Since 1994, the Zapatista political autonomy project has been claiming that “another world is possible”. This experience has influenced many intellectuals of contemporary radical social movements who see in the indigenous organization a new political alter-native. I will first explore some of the current theories on Zapatism and the crossing of some of authors into anarchist thought. The second part of the article draws on an ethnography conducted in the municipality of Chenalhó, in the highlands of Chiapas, to emphasize some of the everyday practices inside the self-proclaimed “autonomous municipality” of Polhó. As opposed to irenic theories on Zapatism, this article describes a peculiar process of autonomy and brings out some contradictions between the political discourse and the day-to-day practices of the autonomous power, focusing on three specific points linked to economic and political constraints in a context of political violence: the economic dependency on humanitarian aid and the “bureaucratic habitus”; the new “autonomous” leadership it involved, between “good government” and “good management”; and the internal divisions due to the return of some displaced members and the exit of international aid.
Views from its day-to-day praxis
Negotiating Gender in Indigenous Justice Spaces
Shannon Speed, María Teresa Sierra, Lynn Stephen, Jessica Johnson and Heike Schaumberg
In recent years in both the United States and Latin America, indigenous peoples have taken increasing control over local justice, creating indigenous courts and asserting more autonomy in the administration of justice in their tribes, regions, or communities. New justice spaces, such as the Chickasaw District Courts in Oklahoma and the Zapatista Good Governance Councils in Chiapas, work to resolve conflict based largely on indigenous ‘customs and traditions.’ Many of the cases brought before these local legal bodies are domestic cases that directly involve issues of gender, women’s rights and culture. Yet the relationship between ‘indigenous traditions’ and women’s rights has been a fraught one. This forum article considers how these courts emerged in the context of neoliberalism and whether they provide new venues for indigenous women to pursue their rights and to challenge gendered social norms or practices that they find oppressive.
Simon Tormey and Jean-Paul Gagnon
In reinterrogating core concepts from his 2015 book, The End of Representative Politics, Simon Tormey explains the nature of emergent, evanescent, and contrarian forms of political practice. He sheds light on what is driving the political disruption transpiring now through a series of engaging comments from the field on well-known initiatives like Occupy, #15M, and Zapatistas and also lesser-known experiments such as the creation of new political parties like Castelló en Moviment, among others. Postrepresentative representation, it is argued, is not an oxymoron; it, like the term antipolitical politics, is rather a provocative concept designed to capture the radically new swarming politics underway in countries like Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Iceland. Citizens are tooling up with ICTs, and this has led to resonant political movements like #15M in Spain or Occupy more broadly. Key takeaways from this interview include the double-edged nature of representation and the fact that new forms of political representation are breaking the mould.
Betsy Bowman and Bob Stone
Alongside recent world-historical dates such as 11 September 2001, we would place 15 February 2003. On that day, around 10 million people—some estimates are much higher—demonstrated on the streets of the world's cities in opposition to the US war on Iraq, then being merely threatened. Sartre's study of the elements of history in Critique of Dialectical Reason and its unpublished ethical sequel, Morality and History, illuminate, and are illuminated by, the movements that contest today's global system. From the Critique, we'll engage his notions of negative universality as threat of death and the "fusing" of "series" into "groups" as response. From Morality and History, we'll take "integral humanity" as a goal and standard; it seems to us built into the global act of February 15 and into the wider movement of which that day was a moment. After comparing a Sartrean take on February 15 with the famous Habermas-Derrida appeal inspired by that day, we'll close with some reciprocal illuminations between Sartre's theories and Zapatista practice.
A Spark of Hope
K. Ravi Raman
On 19 February 2003, the armed police of the currently rightwing government of the Indian state of Kerala descended on over one thousand adivasi1 families— men, women and children—who had peacefully settled on the fringes of the Muthanga range of the Wayanad Wild Life Sanctuary, driving them out in a most brutal fashion and even killing one of those women who resisted. The state had failed to give any prior warning of the police action, nor was any attempt made toward a mediated negotiation. The police unleashed a reign of terror in the region; physical molestation of women was also reported, the latter having been substantiated by the National Women’s Commission. Those who fell into the hands of the police were brutally manhandled en route to the police station; in a bizarre innovation, the activists were forced to beat one another. The movement had been launched by the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha—the Grand Assembly of Indigenous People—led by a tribal woman, C. K. Janu. The demands of the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha for land, food, shelter, the enforcement of constitutional provisions, reparation for losses incurred by the intervention of foreign companies in their environment, etc., are paralleled in indigenous movements elsewhere, e.g., the Zapatistas in Mexico (see Collier 1994; Gledhill 1997; Hellman 2000; Weinberg 2000; Womack 1999). However, unlike other indigenous movements, the situation in Kerala has received little world attention.