My Senior Thesis/ Division 3

19 Sep

Mo Karn
Division III Proposal
September 16, 2007

Contemporary Radical Activism in Richmond, Virginia

My Division III will be looking at the modalities of contemporary radical activism in Richmond, Virginia. The time period I will be looking at is roughly 1990-2006. I want to find out where these movements came from, how they are enacted in Richmond, how Richmond responds, and what the impact has been locally. Where is there anarchism in Richmond and what does this mean.
The term contemporary radical activism comes (at least to my awareness) from Richard J. F. Day. It does a good job of accurately describing the sorts of anarchist, anti-globalization, anti-neoliberal and alternative movements currently being practiced in North America. He says that:

By contemporary, I mean of the late 1990s and early 2000s, but with roots reaching back to the new social movements of the 1960s- feminisms, the US civil rights movement, Red Power, anti-colonialism, gay and lesbian struggles- as well as to ‘older’ traditions of marxist and anarchist socialism. By radical activism I mean conscious attempts to alter, impede, destroy, or construct alternatives to dominant structures, processes, practices and identities. My focus is quite literally those struggles that seek to change the root, that want to address not just the content of our current modes of domination and exploitation, but also the forms that give rise to them… Contemporary radical activism, then, pushes beyond the possibilities and limits of liberal reform, while not entirely discrediting attempts to alter the status quo… (Day 4-5)

It is significant to try and understand movements that do not fit into old theoretical ideas about social movements and organizations. They are different and must be looked at in different ways.
To create a meaningful analysis of contemporary radical activism in Richmond will necessitate a broad history of Richmond in order to set the stage. I imagine a chapter of basic history of Richmond (founding, civil war etc.). Then I would like a chapter on older, more traditional movements in Richmond like the Civil Rights movement. I think that the impact of these older movements is important to consider when looking at current movements. It will help to compare and contrast them a little also. The last historical chapter would be more current, bringing the reader up to date with important information about the city in the time period of the activism I am talking about.
When looking at these movements I want to analyze them to see what was specifically ‘Richmond’ about them, and conversely, what specifically ‘Richmond’ obstacles they had to overcome. Some examples of movements I might look into includes Critical Mass bike rides, the Tent City constructed in Monroe Park in 1998, the long term success of Food Not Bombs, anti-war actions, ALF and ELF actions, and many programs that serve/ work with the homeless community. In order to talk about these movements in Richmond I will have to also rely on information about these movements at large and discuss what they are and what they stand for generally. Creating a picture of, for instance, how critical mass came about and functions in general will make my depiction of it in Richmond more meaningful.
The background that I have which is relevant to this project is extremely varied. I have a background in studying social movements, particularly in Latin America. I also have background in land issues, car issues, city development issues and city cultural issues which should all help me understand Richmond better. I also have background in studying anarchism, the animal liberation front, the earth liberation front, and
My Advanced learning activities are 2 courses I am taking this semester. Both are 200 level courses, for which I am working out extra projects with the professors in order to have them count as advanced. I also believe that both courses are involving topics that will help me in the writing of my Division Three, and give me more incite into my subject matter.

The Crafted City: Art, Urban Regeneration and the New Cultural Economy
Section Number: SS-0279-1
Description: This seminar explores the role of what Roslyn Deutsche calls aesthetic practices in the politics and redesign of urban space. With a theoretical basis in critical urban and cultural studies, we examine the new cultural economy and the increasingly common use of the arts and cultural production, heritage/cultural tourism, and creative industries and quarters to imbue cities once associated with decline and decay with new value. Case studies investigate past and current efforts to employ art, culture, branding and design to address urban economic problems and contribute to downtown and/or neighborhood regeneration. Historical and contemporary examples of how large and small cities, waterfronts, factory and warehouse districts, and downtowns have been re-imagined, re-built and re-marketed are discussed in terms of the underlying rationales and theories, prevailing social, economic and political conditions, and impacts on diverse residents of the city. Contrasted to city-sponsored and public/private initiatives that may promote gentrification, we also explore community-based efforts to link the arts and culture to neighborhood revitalization, community development and anti-gentrification struggles. Students can propose individual projects and there will be opportunities for local community-based research. Division II and III students only.

I’m thinking that for my advanced learning activity of this course I can use the final project to explore the creative aspects of Richmond as a city, and the way that the culture and diversity of the place effect it economically and politically. Potentially what I produce in this course could be part of a chapter in my Division 3.

Social Justice in Outdoor Experiential Education
Section Number: OPRA-0205-1
Description: This course will address issues of diversity and social justice in the outdoors. Current theories of social justice education, racial identity development, gender studies, and adaptive recreation will be applied to contemporary outdoor programming. Using experiential activities, readings, field visits, individual projects, and discussion, students will explore the importance of race, gender, ability, and class awareness in outdoor and environmental education work.

This course, though an OPRA course, is taught by a professor with a PHD, and involves intensive readings and discussions. The course is discussing social justice and diversity issues in the United States which is an area I feel I need to think about more formally. While the specific example in this course is the importance of race, gender, ability and class awareness in the outdoors, it is helping me think about the importance of race, gender, ability, and class awareness in general. I am working with the professor on an extra project I can do in order to get advanced learning activity credit.

Some subjects I am exploring as related to my Division Three (a.k.a. my brainstorming):

Affinity based movements – Day pg. 13
Food Not Bombs
Tent City
Homeless Advocacy
Abortion Rights
Books for Prisoners
Prison Support
Animal Rights- ALF, ELF
Critical Mass
General Strike

Organization of Division III:

– Setting the Scene-
Chapter 1- Older general Richmond history
Chapter 2- Richmond and Civil Rights Era
Chapter 3- the City Now (politics, population, media)
-Contemporary Radical Activism-
Chapter 4- Say What? Defining the concept
Chapter 5- Animal Rights and ALF
Chapter 6- Environmentalism and ELF
Chapter 7- Critical Mass
Chapter 8- Food Not Bombs
Chapter 9- Anti-War Actions
-Bringing It All Together-
Chapter 10- So What and Conclusions

Sources- In terms of research and sources for my division three I am going to be using a combination of local information on contemporary radical activism- like newspaper articles and local accounts, broader information on similar movements, and theory about these social movements.

I won’t list them all here, but I recently found over 70 newspaper articles from The Richmond Times Dispatch that are relevant to the movements at which I am looking. These have already been helpful in giving me more names and dates to research, and will also (at least some of them) be useful to reference.

Division III Bibliography (so far)

Butler, C.T. Lawrence and McHenry, Keith. Food Not Bombs: the hand book. See Sharp Press: Tucson, AZ, – This book will serve as a source on what the Food Not Bombs movement is and how it works.

Carlsson, Chris Ed. Critical Mass: Bicycling’s Defiant Celebration. AK Press: Oakland, CA, 2002. – This book documents the movement of Critical Mass, and has many examples of how it functions in different localities around the world. I definitely think it will provide good compare/contrast opportunities with Richmond’s own movements.

Day, Richard J. F. Gramsci is Dead: Anarchist Currents in the Newest Social Movements. Pluto Press: Ann Arbor, Michigan, 2005. – Hopefully, the analysis in this book of contemporary radical social movements will guide me in creating my own study of particularly placed contemporary social movements. This will be theoretical background and foundation for the specific local information I am researching.

Frampton, Caelie and Kinsman, Gary, and Thompson, AK, and Tilleczek, Kate Ed. Sociology For Changing the World: Social Movements/ Social Research. Fernwood Publishing: Halifax, 2006. – I feel like this book is about how to write about the sorts of things I am writing about in the way I want to write about them, and will be an invaluable source of help along the way. There are also chapters that discuss methods of organization in current movements that are relevant.

Komp, Catherine. “Increasingly Vicious Laws Push Out Homeless”. The New Standard. Apr. 5, 2006. Accessed 9/7/2007 <;

Ingalsbee, Timothy. “Earth First! Activism: Ecological Postmodern Praxis in Radical Environmentalist Identities” Sociological Perspectives, Vol. 39, No. 2, Environmental Conflict. (Summer, 1996), pp. 263-276. Stable URL:

Lassahn, Jeff. “US: Plan to drive homeless out of downtown Richmond, Virginia”. World Socialist Web Site. 31 March 2006.

Pratt, Robert A. The Color of Their Skin: Education and Race in Richmond, Virginia, 1954-89. The University Press of Virginia: Charlottesville, 1992. – This book was really important for me to have read because it shows how long and strenuous the process (ongoing) of desegregation is and has been in Richmond. It has given me a good start to a historical background of the Civil Rights period and on.

Randolph, Lewis A. And Tate, Gayle T. Rights for a Season: The Politics of Race, Class, and Gender in Richmond, Virginia. The University of Tennessee Press: Knoxville, 2003.

Rosebraugh, Craig. Burning Rage of a Dying Planet: Speaking for the Earth Liberation Front. Lantern Books: New York, 2004. – This book will help me discuss the Earth Liberation Front, and serve as a good source. It is written by a person who was the spokesperson for the movement for many years. Because of the nature of the movement, his role is quite interesting, and I think will help to show how decentralized the movement is.

Straub, Jim. “Legacies of Resistance” Clamor Magazine. Nov/Dec 2004, Iss. 29; pg. 18.

The Trapese Collective, Ed.. Do It Yourself: A Handbook for Changing Our World. Pluto Press: Ann Arbor, MI, 2007.

Tyson, Timothy B. Blood Done Sign My Name. Crown Publishers: New York, 2004. – This book helped to give me some grounding in terms of race issues in the south, and also how they can be written about.

Wells, Greg. Complete Control: An Anthology 1997-2005. Plan-It-X Books: Bloomington, IN, 2005. – This book is an anthology of a zine produced by an activist in Richmond. There is a discussion of the Tent City in Monroe Park that is significant, as well as various other accounts of Food Not Bombs and how activism in Richmond works.

Articles from the Richmond Times Dispatch:

One Response to “My Senior Thesis/ Division 3”

  1. Fweeb September 19, 2007 at 5:13 pm #

    My word! Wow. Let no one say you’re not thorough. Best of luck on this.

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