special issue

Special Issue: Urban activism in Eastern Europe and China: Socio-spatial structures and scales of contention

Articles from our current Special Issue, Urban activisim in Eastern Europe and China: Socio-spatial structures and scales of contention, are available for download now!


By Miguel A. Martínez López & Ngai Ming Yip

Studies on urban activism, protest, and movements are in an early but promising stage. Recent theoretical developments heeded to resistance strategies, prefigurative grassroots institutions, modular repertoires of protest, engagement with “right to the city“ coalitions, and contextual features such as real estate financialization and regime change. While the issues of economic redistribution through the local state (at cities and via municipal governments, but also across metropolitan areas) and social class and social reproduction are still crucial in the analysis of urban activism, the research agenda has significantly widened. The articles encompassing this special issue represent this trend well. Above all, they offer evidence of how civil society is taking shape in the transitional economies of eastern Europe and China following different trajectories and state forms. The analysis of these struggles, in particular, illuminates specific socio-spatial structures that allow protest to manifest in authoritarian or/and highly neoliberal post-socialist regimes. On the one hand, the three cases from China show how social capital and networks, as well as scale shift and multi-scalar engagement with authorities, were key in the ways urban contention was expressed: around environmental and housing issues. On the other hand, the papers from central and eastern Europe emphasize the reactions to NGO-ization through more informal urban activism in Poland, various types of radicalization (squatting) in the Czech Republic, and residents’ struggles against urban developments in Russia. All these disparate urban protests faced unfavorable and repressive contexts but also opened up cracks and possibilities for a democratic and bottom-up production of cities.

Table of Contents

1. Going against institutionalization: New forms of urban activism in Poland, by Dominika V. Polanska

2. Urban citizenship under post-Soviet conditions: Grassroots struggles of residents in contemporary Moscow, by Christian Fröhlich

3. Rethinking radical activism: Heterogeneity and dynamics of political squatting in Prague after 1989, by Arnošt Novák & Bob Kuřík

4. Urban activism in confined civil spaces: Networked organizations of housing activists in urban China, by Ngai Ming Yip

5. Dancing with shackles? The sociopolitical opportunities, achievements, and dilemmas of cycling activism in Guangzhou, China, by Hongze Tan & Miguel A. Martínez López

6. Spatial meaning-making and urban activism: Two tales of anti-PX protests in urban China, by Xiaoyi Sun & Ronggui Huang



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