The IAS from time to time curates Anarchist Theory Tracks at various conferences, starting with the National Conference on Organized Resistance (NCOR) in Wahington, DC, in the past, to the last few years of the All Power to the Imagination conference in Sarasota, Florida, to this year's Left Forum in New York City, March 16-18, 2012. Here you'll find the Left Forum info, followed by info on past tracks at NCOR.
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Occupying from Below: Resist, Reflect, Re-create
Left Forum, Pace University, NYC, March 16-18, 2012
Occupying from Below is a seven-part track at Left Forum 2012, curated by the Institute for Anarchist Studies (IAS), a collectively run project dedicated to promoting critical, independent scholarship exploring social domination and reconstructive visions of a free society. The track aims to create a participatory space and encourage theoretical conversations as political practice--where thought and strategy are inextricably bound in dialogue with movement concerns and experiences, through an antiauthoritarian lens, so as to better reflect and act on the possibilities as well as messiness of social transformation made palpable by occupy.
All sessions will take place in Room W510, which will also double as an IAS social space in between sessions.
Saturday, March 17 at 10:00 a.m.
WHERE DID OCCUPY COME FROM?
MOVEMENT HISTORIES AND PRESENTS
Facilitator: Cindy Milstein
Participants: Chris Dixon, Silvia Federici, and George Katsiaficas
While the occupy movement sprung into public consciousness in September, it has developed from previous experiences of struggle, such as the New Left, the women's liberation movement, and the global justice movement. This session explores crucial movement histories, and how they have influenced the ideas, practices, and forms of the current movement. Presenters will offer a range of historical perspectives, and engage session participants in a critical discussion about the possibilities and pitfalls of carrying the past into contemporary movement organizing.
Cindy Milstein, an active participant in Occupy Philly and Institute for Anarchist Studies board member, has long been involved in numerous anarchist and collective projects. She's also the author of Anarchism and Its Aspirations (AK Press), and coauthor with Erik Ruin of the book Paths toward Utopia: Explorations in Everyday Anarchism (PM Press).
Chris Dixon is a longtime organizer, writer, and educator with a PhD from the University of California at Santa Cruz. He is currently completing a book based on interviews with antiauthoritarian organizers across the United States and Canada involved in broader-based movements. Chris serves on the board of the Institute for Anarchist Studies and the advisory board for the journal Upping the Anti. He lives in Sudbury, Ontario, where he is involved with antipoverty and indigenous solidarity organizing.
Silvia Federici is a longtime feminist activist, teacher, and writer. She taught in Nigeria, and is now professor emeritus at Hofstra University. Her published work includes Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation; Enduring Western Civilization: The Construction of the Concept of Western Civilization and Its "Others" (editor); and A Thousand Flowers: Social Struggles against Structural Adjustment in African Universities (coeditor).
George Katsiaficas is a longtime activist whose writings include books on the global uprising of 1968 and European social movements. Together with Kathleen Cleaver, he edited Liberation, Imagination and the Black Panther Party. He recently completed a two-volume book, Asia’s Unknown Uprisings, dealing with popular occupations of public space in Asia in the 1980s and 1990s. His Web site is http://www.eroseffect.com/.
Saturday, March 17 at noon
OCCUPY OUTSIDE METROPOLIS:
SMALL-TOWN AND RURAL OCCUPATIONS
Facilitator: Chris Dixon
Participants: Welch Canavan, Joseph Lapp, and Heather Pipino
Most discussions of the occupy movement have focused on major urban centers such as New York and Oakland. And yet there has been an explosion of occupy activities in smaller cities, towns, and rural areas, where activists are experimenting with new forms of horizontal organizing and engaging unlikely allies. This session brings together people who have been active in occupys in these nonmetropolitan areas. Presenters will discuss the unique difficulties and opportunities they face, and draw lessons from the work they are doing.
Chris Dixon is a longtime organizer, writer, and educator with a PhD from the University of California at Santa Cruz. He is currently completing a book based on interviews with antiauthoritarian organizers involved in broader-based movements. Chris serves on the board of the Institute for Anarchist Studies and the advisory board for the journal Upping the Anti. He lives in Sudbury, Ontario, where he is involved with antipoverty and indigenous solidarity organizing.
Welch Canavan lives in Braddock, PA, a small suburb of Pittsburgh, where he spends most of his time working with the Some Ideas Collective (http://someideas.info/) to start an intentional community. He grew up in Washington, DC, and has been involved in a variety of organizing efforts, including the DC Childcare Collective and Bobby Fisher Memorial Building.
Joseph Lapp is an Alaska-based student and activist. He has been engaged in small-town and rural activism since 2006, primarily around queer and reproductive rights issues. Joseph has organized with the Industrial Workers of the World, including participation in its 2007 delegation to Haiti, served on the board of Alaskans Together for Equality and the Alaskans Together Foundation, worked on campaigns with the AKCLU, and most recently organized with the Alaskan Occupy movement.
Heather Pipino is a rural organizer from Barre, Vermont. She is a member of the Vermont Workers’ Center (VWC), which takes an organizing approach to build power for working-class people. Through the Healthcare is a Human Right campaign, the VWC worked on a statewide level to pass the country's first universal health care law using human rights framing and analysis. For many years, Heather was a volunteer at Black Sheep Books in Montpelier and has also been involved with Occupy Central VT.
Saturday, March 17 at 3:00 p.m.
BEYOND THE ENCAMPMENTS:
NEW DIRECTIONS FOR THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT
Facilitator: Hillary Lazar
Participants: Max Rameau and Joshua Stephens
Many of the initial encampments established by the occupy movement have been evicted, and yet the movement persists. Just two months from OWS's inauguration, its signature horizontal format and direct action orientation was being mapped onto struggles from racist policing, to foreclosure resistance, to workplace democracy and self-management. In many places, the practice of general assemblies recalls the emergence of neighborhood assemblies in late 2001 Buenos Aires, and offers glimpses of what popular, parallel institutions might look like. This panel will explore how new spaces--physical and otherwise--are becoming the terrain of struggle, and what challenges and successes have emerged in this new phase.
Hillary Lazar, a researcher, writer, and anti-poverty worker, is a librarian at the Occupy DC library.
Max Rameau is a Haitian-born Pan-African theorist, campaign strategist, organizer, and author. He is one of the founding members of the Take Back the Land movement, and is currently with Movement Catalyst, a movement support organization, providing campaign development and other support to social justice organizations.
Joshua Stephens is a board member with the Institute for Anarchist Studies, and currently works with Occupy Brooklyn and contributes to the Occupy Workplace Democracy project. He likes coffee and dislikes wearing socks.
Saturday, March 17 at 5:00 p.m.
Facilitator: Joshua Stephens
Participants: Irina Ceric and Cindy Milstein
As the "do-it-ourselves” uprisings and occupations that have swept across the globe from Egypt to United States are proving, the ethical practices that anarchists have long advocated are becoming powerful everyday experiences for millions, with people self-organizing everything from civic defense and trash collection to tent encampments and general assemblies. Indeed, the contours of the US occupy movement in particular could be viewed, in large part, as anarchism in action. Yet despite its obvious debt to anarchism, OWS and its lightning-speed proliferation across North America seemed to come as a surprise to anarchists, and in many ways, our learning curve as antiauthoritarians has been just as great as for those many liberals and political newcomers who overwhelmingly populate(d) the spaces of occupy. That surprise has created novel challenges and contradictions for anarchist theory and practice as well as anarchists' own self-understanding. More surprisingly still, it also appears to have cracked open the potential for fundamental social transformation in a way that our recent anticapitalist efforts never could on their own. This session will reflect on occupy anarchism within the quirky, compelling experiment of occupy everything.
Joshua Stephens is a board member with the Institute for Anarchist Studies, and currently works with Occupy Brooklyn and contributes to the Occupy Workplace Democracy project. He likes coffee and dislikes wearing socks.
Irina Ceric is a longtime organizer and movement lawyer from Toronto. She is a PhD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School of York University, and works primarily with the Global Balkans Network and the Movement Defense Committee.
Cindy Milstein, an active participant in Occupy Philly and Institute for Anarchist Studies board member, has been involved in numerous anarchist projects, including the USSF's New World from Below convergence, the Hope from People not Presidents and Don’t Just (Not) Vote efforts, and Black Sheep Books collective in Vermont. She's the author of Anarchism and Its Aspirations (AK Press), and coauthor with Erik Ruin of the book Paths toward Utopia: Explorations in Everyday Anarchism (PM Press).
Sunday, March 18 at 10:00 a.m.
THE QUESTION OF COLONIALISM:
UNOCCUPYING, REOCCUPYING, DE-OCCUPYING
Facilitator: Tamara Vukov
Participants: Jimmy Johnson, Maia Ramnath, and Pavlos Stavropoulos
Given the role of settler colonialism in establishing North America, and the presence of the U.S. military across the world, “occupy” is nothing if not loaded vocabulary for a liberation movement. Virtually all of the territory on which the occupy movement plays out (on this continent) has been occupied for centuries, yielding consequences all at once material, psychological, and discursive up to and through the present moment. Panelists in this session will discuss how this history meets the movement’s stated aspirations, how it shapes power disparities and priorities within the movement, and how it might offer strategies for decolonizing the ethics, tactics, and strategies of participants and the movement more broadly.
Tamara Vukov is a writer, researcher, filmmaker, and activist, currently living between Montreal, Philadelphia, and Belgrade. She is a founding member of the the Global Balkans network and the Volatile Works collective, and is completing a documentary about the impacts and grassroots resistance to the neoliberal transition to capitalism in Serbia. Tamara is a postdoctoral scholar at the Center for Mobilities Research and Policy at Drexel University.
Jimmy Johnson is a dancer and the founder of Neged Neshek, a project critiquing Israeli militarism and the arms trade, and former international coordinator for the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions. He is a featured writer for Electronic Intifada, and his writings and photography have appeared in Against the Current, CounterPunch, El Pais, Haaretz, Ma'ariv, News from Within and elsewhere. He lives on Turtle Island in the city of Detroit.
Maia Ramnath, a board member of the Institute for Anarchist Studies, is active with South Asia Solidarity Initiative and Adalah-NY, through which she plugs into the OWS Global Justice working group. She teaches history in New York University's Interdisciplinary Humanities and Social Thought program, and is the author of Haj to Utopia (University of California Press, 2011) and Decolonizing Anarchism (AK Press, 2011).
Pavlos Stavropoulos was born and raised in Greece, where he still maintains active ties. He has been active in indigenous solidarity movements for over twenty-five years, and has presented on the connections and challenges shared by anarchists and indigenous activists.
Sunday, March 18 at noon
IS THIS REALLY WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE?
SELF-GOVERNANCE, LEADERSHIP, AND AUTONOMY
Facilitator: Brooke Lehman
Participants: Carwil Bjork-James and George Machado
Much has been made of the occupy movement's "no leaders" ethic, the challenges and rewards of acclimating newcomers to the practice of direct democracy, and the gritty, unpredictable complexity that results when often wildly disparate people act in concert. Despite slogans and declarations, real questions loom about how or whether this prefigures the world we seek to create. And as the movement grows, drawing new participants who take on and innovate practices of direct democracy, it warrants asking how this models the cultivation of initiative and leaders in a horizontal body. This panel will explore these themes, reflecting on the successes, failures, and prospects of direct democracy on the ground.
Brooke Lehman is a faculty member at the Institute for Social Ecology and a longtime activist. She is on the board of Smartmeme, the Brecht Forum, and Yansa, and spends most of her time organizing with Occupy Wall Street.
Carwil Bjork-James, a PhD candidate in anthropology at the CUNY Graduate Center, is currently writing a dissertation exploring how Bolivian grassroots movements use public spaces in mass protests, and how these experiences shape their political visions. He has been researching, advocating, and organizing on issues of indigenous rights, environmental destruction, and militarization since the 1990s. Carwil tweets at @CarwilJ and blogs at http://woborders.wordpress.com/.
George Machado is a former student of philosophy and international relations at American University. He was introduced to organizing and activism at Occupy Wall Street in early October, and has been deeply involved with facilitation and direct action. George is currently working on climate justice issues within OWS, and coalition building with community-based organizations and Occupy the Bronx.
Sunday, March 18 at 3:00 p.m.
OCCUPYING FROM BELOW:
RESIST, REFLECT, RE-CREATE
We'll wrap up the track with an open, facilitated conversation, drawing on some of the big themes and/or issues that came up over the weekend during Occupying from Below.
For more info on Left Forum 2012, see:
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Radical Theory Track at NCOR
March 7-9, 2008,
American University, Washington, DC
For the second year in a row, the National Conference on Organized Resistance (NCOR) is offering the Radical Theory Track--a selection of ten talks and co-presentations explicitly aimed at activists who wish to explore how social theory both informs and is born out of our political work.
Radicals have long acknowledged the importance of guiding thoughts in our work to transform the world. We also understand the need to develop and critically evaluate our own theories in a world rife with exploitation, oppression, and hegemonic thinking. Thus, the Radical Theory Track aims to provide a space at NCOR in which to engage in theoretical discussion and debate as political practice--a forum in which theoretical discussion is not divorced from movement concerns and experience, or bound up in abstraction, but in which careful and original analysis of dynamic concepts that are key to radical Left theory and strategy can be articulated, shared, critiqued, extended, and proliferated.
The Radical Theory Track is co-curated by an organizing collective of the IAS and the Free Society Collective, with much support from the NCOR collective. The idea for the track emerged out of the annual Renewing the Anarchist Tradition conference, a project of the IAS, as a way to create more spaces for anti-authoritarian Left scholarship-as-praxis. We hope you will join us, whether for one, some, or all of the sessions.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
"In the World But Not of It":
New Anti-Authoritarian Approaches
to Reform Struggles
This workshop will focus on a promising area of strategic reflection: the relation between reform and radicalism. While some anarchists have dismissed reform-based work, many anti-authoritarian organizers in the United States and Canada have embraced what we might call an "abolitionist" approach, to use a term popularized by the prison abolitionist organization Critical Resistance. This approach is oriented toward building movements on the basis of collective fights for survival and dignity while struggling against all systems of oppression. Visible in diverse groups, it fuses autonomous politics with a groundedness in some of the most oppressed sectors of society (such as migrants, prisoners, and First Nations and other racialized communities). In the process, it suggests new ways of thinking about the possibilities and limitations of reform struggles. In this workshop, we will explore an abolitionist approach--what anarchist panther Ashanti Alston calls "being in the world, but not of it." Together, we will look at case studies and engage reflections from organizers. In examining these examples, we will search for what is potentially useful in our day-to-day work. This workshop will thus challenge us to rethink our assumptions and approaches to reform struggles as we seek to build liberatory movements.
Chris, originally from Alaska, is a longtime anti-authoritarian organizer, writer, and educator, and a PhD student in the history of consciousness program at the University of California at Santa Cruz. He is a member of the administrative collective of Colours of Resistance, serves on the advisory board for the journal Upping the Anti, and has recently moved to Sudbury, Ontario, where he organizes with Sudbury against War and Occupation.
Visions of Anarchism
in the Twenty-First Century
Cindy Milstein and Brian
Anarchism is not a static political philosophy or social view. It is constantly evolving and shifting its focus. In the past twenty years, we've seen anarchism play a crucial role in the development of a radical ecology movement and the movement against capitalist globalization; become increasingly visible via publications, conferences, and bookfairs, traveling culture, and numerous community-based projects; and emerge as a more expansive, compelling perspective. What lessons can we draw from the past couple of decades regarding which general approaches do and do not seem to contribute to the building of anarchist networks, visibility, and infrastructures? Where will and/or could anarchists concentrate their theoretical, direct action, and organizing energies in the century that's just starting to unfold? And what might the search for utopia and an anarchist vision of a free society look like, especially in view of the possibilities of this historical moment? This session is devoted to opening up a discussion about the shape of contemporary anarchism as an idea and a practice, beginning from our shared sensibilities and moving on to a variety of points of departure.
Cindy is a co-organizer of the Renewing the Anarchist Tradition conference, a board member of the Institute for Anarchist Studies, and a collective member of both Free Society and Black Sheep Books in Montpelier, Vermont. She also taught at the "anarchist summer school" called the Institute for Social Ecology. Her essays appear in several anthologies, including Realizing the Impossible: Art against Authority and Globalize Liberation, and she does community organizing at home and public speaking/popular education anywhere else.
Brian hails from a small town in which anarchists maintain a wide array of social programs including regular Really Really Free Markets, free breakfasts for day laborers, free grocery distribution, a books-to-prisoners group, and several different publishing projects. He has outrun police vans in Leipzig, dodged tear gas canisters in Quebec City, and lodged with the MST on occupied land outside Belo Horizonte; he also writes and edits.
Red and Black:
Toward Common Ground
This presentation will offer a foundation for the examination of anarchism and indigenism by exploring common principles as well as areas of potential misunderstanding or disagreement. Many traditional indigenous political systems can be described as anarcho-communist, lacking institutions of coercive authority or private property. Indigenous liberation movements also appear to have a strong ethno-nationalist and spiritualist component. How has colonialist language influenced our understanding of traditional indigenous systems? Can anarchist analysis provide a different framework through which that language is understood and used? Can traditional political systems and the contemporary indigenous movements that are inspired by them offer viable alternatives to the current statist systems? Is a true indigenous anarchist philosophy, devoid of Eurocentrism, possible or even desirable?
Pavlos is a political science graduate student at the University of Colorado at Denver completing his masters in indigenous political systems, and a longtime community activist on indigenous solidarity, anarchist, environmental, and anti-globalization struggles.
Remaking Gender, Remaking Ourselves
As all we aspiring gender-radicals know, the urgency of dismantling the Gender binary and hierarchical system it supports means dissenting from, interrogating, and challenging practices of (big-G) Gender that hurt others and ourselves. But it also entails making something new with (little-g) gender that celebrates our complexities as people while moving us toward greater joy, expression, and liberation. Unmaking and undoing gender is a part of this process; yet so too is the practice of doing anew and making anew. This talk will explore, how do we both inhabit the deconstructive, critical moments as well as the moments of remaking and rebuilding in regard to G/gender? As in all our organizing efforts, we must strive not only to resist social and political ills but to shape together those new practices that move us closer to freedom.
Ace has happily lived in central Vermont for five years with his loving orange cat named Poopers. He works as an out trans butch in the building trades, works with teenagers, and is a collective owner of Black Sheep Books. Ace taught gender theory at the Institute for Social Ecology, and is a member of the Free Society Collective.
A Brief History of
Black Autonomist Movements
In recent years, the work of C.L.R. James and James Boggs, as well as lesser-known Black queer and feminist collectives, has brought the concept of "Black autonomy" to the foreground. In this brief talk, I will look at the history of Black Autonomism from its roots in revolutionary nationalism, Marxism, and anarchism. In the mix also will be the continued resistance that has taken place from the plantations to the prison industry.
Kazembe is a writer from New York City. He currently serves as the outreach coordinator at the Brecht Forum, and his writings can be found on blackmanwithalibrary.com.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Between Now and Utopia:
D. T. Cochrane and Peter Staudenmaier
Do we need to understand capital and capitalism if we want to struggle for and create positive social forms based on autonomy and solidarity? If we do, what should this understanding inform? Is it simply a matter of "know your enemy" or should it show us pitfalls to avoid in a postcapitalist society, keeping the ills of capitalism from emerging anew? Or would it have something to say about how a postcapitalist society should be organized? Even capitalism's critics, despite invoking its name as the source of our current political and economic ills, are far from having a universal agreement on the essential characteristics and/or structure of capitalism. From common ground yet with different perspectives, D. T. and Peter will offer their thoughts on what capitalism is, what capitalism does, and how understanding capitalism can help anarchists and other anti-capitalists in both their current organizing and their articulations of a postcapitalist society.
After two degrees in economics left D. T. less than convinced by capitalism's justifications, he fled the clutches of neoclassic thought. His journey led him to heterodox political economy. Now, as a PhD candidate in social and political thought at York, D. T.'s research interests include capital theory, business history, and the process of technological and social change.
Peter is an anarchist and a historian who has been involved in anti-capitalist politics since the 1980s, and whose work focuses on modern European right-wing thought, including fascism and Nazism. He recently returned from a year of research in Germany and Italy. Peter used to facilitate courses called Understanding Capitalism and Alternatives to Capitalism at the Institute for Social Ecology. He has worked extensively with a variety of cooperatives and worker collectives.
Anarchist People of Color,
Civil Rights, and
the Myth of Liberation
Ashanti Alston and Ariel
While the civil rights movement won many small victories for U.S. blacks who were interested in playing by the rules of the electorate and accepting minimalist strides, movements that sought liberation outside the legislature and pushed the boundaries of what made the mainstream United States comfortable were crushed. As anarchists--wanting to highlight social, political, and economic contradictions within the United States as well as destroy the illusion that is the "American Dream"--we are charged with carrying the legacy of many of these liberationist groups. As people of color, we carry the baggage of both the hollow victories and outright failures of civil rights. Is liberation even still a viable concept? What can anarchists learn from the confrontation in this discussion? How can we use this to more critically engage with the work we are doing? How should it inform our present and future choices for strategizing and organizing?
Ashanti is the national co-chair of the Jericho Movement and a member of the revolutionary black nationalist Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. A former member of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army, Ashanti was a political prisoner for fourteen years in the United States. He is known as the anarchist panther and is the author of the essay "Beyond Nationalism, But Not without It."
Ariel is helping to organize the New York City Anarchist Bookfair, and the Berkeley Anarchist Students of Theory and Research and Development (BASTARD) anarchist theory conference, and taught classes in Girl Army (women's self-defense) as well as firearm practice and safety. She has been a member of Anarchist People of Color, and contemplates the possibility of anarchist economics.
Anti-Authoritarian Alternatives to
Democracy, Justice, and Green Capitalism
How we can envision a democracy that goes beyond political parties and media figures, a justice that is more than public trials and incarceration, or an economics that allows space for planning a sustainable world together? Anarchists, along with others from many ethical and cultural standpoints, have ways of conceptualizing these aspects of life that go beyond the one-dimensional forms that have become known as representative democracy or the justice system, market economics or climate change solutions. This session will be a discussion of working alternative models to various "representative" systems that never really represent us, from grassroots democracy in Bolivia to collective visions for a sustainable response to climate change.
Carwil researches strategies of grassroots autonomy and disruptive protest in Latin America as a CUNY Graduate Center anthropology student. He taught at the New College of California, and worked in campaigns against U.S. wars and corporate globalization and supporting indigenous resistance to oil exploitation.
(and Violence) Seriously
Mark Lance and Matt Meyer
Discussions of nonviolence and violence in radical circles seem almost always to generate more heat than light. Frequently one finds a near-fundamentalist faith on both sides: those like Colman McCarthy who insist that Malcolm X was no better than the Klan because both advocated violence, and others like Ward Churchill who take advocacy of nonviolence to be no more than craven complicity with oppression. Less often, the debates are more civil but rather stale, as when it is assumed up front that what is at issue is merely a choice of tactics, no more important than, for instance, whether to utilize street theater in a demonstration. Sad to say, things are rather more complicated, and indeed downright messy. This talk will try to bring a bit of this complexity to the table by summarizing some work by a wide range of activists, social theorists, and philosophers. We'll see that the range of attitudes toward the morality and politics of violence is broader than usually thought, and explore what certain of the more interesting currents have to do with an anarchist or anti-authoritarian vision of society. In the end, this talk will suggest that there are plenty of tactical issues, but matters of deep principle also, even if the relevant principles are more complicated than either "never use violence" or "by any means necessary." There will also be lots of time will be left for discussion and debate.
Mark is a professor of philosophy, and professor and chair in the program on justice and peace at Georgetown University. In his day job, he writes and teaches about philosophy of language, logic, epistemology, moral philosophy, and political philosophy while trying to subtly subvert, in small and local ways, the function of an elite educational institution. In one of his many night jobs, he has been an activist for over twenty years, working on a wide range of peace and social justice issues both local and global. Mark is currently on the board of the Institute for Anarchist Studies and the editorial collective of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory. He is also at work on a book defending an idiosyncratic version of anarchism, to be finished sometime in 2008.
Matt, the former chair of the War Resisters League and the founding chair of the Peace and Justice Studies Association, is currently the educational director of a small, alternative high school in New York City. Author of Guns and Gandhi in Africa: Pan African Insights on Nonviolence, Armed Struggle, and Liberation (2000), and Time Is Tight: Urgent Tasks for Educational Transformation--Eritrea, South Africa, and the United States (2007), Matt is in constant search of a better, twenty-first-century, working definition of the phrase "revolutionary nonviolence."
"Get Out of Art Free":
Collapsing the Binary of
Culture and Politics
Erika Biddle, Lindsay Caplan, and Malav Kanuga
Anti-authoritarian social movements are increasingly posing the question of possibility. This marks a return to important questions of politics beyond resistance, but it's often difficult to transform our responses into practice. In an exploratory effort, we suggest taking this moment to draw inspiration and insight from some artistic and cultural strands of our radical tradition that have historically been on the periphery of political action, yet focus on the question of potentiality in-through-and-against the social context. Most of us know that there is a profound relationship between art and a horizontal politics. But is it simply a matter of linking together art and revolution? Or is there a co-articulation between the two? Whatever the description, the conceptual as well as practical concerns seem to remain muddy. This panel will seek to explore historical and contemporary precedents in the relationship between art and revolutionary processes, and then ask how this may help anti-authoritarian movements today better understand the twin tasks of creativity and critique.
Erika is an editor at Autonomedia and managing editor for Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, the biannual journal of the Institute for Anarchist Studies (IAS). An IAS board member, she is also currently working on a film project on utopianisms.
Lindsay is an editor at Autonomedia, and researches social and aesthetic theory at the Graduate Center of CUNY.
Malav is a collective owner of Bluestockings bookstore on the Lower East Side of New York City as well as a PhD student and teacher in the CUNY system.
The First Radical Theory Track
took place March 10-11, 2007
(See details below)
For the first time, the National Conference on Organized Resistance (NCOR) is offering a Radical Theory Track--a selection of ten talks and presentations explicitly aimed at activists who wish to explore how social theory both informs and is born out of our political work. Radicals have long acknowledged the importance of guiding thoughts in our work to transform the world. We also understand the need to develop and critically evaluate our own theories in a world rife with exploitation, oppression, and hegemonic thinking. Thus, the Radical Theory Track aims to provide a space at NCOR in which to engage in theoretical discussion and debate as political practice--a forum in which theoretical discussion is not divorced from movement concerns and experience, or bound up in abstraction, but in which careful and original analysis of dynamic concepts that are key to radical Left theory and strategy can be articulated, shared, critiqued, extended, and proliferated.
The Radical Theory Track is co-curated by an organizing collective of the Institute for Anarchist Studies (IAS) and the Free Society Collective, with much support from the NCOR collective. The idea for the track emerged out of the annual Renewing the Anarchist Tradition conference, a project of the IAS, as a way to create more spaces for anti-authoritarian Left scholarship-as-praxis. We hope you will join us, whether for one, some, or all of the sessions.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
and Social Organization
For anarchists and other leftists, various forms of social organization--be they governmental, economic, cultural, or sexual--can be oppressive. Indeed, oppression of the sort we meet in the modern world is not just caused or facilitated by social organization but is largely constituted by complex structures of social organization. For example, a society can be systemically racist, as a result of the broad function of its institutions, without any individual having racist attitudes or setting out to achieve racist ends. Some react to this connection by advocating some form of primitivism, a rejection of social organization beyond the most rudimentary. There is a philosophical tradition--found in Aristotle, and developed classically by Kant, Hegel, and Marx, but showing up in a wide range of thinkers--that argues that freedom is also constituted by social organization. Human autonomy, that is, is something quite different from the freedom of solitary animals and is inconceivable without social practices. Mark will explain and argue that both are true. But if social organization is both necessary for freedom and constitutes oppression, what is a poor radical to do? The devil is in the details; weâ€™ll try to sort some of them out.
Mark is a professor of philosophy and professor of justice and peace at Georgetown University. In his day job, he works on and teaches about philosophy of language, logic, epistemology, moral philosophy, and political philosophy. He has been an activist for over twenty years, working on a wide range of peace and social justice issues both local and global. Mark is currently on the board of the Institute for Anarchist Studies, the editorial collective of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, and is national co-chair of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. He is also at work on a book defending an idiosyncratic version of anarchism.
The Legacy of Freedom
in Murray Bookchin's Work
Born in 1921, the same year that Peter Kropotkin died, Murray Bookchin's own death this past July signals the end of another era in anarcho-communist theorizing. Bridging the Old and the New Left, his interdisciplinary body of work (over a dozen books, and countless articles and public talks) moved anarchism into the twentieth century, transforming it into a more rigorous political philosophy and a more directly democratic praxis. His exploration of the emergence of hierarchy in The Ecology of Freedom and his utopian stress on forms of freedom in Post-Scarcity Anarchism stand out in this regard. Yet he was often a controversial figure, displeasing Marxists and anarchists alike. This talk aims to take a critical look this self-educated, lifelong radical's contributions to a revolutionary and libertarian Left. It will briefly introduce some of his key notions, and then delve into his work through three lens: the way he lived his life; the way he thought about society; and the way he thought about politics.
Cindy is co-organizer of the annual Renewing the Anarchist Tradition conference, a board member of the Institute for Anarchist Studies, and a collective member of both the Free Society Collective and all-volunteer Black Sheep Books in Montpelier. She does grassroots political work in central Vermont and public speaking anywhere else. Her essays appear in several books, including Realizing the Impossible: Art against Authority (AK Press, 2007), Globalize Liberation (City Lights, 2004), and Confronting Capitalism (Soft Skull, 2004).
of Space, Memory, and Power
Bettina Escauriza and Dara Greenwald
Public space is highly scripted. As users of space, we are constantly receiving cues on how to behave and make use of space. This scripting occurs due to pressures from agents of repression (capitalism, the state, sexism, and so on), which in turn aid in the construction of identities. We are interested in raising questions around how we comply and sometimes reinforce the different ways that power emerges in public space, asking what public space is anyway, and discussing strategies of how we might resist these dominant and pervasive scripts on our behavior. In this talk, we will present several creative projects that have attempted to challenge the scripting of public place and public memory through autonomous interventions, including performance, landmarking, modification of structures, media, and messages. We will do a multimedia presentation that will include video and images.
Bettina was born in Paraguay and immigrated with her family in the late 1980s to Miami. She is interested in making art and public interventions that contest the coercive power of the built environment.
Dara is a media artist living in Troy, New York. She has been committed to participating in collaborative and political cultural work for many years.
Challenges to Capitalism,
Challenges for the Left:
and the Three-Way Fight
The "three-way fight" analysis proposes that we reconfigure our understanding of global politics away from a binary opposition between "us" (good, radical, freedom-loving) and "them" (bad, capitalists, oppressive), and toward a multipolar assessment in which capitalism attempts to maintain its hegemony by fending off insurgent movements both Left (anarchists, Zapatistas, etc.) and Right (fascists, al-Qaeda, etc.). Michael will explore the implications of this analysis, taking as his starting point the perceived tension between those on the Left who prioritize the struggle against anti-Semitism and those who emphasize the fight against Islamophobia. His talk will address problems within the North American radical Left in order to examine the broad prospects for an insurgent anti-capitalist movement that can challenge capitalism from the Left.
Michael is a longtime anarchist writer and activist from Chicago. He is currently working on a book-length history of the Sojourner Truth Organization, a revolutionary group largely based in the Midwest during the 1970s and 1980s. He spends much of his time trying to be a good dad.
You Stole My Tactics!
Critically Exploring the Capitalist Co-optation
of Decentralized Cultural Production
Andrea Maria and Arthur Foelsche
Radicals are often on the cutting edge of cultural production; many innovations in media, art, and organizational forms have their roots in social movements. This influence shouldn't be underestimated--from the rise of "citizen journalism" to cooperative forms of production, tools and ideas that anti-authoritarian radicals have created and developed in struggles for autonomy and against capitalism abound. Yet neoliberal capitalism has done a remarkable job of co-opting and commodifying these tactics and tools for its own ends; in the process, the content of these forms has been vitiated of politically subversive or revolutionary meaning and effect. How has this happened? Why do radicals have so little success utilizing forms, tools, and tactics that they helped architect? What can we do to reclaim those tactics, and use them to their fullest potential for subversive and revolutionary ends? From another perspective, attempts by radicals as well as some liberals and progressives to criticize mainstream culture, shifts the focus toward a critique of cultural forms rather than the conditions that produce them. How can radicals maintain a perspective that both demands critical content in media, art, and organizational forms while maintaining a criticism of the broader social structures in which they occur?
Andrea has reported on occupation and conflict from Iraq and Haiti, organized for migration justice and the right to housing, and written dispatches on international solidarity and anti-imperialism. Her articles have appeared in a range of online and print publications, from the Guardian Weekend Magazine to Counterpunch, and an anthology, Autonomous Media: Activating Resistance and Dissent (2005). Andrea sits on the board of the Institute for Anarchist Studies. Her research interests include new media and digital resistance, and the commodification of political practices. She is currently working on a book of interviews with international solidarity organizers.
Arthur is a member of the Free Society Collective and Black Sheep Books collective, and has been involved in a variety of media projects. He worked as an organizer for several Indymedia projects, produced two documentaries on the anti-globalization movement, has been involved in community radio news programming, and worked with a variety of nonprofit and progressive organizations to develop strategy and technological solutions for their needs. Arthur has taught at the Institute for Social Ecology, and currently programs for a living.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Women, the Body,
and Capitalist Accumulation
This talk will discuss the function of female labor and the female body in the process of capitalist accumulation, and the reproduction of the working class. In addition, it will look at the struggle women have made on the terrain of reproduction, and the importance of a feminist viewpoint for both anti-capitalist movements and the construction of a nonexploitative society.
Silvia is a longtime feminist activist and teacher. She has taught at the University of Port harcourt (Nigeria) and Hofstra University. Silvia is the author of many essays on culture, education, and women's struggles. Her books include: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation; Enduring Western Civilization: The Construction of Western Civilization and Its "Others" (editor); A Thousand Flowers: Social Struggles against Structural Adjustment in African Universities (co-editor); and African Visions: Literary Images, Political Change, and Social Struggles in Contemporary Africa (co-editor).
The Enclosure of the Commons--
and Stealing It Back
Shiri Pasternak and George Caffentzis
The commons and common property have revived in antagonism with the rise of neoliberalism, and provide an important political lingua franca for anarchists, ecologists, and Marxists. This co-presentation will look at property rights and privatization while surveying examples of the criminalization of collectivity; it will also examine how the robbery of the commons concept is taking place. Property rights regimes expose the inequalities of society; intellectual property rights regimes especially denaturalize the way things are owned and distributed. By comparing property rights systems around the world, we can see how property is not a "thing" but a social relationship, and a way of being in and knowing the world. Underpinning global privatization processes and colonization, the expansion of private property rights around the world threatens to destroy knowledge forms and community economy. But like material commons, these powerful common concepts can be enclosed too, and their "natural heirs" can be dispersed with nothing in their heads and hands! This is happening to the concept of commons and common property. This talk will also suggest some steps to stop the robbery of the commons and put forward a proposal for moving away from the public/private binary toward a radical commons.
Shiri is a freelance writer and researcher based in Toronto, and the founder of the Property Taskforce think tank (www.propertytaskforce.org). She is a research associate at the Polis Project on Ecological Governance, and the former associate director of the Forum on Privatization and the Public Domain. Shiri is currently working on a direct democracy project with a small collective in Toronto, and researching co-optations of commons and common property movements.
George is a member of the Midnight Notes Collective and a professor of philosophy at the University of Southern Maine. An e-book of his recent political essays can be downloaded from www.radicalpolytics.org.
Street Art and Counter Power
This workshop is an in-depth and serious discussion about the efficacy of street art and graffiti, and its role in social movements. Through an assessment of the role street art has played in four historical examples (Paris, France in 1968; Nicaragua in the 1970s; South Africa in the 1980s; and Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2001-2003), Josh will lay the groundwork for the idea that street-level artistic acts have the potential to become a democratic and grassroots counterinstitution to dominant mainstream media. When done in isolation, acts of street expression often primarily play the role of social release, allowing an individual to vent frustration against an unjust system or act, but when done en masse, collectively, street art can take on a powerful role that is essential to insurrections and radical social movements. The first half of the workshop will consist of a multimedia presentation of the material, containing nearly a hundred images of political street art and graffiti from the last forty years. The second half will be a group discussion about how to improve the role(s) street art plays in our contemporary social movements.
Josh is an artist and activist who co-edited the just released Realizing the Impossible: Art against Authority, a collection of writings on art and anarchism for AK Press. He also is working with a group of artists to collectivize the radical art distribution system at justseeds.org.
What a Concept Can Do:
Putting Theory to Work
When we struggle against oppressive structures and authoritarian regimes, one of the decisive factors in mobilizing resistance is our dissatisfaction with the conditions of the present. As obvious at this incipient dissatisfaction may be for many activists, the question of how to create a broader understanding of contemporary conditions remains a serious challenge for radical political movements. In order to articulate these conditions in an accessible, meaningful, and compelling analysis, radical political organizations must continually work to develop concepts that can connect structures of domination, modes of oppression, and various other forms of authority with our lived experiences. In this discussion, Stephen takes up the question of how concepts are created and what they can do in order to demonstrate how concepts can be used as weapons in anti-authoritarian struggles. Drawing from contemporary and historical examples, as well as from the theoretical work of Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, and Felix Guattari, we will explore the politics of concept production, and see how theoretical constructions can embolden our political imaginary while undermining forms of oppression and domination.
Stephen is a PhD candidate at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto, where he is researching the spatial pedagogies and attendant politics of contemporary installation art and architecture. His other research interests include the history of aesthetics, organizational science and complexity theory, anarchist theory, digital activist practices, and contemporary French philosophy. Stephen's political work is focused on issues of resource recuperation and mutation through organizations like Books to Prisoners and the production of "waste-based" art, architecture, and design.
the Loss of the Political
The neoliberal ethos suggests that social freedom and human well-being are best realized within the capitalist market--the deeper the reach of market transactions and imperatives that regulate our social, spiritual, and political lives, the better. Neoliberalism thus eviscerates the public sphere in two ways: through the privatization of its spaces, and by recrafting citizenship as the action fulfilled by the private, consuming, or entrepreneurial individual. What then remains of politics, and specifically what are the opportunities for radicals to advance politics in a depoliticized world? This talk will look at the origins and character of neoliberalism, how neoliberalism recasts historically political questions, such as the attainment of social goods, and particularly how the consumption of entertainment masks increasingly reactionary and repressive social conditions. We must acknowledge that neoliberalism is not simply a concern for society at large but that it also shapes and constrains the political responses of radicals. Together, we will explore the pitfalls of potentially apolitical Left responses, and how our theory and practice might better reclaim politics and lead toward meaningful confrontations with capitalism.
Walter is a member of the Free Society Collective, a collective member of Black Sheep Books, a carpenter, and a graduate student at City University New York. He has been involved with numerous organizing, independent media, and radical educational projects.