Call for Proposals: ‘Real Democracy and the Revolutions of our Time’

26 February 2012Making Connections

2nd Anarchist Studies Network Conference: ‘Making Connections
Loughborough University (UK)
3-5 September 2012

Not since the 1960s has there been such global interest in the prospects and possibilities of revolution. From the Middle East to the metropolises of Europe, South Asia, and the Americas, large number of people have taken to the streets in protest against the economic and political corruption that has become increasingly visible in the wake of a failed project of neoliberal globalisation. Many are also posing deeper questions not just about neoliberal economics and the governments under its ideological sway, but about capitalism and the state system that sustains it.

In the ‘Real Democracy and the Revolutions of our Time’ sessions of the 2nd Anarchist Studies Network Conference, ‘Making Connections we will discuss and debate the historical origins of these momentous changes, the specific forms in which they have unfolded, and their generative potential for the future. We will focus in particular on their implications for democratic and revolutionary practice and theory, asking questions such as the following: How are these grassroots social movements challenging prevailing practices and theories of democracy and revolution? What new organisational forms have they developed, and to what extent are these viable alternatives to liberal representative democracy? What are the forces arrayed against the revolutionary movements of our time, and what new revolutionary strategies have emerged to overcome them?

We will focus in particular on the multiple experiences of the Arab Spring, and the forms of radical democracy practiced in the global Occupy X movement. Questions which might be addressed in these sessions include, but are not limited to, the following:

The Arab Spring: origins, originality, futures

-What histories prepared or produced these insurrections? And what historical narratives prevented experts, activists, state security apparatuses, and other interested parties from anticipating them more closely, and/or recognising their full implications when they erupted?

-What new figures and forms of grassroots self-organisation have these movements invented – figures of which the ‘Free State of Tahrir Square’ is at once the epitome, and (perhaps) the tree that hides the forest? How far has their success or failure, measured in pragmatic terms, been a function of their originality? What strategies, and what pre-existing cultural forms, underwrite their ‘spontaneity’? To what extent has their praxis generated new theoretical openings for thinking about democracy and revolutionary political change, not only in the Arab world, but elsewhere, too?

-What are the possible and/or probable futures of these movements? What are the forces ranged against them? How far may the new forms of self-organisation which have emerged on the ground be able to establish themselves as enduring vehicles for renovation and resistance? What alliances with forces outside the region might help these revolts achieve their full revolutionary potential? And how can people elsewhere draw strength and inspiration from the Arab example, without reifying it as a ‘model’ which can simply be translated and ‘applied’?

Radical Democracy in the Occupy Movements

The prevalence of direct-democratic, consensus-based forms of cooperation and decision-making in the Occupy X movement is one of its key distinguishing features. Does this represent a vindication and normalisation of post-WWII anarchist models of collective association? Or is this trend still very much in struggle against the reflexes of hierarchy and representation? Is assemblary consensus a genuine expression of the popular will, or merely populism without real deliberation? What about invisible leaderships, as well as very visible ones? We welcome proposals that address these and other questions related to the theme of practices of radical democracy in the global Occupy movements. We are particularly interested in international, comparative, and historical perspectives that will help to launch a debate on the possibilities and limitations of anarchist models of organisation in mass movements which are not explicitly committed to an anti-hierarchical anarchist agenda.

Representing the Revolutions of our Time: media, creativity, and grassroots political change

From Seattle to Tahrir Square, from Exarchia to Occupy Wall Street, from the piqueteros of Argentina to London’s Blackberry Riots: how has our perception of recent and on-going grassroots social movements been shaped by their representation in the mainstream media, academic discourse, and the narratives and images produced by movements’ actors themselves. How are the creative energies released by these vernacular revolts re-shaping, in their turn, our sense of what is politically and aesthetically possible at the beginning of the 21st century?

-How are the narratives and figures of occupation and revolution constructed in our time? How do these narratives and figures differ from those of previous revolutions – from 1798, 1848, 1870, 1917, 1968…? Are these differences purely ‘aesthetic’, or are they predictive, even productive, of a different politics, and a different set of outcomes? How far are we from having invented the media, and the art forms, which our revolutions require, and deserve? And what obstacles still stand in the way of this convergence?

-Is the revolution inevitably a moment of heightened creativity, not just for those who think of themselves as artists, but for those who think of themselves as non-artists as well? Is such creativity simply a side-effect of a radically ‘open’ political context, or does it itself play a decisive role in shaping political discourse and action, and thus in determining the outcome of events?

-What is lost in the translation of the discourse of activists, protesters, rioters and revolutionaries into other terms – those of the mass media, those of the dominant political culture, those of academia, and those of ‘high art’ practice?

The stream organisers welcome proposals from scholars, activists, journalists, artists and citizens involved in or concerned with real democracy and the revolutions of our time. In addition to analysis, interpretation, testimony and practical proposals for concrete action, artistic interventions in a range of forms and media (films, plays, poems, photographs, performances, happenings…) are also welcome. Proposals which combine theory and practice in innovative and illuminating ways are particularly encouraged. The precise presentational forms of the panels are not predetermined, and will be shaped by the nature of the contributions received and accepted. All artistic/non-conventional proposals should be accompanied by detailed specifications of any technical and/or logistical requirements.

Please send abstracts of not more than 300 words (including your name, the title of your contribution, contact details and any institutional affiliation) to the stream organisers (below) by 31st March 2012 at latest.

Laurence Davis, College Lecturer, Department of Government, University College Cork, Ireland

Peter Snowdon, LSM Doctoral Fellow, Media, Art, and Design Faculty/Provinciale Hogeschool Limburg, Belgium

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