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Space, mobility, and collective action: India's Naxalite movement

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Abstract

Contemporary theories of social movements have failed adequately to address the spatiality of collective action. I argue that an analysis of collective action that pays due attention to the spatiality of movement practice can provide an important complement to social movement theories. This spatiality of social movement agency involves an analysis of how spatial processes and relations across a variety of scales, as well as the particularities of specific places, influence the character and emergence of social movements, and how social movements use space strategically. Using the notions of locale, location, and sense of place as an interpretive framework I argue that a spatialized analysis of conflict provides important insights into social movement experience. First, it informs us of the broader spatial context within which social movements are located; second, it informs us of the spatial and cultural specificity of movements; third, it informs us of the cultural expressions of social movement agency; and, fourth, it informs us of how the strategic use of space may constrain or enable collective action. I contextualize these arguments by analyzing the Maoist insurgency of the Naxalite movement, which first emerged in India during the late 1960s.

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