Constructing the 'Neighborhood Sphere': gender and community organizing
This article examines organizing styles and issues in neighborhood activism to illustrate how activists seek to constitute a neighborhood community. It identifies the ways in which community organizing is gendered in both style and content, often separating 'women's' and 'men's' issues along an artificial public–private divide. This research illustrates, however, how neighborhood activists can use and challenge gendered forms of activism to integrate both public and private into an ideal of a neighborhood community. Using a case study of the Thomas-Dale Block Clubs in St Paul, Minnesota, the article examines how residents use gender-essentializing discourses of safety and parenting to insert household and family issues into a broader community arena. Further, it identifies how these discourses overlay cultural tensions in a diverse neighborhood. The activism in the block club organization studied here reflects a wide variety of community organizing strategies and concerns, focusing on defining and creating a neighborhood public sphere, to which, as the organization argued, every resident ought to be responsible and accountable.