Decentering the movement: Collective action, place, and the 'sedimentation' of radical political discourses

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29 Scopus citations


The alternative political discourses and identities associated with social movements in Latin America are frequently examined at the height of mobilization and visibility of these same movements. In response to growing concern about the limits of such analyses, I propose thinking about the 'sedimentation' of social-movement discourses in place. 'Sedimentation' refers to the complex processes through which discourses (including 'identities', political vocabularies, and practices) deployed in moments of collective organization and protest become translated and socially embedded by a variety of actors, not only over time but through disparate social and political arenas. Social-movement theorists in geography and other disciplines could more fully understand the longer term political and cultural impacts of social movements if they engaged theories of place-particularly in ways that decenter 'the movement' as the central category of analysis. An approach that centers on place and sedimentation processes, rather than on the fate of 'the movement', facilitates understanding the complex (and often contradictory) ripple effects of collective protest over time and through various social arenas-some seemingly far removed from 'the movement' itself. To illustrate my argument I draw on ethnographic research that explores, over a ten-year period (1988 - 98), collective mobilization and changing political discourses in a Purhépechan indigenous community of Mexico.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)559-581
Number of pages23
JournalEnvironment and Planning D: Society and Space
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)


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