Protests, Racial Inequality, and Social Change

Type: Virtual Panel
Theme: Black Geographies Specialty Group Curated Track
Sponsor Groups: Black Geographies Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM (PDT)
Room: Virtual 10
Organizers: Muriel Marseille
Chairs: Muriel Marseille

Call for Submissions

Hello Geographers:

The Black Geographies Specialty Group is looking for panelists to participate in a conversation on the local impact of racial inequality/social change themed protests, with a specific focus on the movement in Defense of Black Life and emergent Abolition movements. The panel discussion is an opportunity to share community level interventions/strategies relating to such questions as:

● What do the protests articulate about the spatial politics of Blackness?
● How do protests disrupt, ameliorate, or change social relations at the community level?
● How do local actors articulate, interject, and/or negotiate innovative pathways for social change?
● How are local narratives surrounding protests created and reproduced? How do they engage local actors/residents?
● How can we contextualize local spatial dynamics of racialized dispossession?
● Considering the many protests of 2020, how can we understand the significance of the “place of protest” and “geographies of race” and/or “black geographies?”
● How are renegotiations of racial meanings embedded in place through uprisings effectuated?
● How might we understand these protests in connection to longer-standing histories and world-making specific to particular places, yet interconnected beyond these places?
If you are interested in participating, please email the BGSG ( or Muriel Marseille ( by January 18 with your name, institution/affiliation, AAG Annual General Meeting registration PIN, and a 2-3 sentence summary of what you would like to discuss on the panel.

We look forward to hearing from you. Please reach out if you have any questions.


Black Geographies Specialty Group


On June 6, 2020, approximately half a million people erupted in protests in over 550 locales across the U.S in response to the police murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. For example, on that day it is estimated that 50,000 people protested in Philadelphia, 20,000 in Chicago, and 10,000 in San Francisco. A significant percentage of those who protested, approximately half, participated in such an event for the first time. The phenomenon was so widespread that, spatially, during the course of 2020, 40% of all U.S. counties have hosted a protest (Buchanan et al., 2020).
If “place is a performer along with activists in making and unmaking the possibilities of protest (Andres & Senda-Cook, 2011),” how do we contextualize the influence of the local in our understanding of social movements? The 2020 protests across the U.S. began as largely spontaneous and diffuse events and then evolved to become an interdependent movement.
So, how did the social movements of 2020 influence discursive narratives at the local level? Researchers have documented that as a result of protests, discursive eruptions and shifts can occur producing short-and-long-term alterations in public opinion and policy stances (Gaby & Caren, 2016). Does this account for the local legislative reforms that were made across different jurisdictions throughout the country?
Scholars have noted that for non-hierarchical protests, spontaneity is a critical element, as it can engender alternative social action pathways, affect subsequent communications, and can even spur on violence (Snow & Moss, 2014). What role did spontaneity play in these local uprisings? It is estimated that between May 26, 2020 – June 8, 2020, about two billion dollars’ worth of insurance claims were made for property that was damaged due to the protests (Kingson, 2020). How is the local built environment instrumental to social movements?
In this panel session, we aim to begin a discussion on the character and context of these protests to determine how they disrupt, ameliorate, or change relations at the community level. We endeavor to establish the beginnings of a research agenda that explores the intersectionality between places of protest and black geographies, Indigenous geographies, and/or geographies of race. Understanding the dynamics of social movements/protests has long been of interest to scholars. In this discussion, we want to focus on scale and understanding protests at the local level.

Interdependent power, Transformative social change, carceral landscapes, Black geographies, geographies of race, protests, social movements, community dynamics, discursive narratives, spontaneity, built environment, community organizing
Bryant, K. (2019). Policing Communities of Color: An Historical Examination of Social Control and Protest Management Strategies. Political Authority, Social Control and Public Policy, v31(1), 43-61.
Buchanan, L., Bui, Q., & Patel, J. (2020, June 3). Black Lives Matter May Be the Largest Movement in U.S. History. New York Times (accessed at:
Endres, D. & Senda-Cook, S. (2011). Location Matters: The Rhetoric of Place in Protest. Quarterly Journal of Speech, v97(3), 257-282.
Gaby, S. & Caren, N. (2016). The rise of inequality: How social movements shape discursive fields. Mobilization: An International Quarterly, v21(4), 413-429.
Kingson, J. (2020, September 16). Exclusive: $1 billion-plus riot damage is most expensive in insurance history. (accessed at:
Mazumder, S. (2018). The Persistent Effect of U.S. Civil Rights Protests on Political Attitudes. American Journal of Political Science, v62(4), 922–935.
McGann, E. (1999). Race, Protest, and Public Space: Contextualizing Lefebvre in the U.S. City. Antipode v31(2), 163–184.
Narea, N. (2020, June 10). How 2 Weeks of Protests have changed America., (accessed at:
Piven, F. (2014). Interdependent power: Strategizing for the Occupy Movement. Current Sociology Monograph, v62(2), 223–231.
Snow, D. & Moss, D. (2014). Protest on the Fly: Toward a Theory of Spontaneity in the Dynamics of Protest and Social Movements. American Sociological Review, v79(6), 1122–1143.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Discussant Katherine Wiley 15 8:00 AM
Discussant Kefa Otiso Bowling Green State University 15 8:15 AM
Discussant Donald Planey University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill 15 8:30 AM
Discussant Solange Munoz University of Tennessee 15 8:45 AM

To access contact information login