Journal of Urban Culture Research


Fred Landers

Publication Date



Since Occupy Wall Street's beginnings in September, 2011 on the streets of downtown New York City, play has been key to the success of this protest against corporate destructiveness and irresponsibility. In the initial weeks, Occupiers used play on the occasion of crisis to imagine a future beyond the exploitation of the 99% by the 1%. Having fun while taking responsibility attracted new Occupiers in large numbers and rapidly expanded the Occupy movement to more than 800 cities in the U.S. and worldwide. The author and groups of his friends, using a playful form of activism called Urban Play, improvised movements and roles in their interactions with other Occupiers. Toward the end of 2011, Occupiers became less able to access far from equilibrium states in play, instead turning their attention to how they were perceived in the media. Urban Players continued to imaginatively expand possibility by incorporating what initially threatened their capacity to play. From his experiences of Urban Play at Occupy Wall Street events, the author develops a theory of play as a form of activism. The author suggests that education, psychotherapy, politics, and other soft sciences would benefit from a greater emphasis on the affirmation, rather than the management, of crisis.



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