The first United States Social Forum (USSF) took place in Atlanta in the summer of 2007. To report and analyze this intense five-day event, we employ an innovative method, which we refer to as "distributed ethnography." This involves a large, multidisciplinary team of researchers who all contribute to our observational data and participate collaboratively in the writing and editing process. We consider how the U.S. political context shaped the character of this particular iteration of the World Social Forum. In particular, we analyze how the USSF reflected several ongoing debates within the larger World Social Forum (WSF) process: (1) whether the WSF should remain an open space or a political actor; (2) how to be more inclusive of the poorest and most marginalized social groups; (3) whether to pursue radical or reformist agenda; and (4) whether to target local, national, or global political arenas. A significant outcome of the USSF is that it challenged existing notions of open space by engaging in deliberate efforts to bring the most marginalized groups to the table. The U.S. political culture helped to mute overtly ideological debates, as many workshops and discussions instead focused on concrete projects, initiatives, and reforms. At the same time, many USSF organizers and presenters articulated a radical vision of revolutionary social change led by those who are most directly oppressed by prevailing systems of social, economic, and racial domination. Despite the many factors inhibiting radical politics in the United States, the USSF marks an important step in the process of bringing the larger struggle against global neoliberalism into U.S. politics. It also shapes the WSF process itself.

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