Department of Geography, University of Victoria
Victoria, BC, Canada
Richard J. White
Faculty of Development and Society, Sheffield Hallam University
Marcelo Lopes de Souza
Department of Geography, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The above named editors are seeking contributions to a proposed edited book entitled Transgressing Frontiers: Anarchism, Geography, and the Spirit of Revolt.
Description & Rationale
“New ideas germinate everywhere, seeking to force their way into the light, to find an application in life; everywhere they are opposed by the inertia of those whose interest it is to maintain the old order; they suffocate in the stifling atmosphere of prejudice and traditions.” – Peter Kropotkin, The Spirit of Revolt
In an age that is desperately in need of critical new directions, anarchist geographies exist at the crossroads of possibility and desire. By breathing new life into the inertia of the old, anarchism intrepidly explores vital alternatives to the stasis of hierarchical social relations through the geographical practice of mutual aid, voluntary association, direct action, horizontality, and self-management. Despite the exciting and vigorous contribution to geography that key anarchist thinkers like Élisée Reclus and Peter Kropotkin made in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, anarchist praxis in the discipline remained highly underrepresented from the mid-twentieth century onwards.
In recent years, a serious (re)turn toward anarchist thought and practice has begun to challenge and inspire geographers to travel beyond the traditional frontiers of geographical knowledge, which have all too often served to reinforce the status quo and limit our ideas and imagination about what is both possible and practical. In 2012, after a 34-year interval, Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography published a new special issue on anarchist geographies, signalling a desire for a more emancipatory geography and hinting at the possibilities of a geographical turn toward anarchist praxis. In that same year Brazil saw the publication of a special issue of the journal Cidades, which was devoted to understanding left-libertarian (anarchist, neo-anarchist and libertarian autonomist) contributions to the transformation of urban space and life. Inspired by this renewed interest in the melding of anarchist and geographical thought, Transgressing Frontiers seeks to push new ideas further into the light by illuminating the kaleidoscopic range of geographies that become possible when exploring anarchist lines of flight. Accordingly, the collection aims to strengthen the contributions of both geography and its practitioners in articulating an explicitly anarchist praxis in seeking solutions to the very real human and other-than-human crises that are unfolding across the world today. Our desire is not simply to push the boundaries, but to actively transgress the frontiers of contemporary geographical scholarship by encouraging the spirit of revolt. In moving confidently and constructively toward the production of anarchist spaces, we aim to foster new geographical imaginations that energetically cultivate alternative spatial practices. Through the articulation and realization of the idea of transgression, we believe that many exciting directions, inspiring vistas, and reformulated territories will be opened up for scholars and activists to engage with. In the context of transgressing geographical frontiers – whether employed as a concept, a metaphor, or as a point of empirical focus – we are particularly keen to promote the development of three key areas of anarchist geographies:
1) The radicalization of pedagogy
Pedagogy is central to geographical knowledge, where Kropotkin’s ‘What Geography Ought to Be’ has significantly shaped the face of contemporary geographical thought. At the same time, anarchists have developed very different political imaginations than Marxists, where the importance of pedagogy has always been of primary importance. Pedagogy accordingly represents one of the key sites of contact where anarchist geographies can continue to inform and revitalize contemporary geographical thought. Anarchists have long been committed to bottom-up, ‘organic’ transformations of societies, subjectivities, and modes of organizing. For anarchists the importance of direct action and prefigurative politics have always taken precedence over concerns about the state, a focus that stems back to Max Stirner’s notion of insurrection in ‘The Ego and Its Own’ as walking one’s own way, ‘rising up’ above government, religion, and other hierarchies, not necessarily to overthrow them, but to simply disregard these structures by taking control of one’s own individual life and creating alternatives on the ground. Thus, the relevance of pedagogy to anarchist praxis (understood in a broad sense, as in Paulo Freire’s ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’) stems from its ability to guide a new way of thinking about the world and as a space that is able to foster transgression.
2) The use of space for resistance and the incubation of alternative social structures.
Space is never a neutral ‘stage’ on which social actors play their roles, sometimes cooperating with each other, sometimes struggling against each other. Space is a product of interrelations, and is always under construction. Its co-constitutive role in the development of social relations is multiple and complex: a reference for identity-building and re-building; a material condition for existence and survival; a symbol and instrument of power. However, as much as space has been made instrumental for the purposes of heteronomy (from class exploitation to gender oppression to racial segregation), space (spatial re-organisation, spatial practices and spatial resources) is also a basic condition for human emancipation, i.e. for autonomy and freedom. Recognising the way space has been used for resistance, especially in those more specifically left-libertarian contexts (from the early anarchist organising efforts in the 19th century, to the Paris Commune, to the early kibbutzim, to the makhnovitchina in Ukraine, to the socio-spatial revolution during the Spanish Civil War, to the contemporary re-birth of left-libertarian and sometimes specifically anarchist praxis among social movements such as Mexican Zapatistas) is important. Here, a greater understanding of space can teach a great deal about both limits and potentialities, particularly in relation to the possibilities and tasks of re-purposing and re-structuring the built environment, changing images of place, and overcoming old and new boundaries of all sorts.
3) The dissemination of new ideas with respect to lived socio-spatial practices and their application.
Without questioning the importance of anarchist socio-spatial experiments of the past, the fact is that the last two decades have seen a kind of re-birth of libertarian practices and principles (horizontality, self-management, decentralisation, and so on), that are not necessarily connected to the anarchist tradition in a strict sense. Many contemporary social movements and forms of protest (and certainly most of those that are particularly creative and innovative) present a clear left-libertarian ‘soul’. Examples of these abound, especially in Europe and the Americas, though there are some highly interesting examples in other continents as well, such as South Africa’s Abahlali base Mjondolo (literally ‘Movement of the Shack Dwellers’), particularly strong in Durban and Cape Town. Nowadays, emancipatory praxis is becoming gradually synonymous with direct action, horizontal decision-making and autonomy, and not with political parties and a ‘taking-state-power’ mentality. More than ever before, Marxist – and especially Leninist – methods and strategies have been placed under considerable suspicion. These developments create a range of important questions to consider, including: to what extent spatial practices have been consistently compatible with left-libertarian principles? To what extent can we say that anarchism and anarchists (or rather neo-anarchists, as well as libertarian autonomists) animate these movements, waves of protest, and forms of resistance? And what activities have been developed by these activists (in the realms of self-defence, production, culture etc.)?
Abstracts are due by May 15th, 2014. Please email your abstracts to all three editors.
Selection of papers will occur quickly and we will endeavor to inform authors of inclusion by June 15th, 2014. Completed chapters are due by December 15th 2014.
250 to 300 word abstracts. Chapter length is expected to be between 8,000 and 10,000 words.