Over the past two months, the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement has captured the attention of the world with its ongoing demonstrations aimed at highlighting the social, political and economic disparities that exist between the wealthiest 1% and the remaining 99% of the population. What began as a call by the Canada-based Adbusters magazine for a protest in the financial district of New York City to address the overwhelming influence and power of corporations and financial institutions has quickly spread across the country and throughout the world.  However, defining OWS has proven difficult given its lack of hierarchical leadership, absence of specific, actionable demands and overwhelmingly cellular organizational structure. Views on the movement have varied with opponents framing OWS as “a growing mob” and supporters identifying OWS as “a democratic awakening”.

The initial Occupy Wall Street group  based in New York City’s Zuccotti Park has served as a call to action for thousands of citizens and activists and has spawned hundreds of local and regional Occupy groups. These groups, largely formed and organized using social media and web-based tools (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, MeetUp), have carried the message of OWS beyond the confines of New York City and have provided a mechanism for similarly frustrated and disaffected individuals to voice their opposition to imbalances within the existing social, political and economic systems. “Occupy” groups have emerged in major US cities, such as Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, Dallas, Oakland and St. Louis, with hundreds of participants engaged in direct actions or virtual-based solidarity efforts.  “Occupy” groups have also sprung up in small towns and more rural corners of the country, like Bartlesville (OK), Grants Pass (OR), Rolla (MO), Salmon (ID) and Barnstead (NH), often with only a handful of participants. Resultantly, as a type of social movement, OWS has provided a flexible framework for ideologically allied individuals and groups  separated by large geographical distances to unite in a form of collective action.

This connectivity across space  has not stopped at national boundaries. Almost from its inception, Occupy Wall Street became a venue for international activism and a vehicle for establishing common bonds between disparate social actions. By the fifth day of OWS action in New York City, media outlets and blogs were reporting the participation of international activists side-by-side with New York OWS activists. One international activist in particular, Monica Lopez from Spain, was highlighted in a number of media reports, including an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. The coverage of Lopez’s involvement in OWS was often framed as an indicator of how the energy and frustration of the OWS movement had resonated throughout large swathes of the world’s population. However, few of these early reports could conceive how widespread the OWS movement has now become.

Based on analysis of social networks, specifically Facebook and MeetUp, one can trace the distribution of Occupy groups across the globe. Presently there are 826 Occupy groups organized in the United States and 352 organized in other parts of the world.   Canada (50), Germany (48) and the United Kingdom (38) have the highest number of Occupy groups outside the United States; however, other countries, such as Albania, Bangladesh, Chile, Dominican Republic, Israel, Jordan, Malaysia, Namibia, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Taiwan, have also seen the rise of local OWS groups. The spread of OWS is continuing as activists make common cause and form bonds of solidarity with social protest movements at work in other parts of the world (e.g. anti-austerity movements in Greece, ‘Arab Spring’ movements in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, social justice protests in Israel).  While the final form, extent and impact of the OWS movement remains to be seen it is clear that OWS and similar social movements are redefining how we perceive, engage and understand activism in a contemporary context.


The Geographic Spread of Occupy Wall Street
(September 17, – November 1, 2011)


The Geographic Spread of Occupy Wall Street (September 17th – November 1st, 2011) by Robert R. Sauders is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Originally published by Anthropology News.

By on .

Leave a Reply


October 18th, 2015

Mapping the Dead in the Latest Israeli-Palestinian Violence

Basma Atassi at Al-Jazeera has put together a great storymap that explores the latest violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Complete with pictures, text and place location, this resource allows you to get a good sense of where, when and how the violence is occurring. Definitely worth a look.

October 16th, 2015

Netanyahu, Context & Responsibility

At the center of this current iteration of violence in Israel and Palestine stands the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu has reacted to this violence as if he was surprised that Palestinians would resort to violence when for decades he has done everything within his power to thwart the establishment and growth of a responsible Palestinian civil society, expanded settlements with the explicit aim of crippling an emerging Palestinian state, and undermining the responsible leadership of Mahmoud Abbas at every possible opportunity.

October 8th, 2015

Abbas, Netanyahu and Responsible Leadership

Abbas is demonstrating his commitment to deescalating tensions and calming the violence that is a direct result of Netanyahu’s persistent efforts to whip Israeli society into a panicked frenzy about an existential threat lurking behind every corner.

June 30th, 2015

Our Dictator in Cairo – Abdel Fatah el-Sisi

So, once again, the foreign policy of the US has chosen perceived immediate stability over the somewhat more bumpy and unpredictable evolution of democracy in the Middle East. It’s not the first time we’ve done this… it’s sort of our thing at this point… we’re pro’s out it.

June 22nd, 2015

The Many Victims at Mother Emmanuel

The problem with Gosnell and others who make these arguments is that they believe intentionality serves as some magical “Get out of Jail Free” card that absolves perpetrators of the violence they commit. Further, and in many ways far more problematic, is the realization that Gosnell and others only want to use this logical canard to absolve themselves or other like them. No such compassion regarding intentionality and the multiplicity of victims derived from violence will ever be used with the families of the 9-11 hijackers. In the end, the fundamental mistake that Gosnell and others make over and over again is that they focus on issues of intentionality rather than on issues of responsibility.

March 4th, 2015

Mr. Netanyahu Goes to Congress

There are two things to never forget when considering Netanyahu’s views of regional threats. First, he is desperately seeking his “Churchill moment”. Second, he has a record of being blinded by his own biases and is never, ever a sober analyst of a situation

February 16th, 2015

Cursed Be The Peacemakers?

This video, produced by Israeli settlers in the West Bank, has been released as part of the current Israeli political contest where the extreme right wing of Israel is attempting to maintain the rightist complexion of the Israeli government. For me, the truly offensive aspect of this video is how it makes the case that working for peace between Israelis and Palestinians or defending Palestinian and Israeli human rights somehow makes you a threat to the country.

February 14th, 2015

The Danger of Molly White’s Islamophobia

Rep. White is the new poster child for the anti-Muslim bigotry, Islamic hatred and Islamophobia that is so deeply embedded in American society that it can hide in plain sight.

July 15th, 2014

In Focus: The Gaza Strip

As Israeli bombs are dropped throughout the Gaza Strip and Hamas missiles are launched into Israel, the media coverage has focused on discussing Gaza as a known yet ill-defined entity. We are made aware of roughly where it is (next to Israel), who lives there (Hamas) and what happens there (rockets are made and launched). But this reductionist view of Gaza doesn’t provide any insights into the common, everyday lived experience of the 1.8 million Palestinians who live in the 360 sq. km that makes up the Gaza Strip.

July 14th, 2014

Middle East News Review #28

The Middle East was plagued with news of violence this week. In Israel, Palestine, Iraq and Libya, episodes of violence resulted in death and destruction. Iran continued its negotiations with the US and EU this week in the hopes of reaching an agreement over the country’s nuclear program and removing the economic sanctions that have crippled its economy. In Iraq, violence between the militant group ISIS and the Baghdad government reached new heights as 29 people were found massacred in an apartment and Human Rights Watch condemned the government for mass executions carried out earlier this year. The direct physical violence in Iraq was mirrored this week with political turmoil as the government of Nouri al-Maliki erupted into conflict with the semi-autonomous Kurdish government.