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Open access

A Review of "Virginia Woolf and the Materiality of Theory

Natália da Silva Perez

Derek Ryan’s Virginia Woolf and the Materiality of Theory is an exploration of “Woolf’s writing alongside Deleuze’s philosophy and new materialist theories of ‘sex’, ‘animal’ and ‘life’.” What might at first glance sound like yet another exegetical effort to elucidate new meanings in Woolf’s writing—this time using new materialist approaches—is in fact a claim towards an understanding of Woolf’s literary practice as itself a form of theorizing. In Ryan’s intriguing study, Woolf emerges as a precursor of, and inspiration for, contemporary philosophical and critical approaches that privilege matter and material relations as productive venues for “nonanthropocentric conceptualizations” of the world (9).

Open access

Silence against Political Rape

Arab Women's Subalterniy During Political Struggles

Ola Abdalkafor

Arab Spring movements in many Arab countries revealed a gap at the heart of Arab society and politics: the large-scale subalternity of Arab women in such movements. In this essay, I hypothesize that, with few exceptions, Arab women have always avoided participation in social and political activism because of their fear of political rape – raping women as punishment during political turmoil. The essay traces the history of political rape through different stages of Arab history. The examples are taken from history, literature and international reports and they mainly cover three countries: Syria, Egypt, and Libya. These examples prove that vulnerable women’s horror at any possibility of their being sexually abused and then rejected by their families and society has always haunted them, preventing them from struggling or protesting. The essay concludes that subalternity is the only stance from which Arab women can encounter political rape. Then, the essay discusses the subalternity of Arab women in the light of the thought of the postcolonial critic Gayatri Spivak. This argument leads to the contention that the silence of Arab women vulnerable to political rape should not be considered passive and that feminist theories and actions cannot be successful in supporting subaltern Arab women without the ethical responsibility theorized by Spivak as the most appropriate approach to the subaltern female. This approach entails respecting subaltern Arab women’s culture and fears and avoiding any attempt to make them copies of the European feminist self. Subaltern Arab women who are afraid of being sexually abused have the right to protect their bodies and stick to their culture while still participating in public life.

Open access

After Disciplines?

Critical Activity as Encyclopaideia

Mino Conte

In this article, I critically discuss the ambiguous notion of ‘discipline’ and the related constructions of inter-, multi-, post-disciplinarity, from an ‘epistemic’ and ‘socio-political’ point of view. Particularly, I focus on the role of ‘power’ and ‘authority’, and on the consequences that follow by assuming a ‘foundationalist’ or ‘post-foundationalist’ approach. Next, assuming a ‘Critical Theory’ perspective, I try to rethink the meaning of a ‘critical activity’ able to generate a real social and epistemic change. I contend that a new discipline of thought is needed, rather than new disciplines, and a new personal attitude, not only engaged in mere procedures of recording “facts”, but characterised by a serious concern for the role of generalization or theory. A ‘crossing homeless’ attitude is proposed, that is at the same time theoretical, intellectual and practical, concerning the ‘unreasonable’ discipline of a critical activity aimed at putting culture in circle (‘encyclopaideia’) by systematically discontinuing events of subjectifi cation.

Open access

(Almost) Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Activist Research but Were Afraid to Ask

What Activist Researchers Say about Theory and Methodology

Aziz Choudry

This article seeks to explore the work of activist researchers located in social movements, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and people’s organisations with close relations to contemporary progressive grassroots struggles in a number of countries, mainly in the global South. Drawing from extensive interviews with these researchers on their processes and practice of research and knowledge production, located outside of academic institutions and partnerships, it documents their understandings about the theoretical frameworks and methodologies they employ. This article thus foregrounds articulations of actual research practices from the perspectives of activist researchers themselves. In doing so, it suggests that social movement scholars can learn more about the intellectual work within movements, including the relations between theoretical and methodological approaches and action, from a deeper engagement with the work of activist researchers outside of academia.

Open access

Gauging the Mood

Operationalizing Emotion through Ethnography

Brian Callan

This article illustrates a case study of an ethnographic research project in order to highlight the processes by which the project thesis emerged, the form of the knowledge on which it is based, and the relationship of that form of knowledge to other disciplines. The case-study is part of a larger ethnographic research project based in Jerusalem area between 2011 and 2012 on the sociality and affective processes involved in what is normally referred to as pro-Palestinian activism. Current anthropological concerns and debates are highlighted and discussed by following the ethnographic process from the development of a proposal based on a perceptual model of affect (Damasio, 2000), to ‘learning with people’ to the fieldwork phase (Ingold, 2008), to the analysis, interpretation of findings through the intersubjective faculty of judging (Arendt, 1968). Specifically, this work aims to clarify the form and validity of knowledge produced by an ethnographic engagement with phenomenological theory. Using an extract from field notes, from which I developed a thesis on role of weirdness in dissent, I highlight the intersubjective and emergent nature of knowledge production in ethnography through the development of trusting relationships with participants and the generative tensions and possibilities of being a researcher while also becoming an activist. In this process, the knowledge produced represents neither the participants’ nor the researcher’s understandings of the world but resides in what Arendt called a ‘third position’. Such a method of knowledge production should also be apposite to interdisciplinary exchanges within academia."

Open access

Power, Knowledge, and Resistances in the Study of Social Movements

Deanna Dadusc

This article will analyse the power relations involved in social movement research, exploring alternative epistemological practices that resist and subvert academic conventions in order to create new modes of knowing. I will critique the production of a knowledge that aims at liberation and emancipation by conducting research 'about' or 'on behalf of' social movements, and I will show how this approach might lead to their very subjection. It will be argued that, in order to avoid the reproduction of power relations they seek to resist, research practices need to go beyond dialectical modes of knowing, departing from assumptions of the subject/object of knowledge, of objective/subjective research and from the hierarchy between theory and praxis. A precedent is found in the research approaches of post-colonial, activist, and queer studies that seek to experiment different modes of knowing, based not on observation and participation, but on learning from the experience of resistance in social movements: in this way resistant practices become an epistemological perspective rather than an object of study, and research can become a tool of resistance.

Open access

Rethinking Social Theory in Contemporary Social Movements

Nadia Ferrer

In current and future situations of trans-global crises, social dissent and related practices of resistance cut across conventional country boundaries. Expressions of dissent and resistance pursue change through unconventional practices not only to challenge current governance, but to re-invent participation. They seek to impact society by transforming acquired values, subjectivities and knowledge. Despite these transformations of people’s subjectivities, majoritarian theories examining social movements still focus on finding rational patterns that can be instrumentalized in data sets and produce generalizable theoretical outcomes. This paper problematizes how social theory makes sense of collective action practices on the ground. Everyday non-discursive practices prove productivity-led theories' increasing disengagement with their object while challenging the excessive bureaucratization of scientific knowledge (Lyotard, 1997). That is, people experiment collectively with their capacities, and create their own initiatives and identities which do not follow determined patterns but do-while-thinking. The dichotomist approach of majoritarian debates in collective action theory is critically analysed by introducing the work of ‘minor authors’ and ‘radical theorists’. The fundamental purpose of this paper is to open a discussion space between the field of social action theories and activism knowledge, hence encouraging the creation of plateaus that blur academic boundaries and construct new subjectivities beyond “the indignity of speaking for others” (Deleuze in Foucault et al., 1977. p. 209). Drawing on the experience of the 15th of May 2011 in Spain, I analyse how radical theory reflects on current movements and collectives."

Open access

A Review of "Cosmopolitan Futures"

Teppo Eskelinen

GiusePPe CAruso (2012) CosMoPolitAn futures. GloBAl ACtivisM for A just WorlD. HelsinKi: into PuBlisHinG. free e-BooK. PP.228, isBn 978-952-264-216-5

The World Social Forum (WSF) - the gathering of global justice activists, an inspiration for innumerable people worldwide, even hailed as “the world parliament in exile” in its early days - is in its second decade of existence. 14 years after its initial launch in Porto Alegre, Brazil, the Forum has materialized in numerous locations worldwide, getting ever closer to its global ideal. On the other hand, some surely wished to see it become a vehicle for institutional change by its teenage, a scenario which has not unfolded.

Open access

The Role of the Reflexive Self in Mailer's Protests

Jon Dean

In The Armies of the Night (1968) and Miami and the Siege of Chicago (1968/2008) Norman Mailer details the exploits of the anti-Vietnam war protestors and his role in the protests. With an ethnographer’s eye for detail and a novelist’s eye for imagery, he constructs a picture of youthful fear and exuberance, a totalitarian reaction to protest, and documents an America which he realises is slowing eating itself. In these nonfi ction novels, he places himself at the centre of events, interpreting the data through his own frazzled, drink-fuelled, mischievous self. This article utilises Pierre Bourdieu’s methodological framework of refl exive sociology to both critically analyse Mailer as an ethnographer and qualitative researcher and ask whether inquiry into social protest can be adequately conducted through the autobiographical gaze of a novelist. It is argued that by using such literary resources and techniques, we can, in the spirit of C. Wright Mills, move to a more public sociology where literary techniques are valued, rather than dismissed as unscientific.

Open access

The 1905-1907 Revolution in the Kingdom of Poland

Articulation of Political Subjectivities among Workers

Wictor Marzec

The article examines the political mobilisation and construction of modern political identities among workers during the 1905-1907 Revolution in the Kingdom of Poland. Political process, creation and alternation of the political subjectivities of workers are explained in terms of hegemonic articulations as presented by the political discourse theory of Ernesto Laclau. While social claims merged with resistance against the national oppression of the Tsarist regime and the struggle for social and political recognition, political subjectivities took various contingent and competitive forms; thus the same demands could be integrated into different political narratives and collective identities. Combining discourse theory and process tracing makes alternations of the political field in time intelligible.