Contesting urban fracking in Greater Manchester: opening a political space in an urban terrain of protest

  • Craig Thomas

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis is the first to focus on grassroots political opposition to fracking development in a city-region. It examines the political space opened by activists in Greater Manchester between 15th November 2013 and 12th April 2014, situating their political struggle in a broader urban terrain of protest. Data collection was conducted between 28th August 2013 and 20th October 2014. The thesis looks beyond simple interpretations of community opposition, toward theoretically grounded understandings of anti-fracking dissent. Paradoxically, in this case a local struggle emerged primarily from social movements unrelated to the development site itself, whose actors converged on the issue of stopping fracking in the cityregion and engaged disadvantaged communities neighbouring the exploratory well. Research illustrates how activists drew on the tactics and organisational practices of radical urban uprisings to open-up and sustain an anti-fracking camp outside the exploratory well for five months, and examines ways that their dissent challenged what was being contested, who could engage in the struggle and which grievances were recognised as legitimate. Understanding the complexities of the struggle contributes to existing research on the politics of contemporary urban environmental movements by examining how solidarity and an emancipatory politics can emerge from disparate groups that have seemingly discordant perspectives. This has practical as well as theoretical relevance, because the Greater Manchester anti-fracking movement successfully presented a united front against ‘fracking’, despite internal conflict between actors. Using ostensibly horizontal and less-obvious vertical organisational modes of practice to organise the anti-fracking movement, activists sustained a protest camp and limited access to the exploratory well while it was in operation, before leaving of their own volition. This means that analysis contributes to a politics of hope, offering lessons for similar struggles that emerge from disparate, autonomous groups.
Date of Award31 Dec 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorNoel Castree (Supervisor) & James Evans (Supervisor)


  • post-politics
  • social movements
  • environmental
  • radical politics
  • struggle
  • local
  • post-foundational
  • Barton Moss
  • community
  • dissent
  • protest
  • urban
  • subjectification
  • shale gas
  • Rancière
  • fracking
  • political
  • neoliberalisation
  • politics
  • Manchester
  • Salford
  • Greater Manchester
  • anti-fracking
  • subjectivation

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