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Militant collectivity

Building solidarities in the Maoist movement in Nepal

Dan V. Hirslund

A stubborn, anticapitalist movement, Maoism has persisted in the global periphery for the many past decades despite its tainted image as a progressive alterpolitical platform. This article seeks to ponder why this is the case by looking at a recent and popular example of leftist radical politics in the MLM tradition. I argue that contemporary Nepali Maoism is offering a militant, collectivist, antiliberal model for confronting capitalist and state hegemony in an effort to forge new class solidarities. Responding to a changed political environment for continuing its program of socialist revolution, I trace how the Maoist party's efforts at building a mass movement become centered on the question of organization, and in particular the requirements of what I term an ethical organization. Through an analysis of how caste and gender equalities are institutionalized within the movement, and the various ways in which collectivity becomes linked to concrete practices, the article offers an ethnographic analysis of contested egalitarian agency within a movement undergoing rapid change.

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Aspiring to alterpolitics

Anthropology, radical theory, and social movements

Riccardo Ciavolella and Stefano Boni

This theme section inquires into the contribution of political anthropology to radical theories, social imagination, and practices underlying political “alternatives”, which we propose to call “alterpolitics”. The issue of an alternative to contemporary powers in globalization is a central topic in social movements and radical debates. This sense of possibility for political alternatives is associated with the desertion of the belief in “the end of history”: the current economic crisis and the decline of Western hegemony presumably announce a radical transformation of the neoliberal world, opening space to alternatives. Actually, the reconfiguration of twentieth-century capitalism is associated with a growing mistrust of political institutions, the crisis being “organic”, in the Gramscian sense (Gramsci 1975). Recent social movements and insurrections around the world—from the “colored revolutions” in Central Asia to the Spanish indignados, the US Occupy movement, the Arab Spring, uprisings in Bosnia—have raised the issue of alternatives as a reaction to the incapacity of capitalist political institutions—from electoral democracy to dictatorships—to deal with people’s problems and meet their aspirations for emancipation and a better future.

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Alterpolitics or alterotopies

A critique of nomadology with reference to West African Fulbe

Riccardo Ciavolella

This article offers a critique of how the anthropology of pastoral nomadic societies participates in the debate about alternative forms of political organization and emancipation. In the first part, I retrace the roots of the reciprocal and circular influence between anthropology and critical theory, focusing on Deleuze and Guattari's “nomadology” and their reliance on ethnographies of “primitive” and especially nomadic people. Attracted by the spatial autonomy and immanent forms of resistance of nomads, their work nourished the poststructuralist interpretation of power, which in turn influenced contemporary radical political anthropologists. In the second part, I reintroduce ethnographic evidence on pastoral nomads into the discussion. Relying on recent ethnographic evidence of the crisis of nomadism, especially in West Africa, I argue that we should be more prudent in considering interstitial spaces of freedom and resistances as strategies for structurally changing power and for emancipation.

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Reports

Publications, Films and Conferences

Roxanne Varzi, Fadi A. Bardawil, Soheila Shahshahani and Konstantina Isidoros

PUBLICATIONS

Mohammad Malas, The Dream: The Diary of a Film (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2016)

Ghassan Hage, Alter-politics: Critical Anthropology and the Radical Imagination (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2015)

FILMS

Moshtâq Goharim, Mâziyâr Zimbol of Baluchestân, 90 minutes, produced by Documentary Aljazeera Network, 2016

CONFERENCES

'Arab Masculinities: Anthropological Reconceptions’: Report on the Wenner-Gren Foundation Workshop at the University of Oxford, March 2017

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Assemblies and the struggle to diffuse power

Ethnographic examples and contemporary practices

Stefano Boni

The article is focused on the practical mechanisms of assembly management in egalitarian settings in a comparative perspective: on the one hand, I examine assemblies in what may be termed classic ethnographic settings (principally East African pastoralists); on the other hand, I turn to meetings in recent social movements (the Occupy movement in the United States and Slovenia; the 15M in Spain; Greece and Bosnia). I have two principal aims. First, I wish to identify and evaluate similarities and differences in the running of meetings with regard to processes of consensus building; the coordination of assemblies through the creation of roles and the menace of leadership; and the management of place, time, and speech. Second, I aim to evaluate current social movements' use of alterpolitics, intended as the practical and imaginary reference to group meetings of the historical, sectarian, or ethnic other.

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Urban access

Contested spaces and contested politics

Ulrich Ufer

The global Right to the City network challenges exclusionary effects of neoliberal urbanization by claiming citizens' rights for access to urban space and to the benefits of urban culture. Artists belong to one of the most vulnerable groups in the context of gentrification and urban exclusion. At the same time, their creative and expressive capacities put them in a privileged position to voice protest. Oscillating between counterhegemony, accommodation, and strategic collusion, a group of artist-activists from the city of Hamburg in Germany have been employing the means of empowered symbolism, activist art, and emancipatory knowledge in order to implement an alterpolitics of space. Their occupation of the historic Hamburg Gängeviertel has successfully repoliticized questions over urban use value and urban access, which had been purposefully excluded from the realm of the political in the revanchist, neoliberal city.