Institute of Sociology
of the Federal Center of Theoretical and Applied Sociology
of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Tykanova, E., Khokhlova, A. Grassroots Urban Protests in St. Petersburg: (Non-)Participation in Decision-Making About the Futures of City Territories. International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society, 2019, pp. 1-22.



Tykanova, E., Khokhlova, A. Grassroots Urban Protests in St. Petersburg: (Non-)Participation in Decision-Making About the Futures of City Territories. International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society, 2019, pp. 1-22.
ISSN 0891-4486 (print); 1573-3416 (online)
DOI 10.1007/s10767-019-9324-3

Posted on site: 09.09.19

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Abstract

This paper considers local activists efforts to initiate public discussions about contestedterritories in St. Petersburg, and to resist political decisions about their (re)development. Italso questions to what degree such grassroots efforts become political and analyzes differentcontexts of, and barriers to, politicization. By complementing sociological theorization aboutcivic engagement and civic participation with French pragmatism, we examine how theseactivists constantly shift between informal, context-specific forms of protest and more institutionalizedand politicized ones. Using a case study approach, we describe and compare tworecent conflicts in St. Petersburg where local residents resisted (re)development projectsimposed by political and economic elites: the defense of the Yurgens House in the historiccity center against its expected demolition, and the protest against renovation in Alexandrino, apark area on the citys periphery. Our analysis is based on semi-structured interviews with localactivists, participant and non-participant observation at public rallies and other gatherings, andqualitative analysis of protesters communication practices on social networks. We demonstratethat external political and social constraints encourage activists to be flexible in theirforms of engagement, deploying a wide repertoire of tools of contestation: using localknowledge tactically, operating rationally within legal frameworks, and addressing broadaudiences in search of public justification and support. We conclude that, whether these localactivists remain at the level of informal place-based initiatives or opt for more institutionalizedand professionalized forms of civic participation, they insistently reject claims that their effortshave a political rationale.

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