Date of Award

December 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Tom Perreault


Place, Regjonalism, Social Movements, Spatial Identity, Territory

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


In the last decade, the organization of several territorially based social movements in Chile has expressed a significant level of social discomfort about the political and economic system of the country. The central objective of this dissertation is to analyze how motivations, achievements, and failures of these movements have a dialectical relationship with the spatial features, specifically with the concepts place, territory and scale. Critical geography, political geography, and social movements’ studies provide the theoretical framework for the analysis, highlighting the significance of social movements as producers of collective knowledge. This research used a qualitative approach with a mix-methods design that included archival and online research, as well as 58 in-deep semi-structured interviews conducted in a 6-months fieldwork in Chile. Collected data identified 21 cases of territorially based social movements during the period 2006-2016 that reached different levels of significance. This research selected three case studies for a deeper comparative analysis: Aysén, Chiloé, and San Antonio. The main findings are: (1) these territorially based social movements, while not revolutionary, criticized the neoliberal small state, demanding effective provision of social rights and more territorial autonomy; (2) these movements appealed to a place-based identity connected to natural elements, and their collective action reframed such identity, leading to social empowerment; (3) material space framed collective action of these movements since isolated conditions allowed long-lasting demonstrations; also, collective action produced ephemeral places and temporarily changed the territorial dynamics; and (4) the regional scale was a crucial for these movements because it politically engaged local problems with national debates regarding economic, social, and environmental issues. All this shows that collective action conducted by social movements strongly engages with the spatial realm in multiple, creative and diverse ways.


Open Access