“Safe spaces” emerged as an important activist tactic in the late twentieth-century. United States with the rise of feminist, queer, and anti-racist movements. However, the term’s ambiguity, while denoting its wide applicability across movements, has led “safe space” to become overused but undertheorized. In both theory and praxis, “safespace” has been treated as a closed concept, erasing the context-specific relational work required to construct and maintain its material and symbolic boundaries. The emergence of online communities promising safety for marginalized groups calls for renewed investigations into the construction of these activist spaces. In this article, I draw on ethnographic fieldwork to consider the cultivation of safe space within Girl Army, a Philadelphia-based feminist Facebook group. Through participant observation and interviews with Girl Army members, I trace the group’s technical and discursive enforcement of safety and the role this space plays in members’activism and everyday lives.
First published online on October 6, 2017