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Beyond Zuccotti Park: freedom of assembly and the occupation of public space edited by Ron Shiffman , Rick Bell , Lance Jay Brown and Lynne Elizabeth Oakland, CA: New Village Press, 2012, xxii + 410 pp, £12.84 paperback ISBN 978-1-61332-009-9

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the need and opportunities to globalise China’s multifarious
responsibilities, in particular with regard to contributing to an
international consensus over the conditions for business-led
growth. The end result is a very useful volume for scholars,
policy-makers and activists engaging with Chinese–African rela-
tions and with questions of China’s geopolitical and developmen-
tal responsibilities towards Africa.
Philippe Le Billon
University of British Columbia
Beyond Zuccotti Park: freedom of assembly and the
occupation of public space edited by Ron Shiffman,Rick
Bell,Lance Jay Brown and Lynne Elizabeth
Oakland, CA: New Village Press, 2012, xxii + 410 pp, £12.84
paperback ISBN 978-1-61332-009-9
Beyond Zuccotti Park is a welcome addition to the ever-
expanding catalogue of books on the Occupy movement that first
came to life in New York on 17 September 2011. With nearly 40
contributors from multiple disciplines, and packed with photo-
graphs and diagrams, it is a fantastic resource that combines
empirical research, political interventions and interviews, broadly
focused on exploring the role that public space can have in
enhancing democracy in light of the Occupations that spread
from downtown Manhattan to hundreds of cities worldwide.
Shiffman et al.’s collection introduces the reader to Occupy, prin-
cipally Occupy Wall Street, through a series of opening texts,
many of which are ethnographic, and provides a thorough
account of the ways in which public space has been produced by
a range of agents, from policymakers, urban practitioners, activ-
ists, artists and citizens, in the context of Occupy and various
historical precedents. Particular attention is given to New York’s
‘Privately Owned Public Spaces’, which provided a legal loop-
hole for occupying Zuccotti Park. The final section brings together
the diverse discussions on public space and democracy into a
normative exploration of how both the public sector and those
who design urban space could respond to the successes and
challenges of Occupy.
What makes this book stand out is the effort throughout to
appreciate ‘the political power of physical places’, as Michael
Kimmelman (p. xiii) puts it. Over the last few years there has
been an increasing tendency of both academics and activists to
emphasise the contemporary significance of online space, often
evoked in phrases such as the ‘twitter revolution’ in popular
media. In both discourse and practice, however, Occupy has
been centred on taking physical space, and very material strug-
gles over the production of the urban. In this context even
Manuel Castells (2012), a key theorist of the deterritorialised
‘network society’, has acknowledged that contemporary social
movements, from Tahir Square to Zuccotti Park, present a new
spatial form in which the physical ‘space of places’ is as impor-
tant as the online ‘space of flows’. This book is one of the first
attempts to seriously engage with this physicality in the context
of the Occupy movement.
The importance of a physical, public space (these terms are
often conflated) for enhancing democracy is given numerous
explanations by the different contributors: it provides visibility
for movements and allows for discussion (Franck and Huang); it
inspires and helps build mutual aid and solidarity (Shepard); it
opens up a space of negotiation for greater rights (Smithsimon);
it gives an ‘office space for everyday people’ (Golan); it presents
a critique of spatial exclusion (Wiley); it creates places for new
political subjectivities (Rios); and it encourages an embodied
sense of community (Rose). This multiplicity of possibilities of
physical space leads to a discussion on how best to produce
urban space in order to foster these ideals. A key strength of this
book is its inclusion of numerous urban practitioners, from artists
to architects and planners to policymakers. By sharing their expe-
riences with us, this book presents a hopeful intervention on the
potentials of urban space post-Occupy, and allows us to
re-imagine the agency of diverse actors in creating different kinds
of democracies. At the same time, however, these interventions
have tensions underlying them, two of which most struck me.
Firstly, the challenge of improving public space often leads to
a discussion on better design and avoiding ‘failed spaces’ (p. 361).
Some contributors, however, suggest that such an approach hints
at a spatial fetishism that underemphasises public praxis. Hou, for
example, distinguishes between ‘institutional public space’, such
as parks, squares and streets, which are abstractly produced for an
imagined public, and ‘insurgent public space’, produced through
the messy practices of those who constantly ‘appropriate, reclaim,
or occupy’ space (p. 92). Advocating the latter, he argues that it is
the constant (re)making of the public through their practices of
occupying that should be the focus of our attention. Secondly,
there is often an underlying assumption that influencing state
power is the best means to achieve improved public space and
democracy, and the collection ends with a call to ‘occupy the
voting booth’. At the same time, there is a celebration of Occupy’s
emancipatory politics that was embedded in physical space.
Indeed many see Occupy as part of a longstanding tradition of
anarchist democracy, changing society outside the voting booth
(Graeber 2013). Shiffman et al. have helped shift our attention
towards the spatial politics that lie at the heart of Occupy, and this
is essential, but they risk playing down its radical roots that
animate its re-imaginations of democracy beyond the state.
This leads me to my final comment, on the excellent but at
times unfulfilled discussions of Occupy beyond Zuccotti Park.
While the book plays close attention to the responses of
policymakers and urban practitioners in the post-camp period of
Occupy, it overlooks many of the spatial practices that have
been central to the movement since being evicted from the
squares (e.g. the re-territorialisation of activists in projects such
as Occupy Sandy in New York). The book provides hints that
Occupy represents a new spatiality of the ‘global street’ (Sassen)
or is embedding its values in our everyday lives post-Zuccotti
(Atlas), yet there is little substance to these claims. More con-
cretely, Segal argues that a key element of post-Zuccotti Occupy
could be the mapping out and production of urban communal
spaces (such as community gardens), while Lander and
Freedman-Schnapp argue for extending democratic engagement
beyond camps and into local spaces such as libraries or thea-
tres. Little else is said on the many ways that Occupy is
re-imagining itself beyond Zuccotti Park.
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Reviews 509
Area Vol. 45 No. 4, pp. 507–510, 2013
© 2013 The Author. Area published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British
Geographers).
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and
reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Copyright line has been changed since first publication on 5 November 2013.
Finishing this collection of very engaging texts, I was left
feeling that an important discussion was marginalised. It may be
enlightening to look towards Latin America where the occupa-
tion of public space has been a core tactic of contemporary
social movements for many years. Researchers are claiming that
we are seeing the production of ‘new territorialities’ in which
values and social relations are being created beyond the tradi-
tional spaces of economic production and state democracy
(Porto-Gonçalves 2001; Zibechi 2012). Is something similar
happening with Occupy? If so, what might the implications be
for the policymakers and practitioners who contributed to this
book? Is it possible that beyond Zuccotti Park also takes us
beyond a public space that is tied to institutionalised democracy
and towards a more insurgent public, as Hou suggests? In con-
clusion, I welcome this well-written and well-researched book,
which provides significant food for thought for both academics
and activists in the post-camp phase of the global Occupy
movement.
Sam Halvorsen
University College London
References
Castells M 2012 Networks of outrage and hope: social move-
ments in the internet age Polity, Cambridge
Graeber D 2013 The democracy project. A history, a crisis, a
movement Penguin, London
Porto-Gonçalves C W 2001 Geo-grafías: movimientos sociales,
nuevas territorialidades y sustentabilidad Siglo Veintiuno,
Mexico DF
Zibechi R 2012 Territories in resistance: a cartography of Latin
American social movements AK Press, Oakland CA
510 Reviews
Area Vol. 45 No. 4, pp. 507–510, 2013
© 2013 The Author. Area published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British
Geographers).
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Book
A bold rethinking of the most powerful political idea in the world—democracy—and the story of how radical democracy can yet transform America Democracy has been the American religion since before the Revolution—from New England town halls to the multicultural democracy of Atlantic pirate ships. But can our current political system, one that seems responsive only to the wealthiest among us and leaves most Americans feeling disengaged, voiceless, and disenfranchised, really be called democratic? And if the tools of our democracy are not working to solve the rising crises we face, how can we—average citizens—make change happen? David Graeber, one of the most influential scholars and activists of his generation, takes readers on a journey through the idea of democracy, provocatively reorienting our understanding of pivotal historical moments, and extracts their lessons for today—from the birth of Athenian democracy and the founding of the United States of America to the global revolutions of the twentieth century and the rise of a new generation of activists. Underlying it all is a bracing argument that in the face of increasingly concentrated wealth and power in this country, a reenergized, reconceived democracy—one based on consensus, equality, and broad participation—can yet provide us with the just, free, and fair society we want. The Democracy Project tells the story of the resilience of the democratic spirit and the adaptability of the democratic idea. It offers a fresh take on vital history and an impassioned argument that radical democracy is, more than ever, our best hope.
Geo-grafías: movimientos sociales, nuevas territorialidades y sustentabilidad Siglo Veintiuno, Mexico DF Zibechi R 2012 Territories in resistance: a cartography of Latin American social movements
  • C Porto-Gonçalves
Porto-Gonçalves C W 2001 Geo-grafías: movimientos sociales, nuevas territorialidades y sustentabilidad Siglo Veintiuno, Mexico DF Zibechi R 2012 Territories in resistance: a cartography of Latin American social movements AK Press, Oakland CA