RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2013

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269 Demanding the impossible: transgressing the frontiers of geography through anarchism (2); Embracing anarchist praxis at a time of political, economic and social crisis
Affiliation Participatory Geographies Research Group
Convenor(s) Richard White (Sheffield Hallam University, UK)
Simon Springer (University of Victoria, Canada)
Collin Williams (The University of Sheffield, UK)
Federico Ferretti (University of Geneva, Switzerland)
Alexandre Gillet (University of Geneva, Switzerland)
Marcelo Lopes de Souza (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Philippe Pelletier (University of Lyon, France)
Chair(s) Simon Springer (University of Victoria, Canada)
Timetable Friday 30 August 2013, Session 2 (11:10 - 12:50)
Room Sir Alexander Fleming Building, Room 120
Session abstract In an age that is desperately in need of new critical directions the philosopher Simon Critchley (2011) argued that “An anarchical order is not just desirable, it is also feasible, practicable and enactable...". Despite the exciting and vigorous contribution to geography that key anarchist writers - particularly Élisée Reclus and Peter Kropotkin - made in the late nineteenth century anarchist praxis in the discipline remained conspicuous by its absence for much of the twentieth century. In recent years however a serious (re)turn toward anarchist thought and practice has begun to challenge and inspire geographers to travel beyond the frontiers of geographical knowledge (which have in too many cases served only to diminish and limit our ideas and imagination about what is both possible and practical).

In 2012, the first Special Issue in Anarchist Geographies published by Antipode in 34 years was a definitive moment in indicating a geographical turn toward anarchist praxis. Through illustrating the exciting kaleidoscopic range of geographies that were emerging in this area, the Special Issue exposed the very real, new and exciting anarchist lines of flight that are strengthening the ability of geography/ers to contribute meaningfully to the very real human and other-than-human crises that are unfolding throughout the world today.

Moving confidently and constructively toward new radical and "anarchist" spaces therefore has allowed for new geographical imaginations and spatial practices to flourish, and opened up many exciting directions and territories for geographers to engage with. The Panel is keen to support and promote any anarchist theory and practice that will further animate anarchist geographies with "new burst(s) of colour" (Springer et al 2012). In the context of challenging geographical frontiers (whether employed as a concept, a metaphor or as a point of empirical focus) we are particularly keen to promote the three areas of anarchist geography/ies that Brietbart (2012: 1584) identifies: (1) radicalizing pedagogy (2) the use of space for resistance and the incubation of alternative social structures; (3) the dissemination of new ideas and spatial/ social practices, and all the anarchist spaces that lie in between!
Linked Sessions Demanding the impossible: transgressing the frontiers of geography through anarchism (1)
Demanding the impossible: transgressing the frontiers of geography through anarchism (3a) Reanimating Anarchist Geographies: toward new bursts of colour
Demanding the impossible: transgressing the frontiers of geography through anarchism (3b) Reanimating Anarchist Geographies: toward new bursts of colour
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2013@rgs.org
Anarchism and the Future of Statecraft
Uri Gordon (Loughborough University, UK)
Contemporary anarchists' attitudes to the state maintain a continuity with the traditional anarchist rejection of government, yet their specifics are structured by more recent developments in the state institution itself and in its perception by its critics. This article argues that today's anarchist attitudes to the state are structured by three main factors: the growing securitization of democracies and their turn away from welfare policies; the proliferation of theories of power inspired by poststructuralism which dislocate power from its traditionally-conceived centers; and the need to work in alliance with social movements that still see the state as a potential resource for taming the excesses of capitalism. Following a survey of contemporary anarchists' perceptions of these developments, the article closes with some starting-points for a discussion of the future of state power and resistance to it, in a future marked by financial collapse, energy decline and runaway climate change.
The Challenge of Anarchist Geography to Imperial Japan: Elisée Reclus as Emblem of Resistance in 1930s’ Hokkaidō
Nadine Willems (University of Oxford, UK)
This paper examines the complex web of transnational intellectual connections that fuelled the diffusion and implementation of the ideas of French anarchist-geographer Elisée Reclus (1830-1905) in pre-war Japan. It traces the active transfer of information by members of a non-institutional network that spanned Europe, America and East-Asia, revealing the reach of Reclus’ works all the way to a small rural community on Japan’s northern frontier. At a time of aggressive territorial expansion that assigned to academic geography a leading role in mapping and organising the empire, the dimension of anarchist geography as a moral, emancipatory practice provided a counterpoint to prevailing ideologies of nature-subjugation and racial hierarchy. The frontier-territory of Hokkaido became an experimental ground for a self-sufficient way of life which emphasised a deep understanding of man’s indebtedness to his natural environment. I argue here that the concerted pursuit of this agrarian and autonomous lifestyle represented a form of quiet resistance to the rise of militarism and nationalism that characterised the period. By cutting ties with the state-controlled system of production and exchange, self-sustaining intellectuals marked their opposition to their government’s imperial ambitions. Non-participation in state-sponsored activities and a new form of space utilisation constituted positive acts of dissent. I finally suggest that the notion of emancipatory geography supplied by Reclus encouraged some Hokkaido settlers to rethink their relationship with the ethnic Ainus living in proximity. In light of current renewed interest in anarchist geography, the activities of Reclus’ supporters in 1930s’ Japan deserve further investigation.
Beyond the frontiers of capitalo-centric economics: harnessing a "post-capitalist" anarchist society.
Richard White (Sheffield Hallam University, UK)
Collin Williams (The University of Sheffield, UK)
Re-reading the economic landscapes of contemporary western society as being composed of economic plurality and difference, this paper explores how economic relations are largely embedded in non-commodified work practices such as mutual aid, reciprocity, co-operation and inclusion. Such a thicker reading of "the economic" in society has many important implications for anarchist praxis, not least in demonstrating that anarchist spaces of work and organisation in western society are not merely in the process of becoming, but are to be found everywhere in the here and now. As the anarchist and geographer Colin Ward (1982: 14) observed: An anarchist society, a society which organizes itself without authority, is always in
existence, like a seed beneath the snow "

As we experience once again the latest crisis of capitalism, and witness the thick fogs of austerity biting ever deeper across western society, the paper considers how community self-help can be harnessed in (post-capitalist) future visions of inclusion and employment. It is argued that there is a great need - and challenge - for anarchist praxis to make these non-commodified spaces (more) visible so as to demonstrate the feasibility of opening up the future to more empowering and inclusive economic modes of production, exchange and consumption that lie beyond the market and the state.
‘Politics is on the Street’: Anarchism and the Commons
John McMahon Crossan (University of Glasgow, UK)
Chantal Mouffe (2005) argues that notions of the common good shut down possibilities for the political by assuming homogenous views. In this paper I argue the commons can be mobilized as part of interventions that challenge neo-liberalizing logics and hence are part of struggles over the contemporary city that unsettle a notion of a fixed common good. On Mayday last year Anarchists marched through Glasgow behind a banner that read ‘Politics is on the Streets’. This powerful claim connects politics directly to the unmistakably urban world of street life; it unapologetically tangles politics up in the social and material geographies of the city; and it does so in the here and now. This prefigurative position invokes much within contemporary writings on the commons (see Hodkinson 2012, De Angelis 2010, Kenrick 2009). For me this work moves commoning beyond a simple sense of enacting a ‘common good’ to something more antagonistic and about different claims to produce the city. This paper considers the work of a group, influenced by anarchist theory and practice, known as the Glasgow Social Centre, arguing that their ongoing attempt to produce common spaces in the city can be seen as a simultaneous effort to re-socialize politics and re-politicize the everyday spaces of our urban worlds. As such Social Centre activism gives a sense of how commoning can be a productive, dynamic (and always contested) process, inextricably tied to the social and material geographies of the street.