(Politics): Session at the European Association for Urban History Conference: Cities in Motion 2020

The 1980s are often described as a "right-wing decade" and the decade when the 1970s left lost their influence. Right-wing politics and neoliberalism dominated in several western countries, but the decade also saw a lot of protest and resistance against it. These protests were especially significant in urban spaces and often it was the young generation that was leading it.

Cities have long been important places for political protests and activism. They have been the place to get close to decision makers and their sizeable populations making them central for broader political mobilization. The 1980s was a time of change in many cities, with city-dwellers facing loss of affordable housing through increasing urbanization and urban renewal projects or the loss of work through deindustrialization and rapidly changing labour markets.

The decade saw people taking to the streets in struggles against racism, pollution, nuclear weapons and unemployment. With activists moving between cities, creating networks of cooperation and inspiration throughout Europe and the broader world. Demonstrators marched through neighbourhoods and took control of city spaces in efforts to create awareness of their cause and to pressure political leaders to act in their favour. Activists worked towards shaping the cities they lived in, and towards shaping the idea of what a city could and should be. With goals of creating their own alternative housing and cultural spots through the appropriation of urban spaces. This often led to local authorities trying to contain and control their actions and movement throughout the city, and could lead to violent confrontations with law enforcement.

The session welcomes papers that address different kinds of urban protests in the 1980s. That can be both non-parliamentary and parliamentary protests, single events or organized groups and movements, the involvement of individual persons or organizations. The session thus wants to problematize and discuss political protests in the 1980s and its urban history.

  • Spokesperson: Helena Hill, Södertörn University
  • Co-organizer(s): Thomas Brodahl, University of Oslo
  • Keywords: Activism | Political protest | Social movements
  • Time period: Contemporary period
  • Topic(s): Political | Social
  • Study area: Europe