Iconography and locational conflict from the underside. Free speech, People's Park, and the politics of homelessness in Berkeley, California

Don Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

30 Scopus citations

Abstract

Locational conflict is usually studied either through the lens of 'state theory' or through the lens of NIMBYism. An alternative, and explicitly political, way of understanding locational conflict is to see it as a fundamental fight over how rights-especially the rights of subordinated peoples in capitalist society-are defined and structured through struggle and conflict. Developing a geography that is 'applied' in its truest sense, repressed and marginalized groups symbolically wage war upon the dominant structuring of the world. In this sense, locational conflict is a conflict over the legitimacy of various strategies for asserting rights by those disenfranchised by a presumably 'objective' and legitimate process of claims mediation. These themes are explored through an examination of the explicitly spatial controversies surrounding the Free Speech Movement, the development of People's Park, and the politics of homelessness in Berkeley, California. A narrative account of the historical geography of struggle is developed showing that locational conflict is also symbolic conflict over the construction of meanings within particular landscapes. The congruence of these issues in Berkeley, and centered around the University of California, underscores the complexity, as well as the importance, of the symbolic nature of conflict over the use and control of space. This paper will revolve around the notion that using 'public' space as a political, social and shelter base by those excluded from the decision-making process is understood by those people as a legitimate and rightful use of public space.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)152-169
Number of pages18
JournalPolitical Geography
Volume11
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science

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