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