THERE IS POWER IN A PLAZA: SOCIAL MOVEMENTS, DEMOCRACY, AND SPATIAL POLITICS
How does the built environment contribute to democracy? Can the built environment shape democratic processes of representation? This project employs mixed-methods to explore the relationship between the city, as a built and lived environment, and the inclusion of marginalized groups in democratic politics, focusing on how social movements contribute to political representation. Using the Gezi Park protests in Turkey and the Women’s March protests in Boston, San Antonio, Pittsburgh, and Amarillo, I develop a theoretical account of how and why the built environment encourages democratic inclusion of diverse groups. I test these expectations through a series of statistical analyses of an original dataset on the Women’s March protests covering 330 cities with competitive mayoral elections between 2017-2018. Through both my quantitative analyses and my qualitative cases, I find that the spatial structure of the city shapes movement inclusion and that inclusive movements positively impact the quality of democracy, not only when activists are making direct claims to occupy particular spaces, as in the Gezi case, but also when activists come together for more abstract goals, as in the case of the Women’s Marches.