Not knowing where to begin, let me start with a list of links pertaining to resistance studies, militant ethnography, and some very interesting work by anthropologist Jeffrey Juris.
A very comprehensive website, the purpose of which is described as follows: “In an attempt to remedy the lack of academic study in the field of resistance to power and its social transformation the School of Global Studies at Göteborg University has launched this Resistance Studies Network. With the help of networking, collaborative conferences, research and publication projects and thematic educational events, this network hopes to deepen the cooperation between researchers interested in understanding practices of resistance, and its connections to power and social change.”
RESISTANCE STUDIES MAGAZINE
Linked to the project above, this has just started publishing in 2008. It describes itself as a peer-reviewed, open access magazine devoted to the study of resistance and social change.
NETWORKING FUTURES: The Movements Against Corporate Globalization
A new book by Jeffrey S. Juris, published by Duke University Press. Description:
“In 2001 and 2002, the anthropologist Jeffrey S. Juris participated in the Barcelona-based Movement for Global Resistance, one of the most influential anti-corporate globalization networks in Europe. Juris took part in hundreds of meetings, gatherings, protests, and online discussions. Those experiences form the basis of Networking Futures, an innovative ethnography of transnational activist networking within the movements against corporate globalization. In an account full of activist voices and on-the-ground detail, he explains how activists are not only responding to growing poverty, inequality, and environmental devastation but also building social laboratories for the production of alternative values, discourses, and practices.”
Also by Jeffrey S. Juris, online:
This paper explores militant ethnography as research method and political praxis based on my experience as activist and researcher among anti-corporate globalization movements in Barcelona. What is the relationship between ethnography and political action? How can we make our work relevant to those with whom we study? Militant ethnography is a politically engaged and collaborative form of participant observation carried out from within rather than outside of grassroots movements. Traditional objectivist perspectives fail to grasp the concrete logic of activist practice, leading to inadequate accounts and theoretical models of little use to activists themselves. Meanwhile, the classic figure of the organic intellectual has become increasingly undermined, as contemporary activists produce and circulate their own analyses through global communication networks in real time.
Militant ethnography breaks down the distinction between observer/intellectual and activist/practitioner. By organizing protests and gatherings, facilitating meetings, participating in strategic and tactical debates, and putting one’s body on the line during mass direct actions, militant ethnographers can better understand complex movement dynamics, while remaining active political subjects. Rather than generate sweeping political directives, collaboratively produced ethnographic knowledge aims to facilitate ongoing activist (self-) reflection about movement goals, tactics, strategies, and organizational forms. At the same time, there is often a marked contradiction between the moment of research and the moment of academic writing, publishing, and distribution, which involve vastly different systems of rewards and incentives. Indeed, the horizontal networking logic associated with anti-corporate globalization movements represents a serious challenge to the institutional logic of academia itself.
The practice of militant ethnography is partially meant to address what Loic Wacquant in his discussion of Bourdieu’s reflexive sociology (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992: 39) calls the “intellectual bias,” or the way our position as outside observer “entices us to construe the world as a spectacle, as a set of significations to be interpreted rather than as concrete problems to be solved practically.” The tendency to position oneself at a distance and treat social life as an object to decode rather than entering into the flow and rhythm of ongoing social interaction hinders out ability to understand social practice, as Bourdieu (1977) suggests:
The anthropologist’s particular relation to the object of his study contains the makings of a theoretical distortion inasmuch as his situation as an observer, excluded from the real play of social activities by the fact that he has no place…inclines him to a hermaneutic representation of practices (1; cited in Paley 2001: 18).
Social Forums and their Margins: Networking Logics and the Cultural Politics of Autonomous Space
The World Social Forum (WSF) emerged in the wake of a global wave of protest against capitalism characterized, in part, by the expression of broader political ideals through network-based organizational forms. The WSF was thus conceived as an “open space” for exchanging ideas, resources, and information; promoting initiatives; and generating concrete alternatives. At the same time, many grassroots activists have criticized the forums for being organized in a top-down fashion, including political parties despite their formal prohibition, and favoring prominent intellectuals. Radicals thus face a continual dilemma: participate in the forums as a way to reach a broader public, or remain outside given their political differences? Based on my participation as activist and ethnographer with the (-ex) Movement for Global Resistance (MRG) in Barcelona and Peoples Global Action (PGA), this article explores the cultural politics of autonomous space at the margins of the world and regional social forums on three levels. Empirically, it provides an ethno-genealogy of the emergence, diffusion, and proliferation of the concept of autonomous space. Theoretically, it argues that the cultural politics of autonomous space express the broader networking logics and politics increasingly inscribed into emerging organizational architectures. Politically, it suggests that the proliferation of autonomous spaces represents a promising model for rethinking the Forum as an innovative network-based organizational form.