Architecture and Planning ETDs

Publication Date



Social justice movements organize against contemporary conditions of oppression and domination. Today’s movements often target neoliberalism as an agent of both economic and cultural marginalization, citing environmental degradation, increasing wealth disparities in the information/service economy, and destruction of community-based institutions in the name of capital accumulation. One such example is the right to the city, both an intellectual idea and organizing framework for social action. The right to the city utilizes a Marxist framework to argue that cities are part of capitalist processes of production and, thus, space can and must be a site of intervention in the service of social justice. This thesis argues that the right to the city literature and organizing practices effectively implement critiques of both capitalism and neoliberalism, enabling material gains for the urban dispossessed, as well as structural critiques. However, the right to the city literature largely fails to make explicit the connection between colonialism and capitalism in producing both urban space and social narratives. Both organizers and academics within the right to the city largely neglect the relationship between the contemporary city and Indigenous resistance and sovereignty movements, though they often operationalize a decolonial analysis by critiquing the discourse of subjugation of the Other. This thesis argues that the lack of an explicit connection between colonialism and capitalism limits the radical potential of the right to the city movement. Think tanks have proven to be an effective means for generating and disseminating narrative and influencing the contemporary political landscape through individual and social consciousness. Therefore, this thesis argues that social justice funders should behave more like think tanks than foundations in part by facilitating a convergence on the question of the relationship between decolonization and consciousness in order to further advance the radical vision of contemporary social justice movements, of which the right to the city is one example.  



Document Type


Degree Name

Community and Regional Planning

Level of Degree


Department Name

School of Architecture and Planning

First Committee Member (Chair)

Isaac, Claudia

Second Committee Member

Jojola, Ted


right to the city, community planning, urban planning, decolonization, social justice, think tanks

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Architecture Commons