames, however, represented a difference in
how the organizations located Frogtown in relation to
other places, especially to the state. Thus, the Block Club
identified the causes of problems as mostly in the behavior
of its own residents, which also implied that the solutions
were locally rooted. The GFCDC and the FAA, by
contrast, were quite explicit that actors and forces working
outside of the neighborhood were at fault for the
abandonment of houses and the economic struggles of
the businesses and residents. Nonetheless, their focus for
activism was at the neighborhood level, both in identifying
problems and in recommending solutions.
The differences among the organizations in assigning
causes to the problems certainly reflect their differing
agendas, which were most evident in the prognostic
frames. The District Council stressed planning, the
GFCDC housing development, the FAA business devel-
opment, and the Block Club the physical maintenance of
the neighborhood and the protesting of crime (Table 4).
Yet Table 4 illustrates that even in the prognostic frames,
the organizations conceptualized Frogtown as a particular
and specific place, a neighborhood where these four
organizations worked to improve the perception, the sense
of pride, the community, and the collaborative efforts of
people in the neighborhood.
In all of these collective-action frames, therefore,
the neighborhood was repeatedly invoked or cited as the
sphere of action, as having particular features and
problems that residents could understand and identify
with because of their common, shared location. Of course,
the ‘‘neighborhood’’ was created and maintained in a
public imaginary—or, at least as illustrated here, in
organizational discourses—based on a series of ideals
and ideas about a residential ‘‘place.’’ Thus, in referring to
Frogtown as a ‘‘place,’’ the organizations asserted that it
was a coherent ‘‘district within an urban area’’ ( Johnston
1994, 409). Their descriptions of physical infrastructure,
such as housing or the presence of garbage in streets,
evoked common sights that most residents would likely
notice on a daily basis, thereby connecting problems to
experiences of everyday life. The organizations evoked ‘‘a
shared interest in overlapping use values’’ by asserting that
problems in the neighborhood were common to all
residents and that everyone in the neighborhood had
some responsibility to try and solve those problems (Logan
and Molotch 1987, 108). Yet the organizations did not
assert that the neighborhood is unique. Indeed, while they
cited important, distinctive features—such as the historic,
working-class housing, the problems of the economy, or
the diversity of residents—none of the organizations
argued that Frogtown had characteristics or faced prob-
lems unlike those of any other place. Instead, they
discursively situated the particular configuration of
history, architecture, people, economy, and problems at
the scale of the residential neighborhood, one that
corresponded to the ‘‘citizen participation’’ district of
Frogtown in the St. Paul polity.
This research expands social-movement theories to
understand more adequately microscale dynamics of place
constitution through the collective-action frames of
neighborhood organizations. It examines a framework in
urban politics in which neighborhood or community
groups operate in a relatively small and delineated
geographic location, organizing residents to participate
in the local polity. These groups then use their territorially
bounded political identities to constitute a justification for
place-based action and to foster concern and community
at the scale of the neighborhood. They do so through
place-frames, which legitimate neighborhood-based ac-
tion and define the neighborhood community organiza-
tion as the best actor both to represent neighborhood
residents and to respond to neighborhood needs. Place-
frames discursively legitimate the sphere of the neighbor-
hood, siting blame at the local and regional level, but
action within the neighborhood. They thus reveal the
creation of urban spaces at scales below the broader urban
fabric of city- or metropolis-wide local dependency and
growth coalitions (Cox and Mair 1988; Gilbert 1999).
Place frames do not simply reveal the ways that place
provides important grounding for neighborhood activism
and community development. They provide a conceptual
framework for analyzing collective action more generally,
in multiple places and at scales beyond the local. Place-
frame analysis investigates the concrete references to
place, people, and events in organizational discourses and
the ways that they are linked to recommended actions. As
such, it goes beyond asserting an importance of place in
activism by illustrating how the conditions of daily life—
inherently spatial and geographically located—inform
and underlie activist discourses. The place-frames in the
case of Frogtown, for example, discursively represent Cox
and Mair’s (1988) local dependence at a neighborhood
scale, nested within the urban political economy.
This analysis demonstrates how local communities
constitute their territorial sphere as a legitimate and
meaningful site for activism. As Harvey (1989, 1996)
cautions, locally based approaches to problems that have
origins in national and international social, political, and
economic processes may undermine global activist agen-
das. Place-frames, however, offer a conceptual framework
for analyzing global and regional activist-claims, as well as
those of locally situated groups. With the conceptualiza-
tion of motivation, diagnostic, and prognosis frames as
they relate to place in mind, geographers can assess the
degree to which various types of activist frames draw upon
and constitute place-based identities or offer alternative
geographies grounded in the spatialities of social life. As
Jonas (1998) suggests, locally based discourses rhetorically
organize and make sense of the daily experiences of life in a
particular place, helping to link local-level events and
problems with broader processes. Place-frames at a multi-
tude of scales can make sense of daily experiences and
connect them to particular types of social or community
The Frogtown organizations situated their activism in a
single place and context, one that the local political
structure assigned them. As manifested in Frogtown in the
1990s, their place-frames represented an assertion of
community at the neighborhood scale and did not address
alliances with other neighborhoods in St. Paul. Yet
alternative frames certainly would be possible. Even
the discursive grounding of specific experiences of the
neighborhood could reconfigure the meaning and salience
of the local by focusing on common experiences—of
physical decay or drugs, for example—across a variety
of locales. Focusing on these common experiences in
different locales could form a set of place-based, collec-
tive-action frames that situated calls for activism across a
broader political and social sphere than that of a single
neighborhood. Indeed, international local-global coali-
tions fighting the impacts of globalization may provide
examples of how spatialities of daily life are being
discursively drawn upon to articulate calls for activism at
a variety of scales. A place-frame analysis would elaborate
on how these coalitions are being deployed by many types
of collective organizations.
This research demonstrates an important theoretical
and practical insight: that place-based collective action
involves definitions of problems, goals, and strategies with
explicit reference and attention to the site and subject of
the activism through place-frames. It continues the
‘‘geographical project’’ (Herod 1991, 398) of specifying
how place informs social action, and provides a conceptual
tool for imagining and understanding alternative scales
and forms of place-based organizing. Place-framing illus-
trates the meaning-making that groups of people under-
take in their social and political lives.
Several people deserve thanks for their valuable
feedback and support as I developed this article: Sarah
Elwood, Steve Holloway, J. P. Jones, Audrey Kobayashi,
Helga Leitner, Doug McAdam, Eric Sheppard, and the
anonymous reviewers for the Annals. Remaining errors
and omissions are my own.
1. Swyngedouw (1992, 40) credited conversations with Andrew
Mair for his coining the term ‘‘glocalization,’’ although
Robertson (1995, 28) indicated that the term was popular in
business in the 1980s and suggested that the initial use of the
word came from Japan. I do not think that there is necessarily
one origin; the many uses of ‘‘glocalization’’ indicate that it
articulates an idea that many people find salient.
2. I put the terms ‘‘race’’ and ‘‘racial’’ (‘‘racially’’) in quotes to
emphasize their social constitution.
3. They were also the basis for Alinsky-style political activism,
which seeks to identify and build upon common interests
among a group of people, be it based upon race or ethnicity,
work status, or, most commonly, residential location (Bailey
1974, 106; Alinsky 1989; Fisher 1994).
4. I do not wish to argue that all neighborhood organizations are
social movements, merely that, as collective organizations
outside of formal governments, they act like social move-
5. I focus here on the frames of the organizations and what they
say about place, not on the reception of the place identity and
discourse among residents.
6. The boundaries of each district were determined primarily by
community groups in existence at the time, in consultation
with city planning officials.
Place-Framing as Place-Making 747
7. The city of St. Paul provides funds for a district council in
each of the seventeen planning districts of the city, of which
Frogtown/Thomas-Dale is one.
8. The McKnight Foundation primarily supports community
and family development programs.
9. In fact, organizations were not all audited regularly by the city
or the nonprofit foundations that supported them. In 2000,
the Alliance declared bankruptcy after financial mismanage-
ment (Balaji 2001).
10. Martin (2000) examined organizational discourses aimed at
external audiences: nonresidents and the media in St. Paul.
11. For more about the Frogtown Times as a neighborhood
discourse in its own right and in juxtaposition to major media
portrayals of the neighborhood, see Martin (2000).
12. I collected and analyzed over one hundred documents for all
four organizations. I also attended a total of twenty-nine
organizational or neighborhood meetings from June 1996
through January 1997, although most of my observations of
meetings were conducted in July, August, and September
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Correspondence: Department of Geography, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602; e-mail:
... In the context of structure and morphology of urban spaces, the case we are considering demonstrates the intuitive need of the participants (citizens) to return to the urban concept of the "garden city" by E. Howard, formed by the original planning grid of 1926. Based on the concept of the "identity frame" of a place Martin's (2003) [26], we can trace its influence on the formation of group identity of the community. A similar influence is manifested in the adoption of a certain morphology and structure of the urban environment as a norm, and the subsequent correlation of urban development programs with this norm. ...
... In the context of structure and morphology of urban spaces, the case we are considering demonstrates the intuitive need of the participants (citizens) to return to the urban concept of the "garden city" by E. Howard, formed by the original planning grid of 1926. Based on the concept of the "identity frame" of a place Martin's (2003) [26], we can trace its influence on the formation of group identity of the community. A similar influence is manifested in the adoption of a certain morphology and structure of the urban environment as a norm, and the subsequent correlation of urban development programs with this norm. ...
... We define TF as the strategies and actions that individual farms undertake with the overall aim of ensuring the sustainability (understood broadly) of the farm by making active use of the available territorial assets and connections, and pooling these at various scales. We see TF as an exercise of the farmer's agency in farm-place-shaping, with place being understood as a networked territory, whose coherence and unity is both material and imagined (see Martin, 2003;Jessop et al., 2008). Therefore, TF illuminates the processes of territorial adaptation and transformation and relates to the farmer's skill to combine various territorial assets through smart planning of farming activities that make use of the strengths and opportunities of the farm's location and connections. ...
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This paper proposes a novel concept of territorial fitting for the analysis of the functioning of small farms in broader food, environmental, and socioeconomic systems. We elaborate on the framing and definition of territorial fitting (TF) in relation to other concepts, such as territorial and social embeddedness, nested markets and territorial governance. Based on an analysis of empirical manifestations of territorial fitting as found in sample studies of small farms in Latvia, Portugal, and Norway we determine dimensions of territorial fitting such as natural resources, integrated landscape, social ties, and economic ties. Our approach to the identification and articulation of TF is characteristic of exploratory studies that attempt to conceptualise emerging findings. The study suggests that TF works by: (i) improving integration in niche markets and regional food systems; (ii) supporting micro-management of nature and ecosystems ; (iii) connecting fields of activity, like agriculture, forestry, rural and environmental services; and (iv) establishing new territorial linkages. We argue that the concept of territorial fitting has the potential for further research on the role of small farms in food systems.
... While territory and territoriality refer to political struggles over the control of space (Raffestin 1980;Sack 1986), territorialisation is used here as the more specific process of building a political organisation, which may span both formal and informal institutions, oriented towards disputes at one or more scales. The scales of territorialisation may respond both to existing levels of formal political institutions, what Wills (2019) refers to as the "geo-constitution", as well as to the geographically delimited political subjectivities and social relations that are constructed by activities themselves, akin to what Martin (2003) describes as place-framing. Influential geographical literature has developed ontological criticisms of the topographic assumptions of scale (Marston et al. 2005) and it has been highlighted that territory itself is relationally constituted (Painter 2010). ...
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en How and why do political parties, seemingly focused on electoral politics, also mobilise within contentious arenas? Drawing on qualitative research with a centre‐left Argentine party called Nuevo Encuentro (NE) in the city of Buenos Aires this paper demonstrates the importance of a geographical reading of “movement parties” for responding to this question. Specifically, the paper analyses NE’s territorialisation, understood as a strategy for organisation building via the political appropriation of space, typically by opening branches and mobilising activists in neighbourhoods. Between 2007 and 2019 NE’s strategy of territorialisation mobilised across multiple scales—the neighbourhood, city and national—yet in so doing its organisation became overstretched and struggled to engage across both contentious and electoral arenas. Through an analysis of NE’s territorialisation, grounded in the historical and geographical context of contemporary Argentina, the paper provides an original attempt to spatialise the concept of movement party. Resumen es ¿Cómo y por qué los partidos políticos, aparentemente enfocados en la política electoral, también movilizan en las arenas contenciosas? Basado en una investigación empírica realizada en la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires sobre el partido de centroizquierda llamado Nuevo Encuentro (NE), el artículo demuestra la importancia de una lectura geográfica del “partido movimiento” para responder a ese interrogante. Específicamente, el artículo analiza la territorialización de NE, entendida como una estrategia de construcción de organización a través de la apropiación política del espacio, generalmente mediante la apertura de locales partidarios y la movilización de militantes del barrio. Entre 2007 y 2019 la estrategia de territorialización de NE incluyó múltiples escalas—el barrio, la ciudad, y lo nacional. Sin embargo, en ese proceso, su organización se abarcó demasiado y encontró dificultades para participar tanto en la arena electoral como en la contenciosa. Con el análisis de la territorialización de NE, arraigada en el contexto histórico y geográfico de la Argentina contemporánea, el artículo hace un intento original por espacializar el concepto del partido movimiento.
... They will also rely on careful planning which will require public support, place-based knowledge of farmers, ecologists, and foresters, and engaged political leaders. These are relationships best built at the community scale around a shared physical landscape, or place-based activism (Martin 2003). ...
... In relational placemaking literature this is often approached with the concept of place framing which refers to individually felt and collectively shared understandings of places and placemaking that motivates collective action. Most of the time they are latent but become visible as competing visions in conflicts over places (Martin 2003;Pierce, Martin, and Murphy 2011). Our dense ethnographic data (see below) did not provide us with evidence of any such broader conflict present in Äänekoski. ...
We study placemaking in Äänekoski, a small Finnish industrial town, by analyzing how the local government utilizes a recent large-scale bioeconomy investment in its attempts to reinvent the town, and how components of place conform to the image building ‘script’. We deploy an assemblage concept and study local place as a combination of material and expressive properties, forces of (de-)territorialization, acts of (de-/re-)coding and relations of exteriority. Äänekoski was known as a shrinking mill town before Metsä Group Corporation decided to build a bio-production complex there in 2014. We analyze how the local government attempts to recode the town with the help of bioeconomy-based place branding, town planning and extensive material investments in the townscape. Despite support from the national ‘bioconomy hype’ and political narratives, several material, expressive and deterritorializing elements (e.g. declining population, unemployment, environmental debates) work against this growth-oriented recoding. The results allow us to draw critical conclusions on small and industrial town image building.
... Developmental strategies in case of projects relating to canals are termed differently viz, Canal-oriented development, canal revitalization etc. The objectives pertinent to COD are (Martin, 2003) -• To remove barriers to development, ...
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Water like food is an indispensable resource which is essential for our daily existence. The construction of canals was motivated by the wide range of activities it can perform, ranging from irrigation, storm-water management, transportation to sewage disposal. Apart from these, canals also served in keeping the micro climate in check while giving a pleasant aesthetic appeal to the area. India has had an extensive canal network most of which were laid by the British for their own benefit. However, post-independence with rapid urbanization over time these canals have not only lost their identity but also the purpose for which it was built. Most of them lie neglected, choked with effluents that are hazardous for human health. The situation is only worsening as the country is facing more and more shortage of clean water. This paper is an attempt towards understanding the need for integrating an urban canal front with the city to increase the vitality of the surrounding areas and generate utilitarian public spaces alongside safeguarding the urban environment. A study on Urban Acupuncture, a relatively modern concept in conjunction to Canal-Oriented Development facilitates in the assemblage of diverse interpretations pertaining to the implementation of design ideas at site level. Owing to its small scale, budget friendly localized interventions urban acupuncture plays a decisive role in addressing the minuscule yet substantial issues concerning the canal precincts. An overview of Beliaghata Canal has been discussed to further the discussion on integrating an urban canal front with the urban fabric incorporating urban acupuncture with respect to local context.
Understanding the concept of place is critically important for urban design and place-making practice, and this research attempted to investigate the pathways by which perceived urban design qualities (PUDQs) influence placeness factors in the Chinese context. Twelve hypotheses were developed and combined in a structural equation model for validation. The Tanhualin historical district in Wuhan, China was selected for the analysis. As a result, place attachment was verified as a critical bridge factor that mediated the influence of PUDQs on place satisfaction. Among the five selected PUDQs, walkability and space quality were revealed as the most influential factors associated with place attachment and place satisfaction. Accessibility was actually indirectly beneficial to place-making via the mediation of walkability. Corresponding implications and strategies were discussed to maintain the sense of place for historic districts.
This paper examines the uneven geographies of politicisation through the case of the undocumented immigrant youth movement in the United States, known as the Dreamers. Engaging the “urban political” literature, the paper maintains that politicisation involves the constitution of a subject that disrupts the order through claims for equality. The paper identifies the process of transforming highly marginalised and repressed people into an actual disruptive political subject. It suggests a three‐stage, spatially mediated process. First, “free spaces” are frontline sites that allow marginalised and risk‐averse groups like undocumented immigrants to meet with others, forge emotional bonds, and construct transgressive collective identities. Second, the potential of free spaces to politicise marginalised groups varies by geographical setting. Geographical settings, like large central cities, with high levels of organisational density and some ideological support facilitate politicisation more than settings with low organisational density and high hostility. Third, the uneven geographies of politicisation results in a political subject that is constituted and divided by core–periphery relations.
The Nandigram peasant struggle against land acquisition for special economic zones (SEZs) in West Bengal, India, in 2006–2007, highlights the importance of attachment to place and territorialization in resistance. Analyzing the Nandigram land struggle, I underscore the importance of place-based attachment. I argue that land is a social relation. The land acquisition was a threat of breakage in that place-based relation, which led to negative perceptions of industrialization. This threat pronounced the existing attachment to place, which led to the spatialization of the muktanchal or liberated zone. I conceptualize the muktanchal as an act of territoriality, where militant peasant identities emerged that facilitated their claim-making. This paper uses content analysis of existing primary data from heterogeneous sources, to illuminate how the peasants strategically created the muktanchal to contest top-down attempts by the state to create a SEZ enclave.
Why do residents participate in neighborhood affairs in different forms? This study probes this question by integrating the social capital framework and the place attachment framework. Drawing on a qualitative case study and survey data in the city of Guangzhou, China, this research demonstrates the differential effects of place attachment and social capital on different forms of neighborhood participation. Neighborhood attachment (i.e., place sentiment toward a neighborhood) serves as a prerequisite for any form of participation. While neighborhood attachment is sufficient for latent involvement, such as staying informed about neighborhood issues through social exchanges and other spontaneous activities, social capital produces mobilizing forces that motivate residents to move beyond the latent stage to influence community outcomes through manifest engagement.
'Imagined Communities' examines the creation & function of the 'imagined communities' of nationality & the way these communities were in part created by the growth of the nation-state, the interaction between capitalism & printing & the birth of vernacular languages in early modern Europe.
This paper attempts to explain how to re-think concepts of place and region. Hopefully this contextualisation will enrich understanding of where the present re-theorisations are coming from. Although there is a longer history of concern about these issues, 1989 was in many ways crucial, and in one particular respect. For that year and those that followed saw a resurgence of nationalisms on a new scale and with a new intensity. Moreover many of these new nationalisms (and other forms of parochialism) were characterised also by exclusivity, by a search for authentic roots, by a hostility to at least some designated others. There was violence in defence of 'place'. Moreover, over this same period, other discourses were developing which gave rise to very similar dilemmas. There was, most importantly, that line of argument which had it that globalisation was going on apace, that it was threatening every stability and every specificity that we had once known, and that in this context - in the face of all these threats - the 'retreat to place' was understandable. It represented a protective pulling-up of drawbridges and a building of walls against the new invasions. 'Place', on this reading, was the locus of retreat from the Other. Both of these events of the late '80s/early '90s (the growth of nationalisms and that particular version of the global/local discourse) presented 'place' in negative terms and left me in a quandary as to how to think it otherwise.