Doing activism like a state: Progressive municipal government, Israel/Palestine and BDS

Davina Cooper, Didi Herman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
173 Downloads (Pure)


Activism is typically placed in opposition to state practice. Yet, state bodies often participate in campaigns and movements for change, drawing on different powers and capacities, including the ability to withhold goods, land and contracts. This article explores subnational state activism – what it means and the activist framework it offers – through a study of UK local government’s episodic participation in the pro-Palestinian movement for divestment and boycott of Israel. Municipal participation in this movement demonstrates certain tensions and challenges for subnational state activism, in conditions of conflict, where critics denounce local government for over-reaching and acting improperly. This article focuses on two key aspects: the relationship of municipal activism to de-subordination and the troubling of state hierarchy; and the place of responsibility, care and democratic embeddedness within municipal state practice. Together, these strands contribute to wider debates about progressive statehood and paradigms of institutional activism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-59
Number of pages20
JournalEnvironment and Planning C: Politics and Space
Issue number1
Early online date10 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • BDS
  • boycotts
  • local government
  • municipal activism
  • Radical politics


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