Philadelphia Intellectual/Radical Hangouts
January 2, 2015 1:24 PM   Subscribe

A friend of mine moved to Philadelphia recently and is looking for places where he might run into people of a similar intellectual/philosophical/political bent as him, namely left wing, interested in critical theory, interested in reading hard books. My suggestion was the sort of cafe that radicals, hippies, immigrants and homeless people hang out at. We have a few of those in Minneapolis, but I don't know anything about Philadelphia. Help me, hivemind, you're my only hope!
posted by cthuljew to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Wooden Shoe Books on South Street is the first thing that came to mind. It's an anarchist/activist all-volunteer bookstore that is run by consensus.
posted by inturnaround at 1:35 PM on January 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

I don't have a lot of firsthand experience with either, but there are two infoshops in Philly that I know of: The Wooden Shoe on South Street, and A-Space in West Philly. Very broadly and stereotypically speaking, West Philly's going to be his neighborhood of choice for leftist thought, with all the range of seriousness and intellectual rigor you'd expect. There's also a reading club for the leftist mag Jacobin.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:36 PM on January 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

As the fates would have it, I have my 2015 Slingshot Anarchist Organizer right here.

This is what it lists for Philadelphia:

A-Space, which was listed before.
Wooden Shoe, which was listed before.
Neighborhood Bike Works.
Mariposa Food Co-op.
Philly Soap Box, an independent zine publisher.
posted by spinifex23 at 2:25 PM on January 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Satellite Cafe.
posted by ferret branca at 4:10 PM on January 2, 2015

On a plus side, A-Space, Mariposa (pricey food co-op), Neighborhood Bike Works, and Satellite are all within a few blocks of each other. On a negative side, this is now kind of a hub for West Philly gentrification, so I don't know if that fits in with his left/critical theory interests, or if that is a concern for your friend. Besides these, there's also a slew of coffee shops and eateries of varying sophistication that cater to students from the nearby University of Penn.
posted by carter at 6:09 PM on January 2, 2015

Oh hey, this is one of my areas of expertise!

Definitely follow the events calendar at Wooden Shoe. As for actually volunteering is a great place to meet people, and I can trace a lot of my friendships now directly or indirectly to the store. I have a lot more to say about the place, but not necessarily in a public venue; memail me.

The A-Space isn't an infoshop per se, more of an event space. There is a lot of cool stuff happening there, though: Books Through Bars packing nights, Food Not Bombs (at least I think there's still Food Not Bombs there), various talks and art exhibits. Their web site's been down for a while; best to follow them on facebook for event info.

Lava space is the third and final big radical event space. They have a free library that you can volunteer to be a part of, though I don't know exactly what that entails. Lots of punk shows there, the occasional reading or film screening.

Soapbox, linked above, is a collective house with a zine library, screen printing set-up, and letter press that are open to the public a few times a month. Might be good for meeting people but not always accessible. Mariposa is pricy and kind of upscale now, though the food they have is excellent, and it's a great place to run into people. Satellite definitely has the critical theory crowd, but it can feel a bit insular, like the same 12 or 15 crusty punks over and over. (I like it personally, but it's a bit divisive.) Grindcore House in South Philly has a bit of a warmer vibe, plus a neat little radical lending library.

Reading groups tend to sort of spring up organically here, sometimes from places like Wooden Shoe or A-Space but more often just among groups of friends. (Or at least that's how the group I was in for almost a year formed.) I don't know any going now, but I'd be interested in getting into another one--put your friend in touch with me about this!

Please feel free to memail me with any other questions about radical stuff in Philly!
posted by ActionPopulated at 7:08 PM on January 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers, y'all. My friend will check this all out!
posted by cthuljew at 1:01 AM on January 4, 2015

I also recommend checking out Bindlestiff Books and House of Our Own.
posted by th5 at 10:29 AM on January 20, 2015

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