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Grassroots Urban Protests in St. Petersburg: (Non-)Participation in Decision-Making About the Futures of City Territories

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  • Sociological Institute of the Russian Academy of Science
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Abstract

This paper considers local activists’ efforts to initiate public discussions about contested territories in St. Petersburg, and to resist political decisions about their (re)development. It also questions to what degree such grassroots efforts become political and analyzes different contexts of, and barriers to, politicization. By complementing sociological theorization about civic engagement and civic participation with French pragmatism, we examine how these activists constantly shift between informal, context-specific forms of protest and more institutionalized and politicized ones. Using a case study approach, we describe and compare two recent conflicts in St. Petersburg where local residents resisted (re)development projects imposed by political and economic elites: the defense of the Yurgens House in the historic city center against its expected demolition, and the protest against renovation in Alexandrino, a park area on the city’s periphery. Our analysis is based on semi-structured interviews with local activists, participant and non-participant observation at public rallies and other gatherings, and qualitative analysis of protesters’ communication practices on social networks. We demonstrate that external political and social constraints encourage activists to be flexible in their forms of engagement, deploying a wide repertoire of tools of contestation: using local knowledge tactically, operating rationally within legal frameworks, and addressing broad audiences in search of public justification and support. We conclude that, whether these local activists remain at the level of informal place-based initiatives or opt for more institutionalized and professionalized forms of civic participation, they insistently reject claims that their efforts have a political rationale.
Grassroots Urban Protests in St. Petersburg:
(Non-)Participation in Decision-Making
About the Futures of City Territories
Elena Tykanova
1
&Anisya Khokhlova
2
#Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019
Abstract
This paper considers local activistsefforts to initiate public discussions about contested
territories in St. Petersburg, and to resist political decisions about their (re)development. It
also questions to what degree such grassroots efforts become political and analyzes different
contexts of, and barriers to, politicization. By complementing sociological theorization about
civic engagement and civic participation with French pragmatism, we examine how these
activists constantly shift between informal, context-specific forms of protest and more institu-
tionalized and politicized ones. Using a case study approach, we describe and compare two
recent conflicts in St. Petersburg where local residents resisted (re)development projects
imposed by political and economic elites: the defense of the Yurgens House in the historic
city center against its expected demolition, and the protest against renovation in Alexandrino, a
park area on the citys periphery. Our analysis is based on semi-structured interviews with local
activists, participant and non-participant observation at public rallies and other gatherings, and
qualitative analysis of protesterscommunication practices on social networks. We demon-
strate that external political and social constraints encourage activists to be flexible in their
forms of engagement, deploying a wide repertoire of tools of contestation: using local
knowledge tactically, operating rationally within legal frameworks, and addressing broad
audiences in search of public justification and support. We conclude that, whether these local
activists remain at the level of informal place-based initiatives or opt for more institutionalized
and professionalized forms of civic participation, they insistently reject claims that their efforts
have a political rationale.
Keywords Urban protest .Grassroots .Urban space contestation .Politicization .Civic
engagement/participation .Regimes of engagement
International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10767-019-9324-3
*Anisya Khokhlova
anisya_khokhlova@mail.ru
Elena Tykanova
elenatykanova@gmail.com
Extended author information available on the last page of the article
Published online: 12 June 2019
(2020) 33:181202
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... Há fortes expressões de relutância relativamente ao sistema político, em geral, que têm efeitos inibidores da disponibilidade das pessoas participarem. Por não verem na participação pública a possibilidade de mudarem alguma coisa, os cidadãos refugiam-se numa "máscara" de desinteresse (Clausen, 2017) ou escolhem manter-se apolíticos, mesmo quando estão envolvidos em práticas (formais ou informais) de ativismo cívico (Tykanova & Khokhlova, 2020). Ou seja, a não-participação, como forma de rejeição do que é político, pode traduzir-se em estratégias de vigilância ou de protesto, as quais, ainda que percecionadas pelos envolvidos como apolíticas, são na sua essência bastante políticas, por serem desencadeadas pela falta de confiança no sistema político (Clausen, 2017). ...
... A posição contrastante dos CPP pode ajudar a pensar, no geral, o problema da adesão dos cidadãos à participação. Como se constatou, estes não estão alienados, mas aparentam ter uma atitude prática de distanciamento da participação a partir da sua desconfiança no sistema político (Tykanova & Khokhlova, 2020). Percecionam os outros, os CP, como ativos e confiantes, e pertencentes a grupos que têm real influência nas decisões, aos quais não pertencem. ...
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... Há fortes expressões de relutância relativamente ao sistema político, em geral, que têm efeitos inibidores da disponibilidade das pessoas participarem. Por não verem na participação pública a possibilidade de mudarem alguma coisa, os cidadãos refugiam-se numa "máscara" de desinteresse (Clausen, 2017) ou escolhem manter-se apolíticos, mesmo quando estão envolvidos em práticas (formais ou informais) de ativismo cívico (Tykanova & Khokhlova, 2020). Ou seja, a não-participação, como forma de rejeição do que é político, pode traduzir-se em estratégias de vigilância ou de protesto, as quais, ainda que percecionadas pelos envolvidos como apolíticas, são na sua essência bastante políticas, por serem desencadeadas pela falta de confiança no sistema político (Clausen, 2017). ...
... A posição contrastante dos CPP pode ajudar a pensar, no geral, o problema da adesão dos cidadãos à participação. Como se constatou, estes não estão alienados, mas aparentam ter uma atitude prática de distanciamento da participação a partir da sua desconfiança no sistema político (Tykanova & Khokhlova, 2020). Percecionam os outros, os CP, como ativos e confiantes, e pertencentes a grupos que têm real influência nas decisões, aos quais não pertencem. ...
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Chaves, H., Vieira, I., & Consórcio Pedalada. (2021). Inovar de forma colaborativa e participativa através da bicicleta: O projeto ‘Pedalada’ em Marvila, Lisboa. Conferência Internacional “Comunidades e Redes para a Inovação Territorial” – Livro de Atas, 29–36.
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... Как правило, специфику городского развития в России (и на терри-тории части стран Восточной Европы) исследователи склонны описывать, апеллируя к постсоветскому или постсоциалистическому опыту, имеюще-му прямые/косвенные последствия -«след» советского прошлого (как политического, так и в области пространственного развития) или же попросту для технического обозначения временного периода после рас-пада Советского Союза. Так, под лейблом «постсоветского» или «пост-социалистического» города социальные ученые изучают траектории трансформации пространства (Rudolph, Brade 2005;Molodikova, Makhrova 2007;), пла-нировочные модели (Zupan 2015), низовую самоорганизацию горожан Tykanova, Khokhlova 2013) и жилищные изменения (Badyina 2012;Zubovich 2015Zubovich , Карбаинов 2018) российских го-родов. ...
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