In the River Valley, a robust culture of “publicness,” let alone public space, seems scant at first glance. This is primarily due to the prominence of the paper mill: Its pollution, smell, optics, and noise make outdoor activities or community gatherings unappealing. For many, however, bodies cannot stay silent or still—even bodies subdued by, dispirited with, or afraid of environmental or work pressures. This two-part feature on public space by writer and literary critic John Freeman and report editor Aaron Cayer examines how bodies can express themselves in small apertures—even when they may be oppressed, restricted, or silenced.
In part II, Cayer’s “Striking Bodies: Aligning Public Spaces” describes the community’s long history of thwarted mill strikes and community protests. He reveals how resistance efforts—and their failures—were results of efforts by corporate powers and governing officials to localize and isolate the community’s concerns for economic gain. His essay considers the agency of protest and organized labor at the present moment, and it explores the possibility of alternative futures that may depend on alliances with intersectional solidarity groups committed to broader terms and geographies of liberation. —Maine’s River Valley report editors
Read part I of the public space feature here.