Mar 26, 2015

Telling wider and deeper solidarity stories

art by Rini Templeton, copyleft
Certain stories tend to get told about solidarity work, so I am excited by this effort to pull together an edited book to tell the stories we hear less of. I have great hopes that someone will write about the fabulous queer to queer US/El Salvador work in the 80s. Note that this book will be a mix, with scholarly papers, analytical essays, first person reflections and other creative submissions and expressions (poetry, spoken word, etc.) of between 6,000 and 7000 words  (though presumably memoirs and poetry could be shorter). Have an idea for something that might work? Send them a 500 word abstract by April 6th. Or send the call on to someone else you know who has a story that should be told!
Living Archives: Third World, Indigenous and Anti-Colonial Queer and Feminist International Solidarities
a volume co-edited by Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi (San Francisco State University), Anna M. Agathangelou (York University), Paola Bacchetta (University of California, Berkeley) and Tamara Lea Spira (Western Washington University)
The 1960s -1980s witnessed an explosion of transnational exchanges between women, feminists and queers from the global south and north who were engaged in feminist, queer, transgender and lesbian liberation and anti-colonial, anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist movements worldwide. They constructed powerful imaginaries and practices of social justice and liberation that deeply altered the landscape of movements for sexual and gender justice. Radical and critical Indigenous, Third World and anti-colonial women, feminists, queers, transgender subjects and their movements inscribed traces of their theories, expressions, practices and activisms in alternative journals, leaflets, posters, pictures, poetry, artwork, music and personal writings. Yet, many of these histories have been erased, distorted, co-opted or forgotten. These earlier activists and activisms have been largely occluded from historiographies of feminism, Gender and Women’s Studies, LGBTQI Studies, Queer Studies and Ethnic Studies - indeed from all academic narrations - with serious implications for practices and projects of liberation today.
Living Archives is concerned with a range of subaltern voices and with the epistemic violences to which some are subjected, made unhearable, or even impossible. This anthology seeks to address the effects and results of such a historical omission. It brings together participants and scholars of these movements with a younger generation of activists, artists and scholars to open up, re-assemble, re-animate and re-theorize this archive of feminist, queer, transgender and lesbian anti-colonial internationalisms from the perspective of the present. The anthology is interested in heterogeneous contemporalities that include visions of building another world. The anthology will also engage with the relations of power and ethico-political implications regarding the authority, authorship and authorization involved in the very process of constructing archives and of the many ways of engaging with them.
This anthology seeks to bring together multi-generational analyses of solidarities and alliances across theories, expressions, practices, activisms and movements of Third World, Indigenous and anti-colonial queer and feminist internationalisms of the 1960s-1980s. We invite contributions from scholars and activists who were directly involved in that era, as well as reflections from a younger generation.
This anthology is interested in addressing power entanglements in heterogeneous contemporalities. What relations of power are implicated in the production, erasure, revival and diffusion of subalternly positioned archives? What traces exist and have been re-framed and sanitized? What traces have been elided or erased, and why and how? What is at stake in retrieving, passing on, editing or discarding archives that are produced at the intersections and in the overlappings of multiple formations of gender, sexual, racial, religious, secular, ethnic and colonial violence? What does it mean to do so in the context of advanced global capitalism, neoliberalism, war and security states, wherein a premium is assigned to certain lives while others are subjected to increased marginalization, death-boundedness, brutality and death itself?
We are interested in the implications of this knowledge production upon our ability to conceptualize and enact radical politics today. What does it mean to “archive”? And what does it mean to archive liberation enactments, collective daily life, affect, confrontations with power including violence, multiple modes of solidarity, and their contingent internationalist imaginary of radical justice and freedom? What does the commitment to reassemble radical histories and solidarities, and to re-theorize them, bring to bear upon contemporary radical justice and freedom movements and expressions, and to our intimate lives? What are the stakes, effects, and results of such projects today?
Possible Topics for consideration in the context of the overall arch of 1960s-1980s Black, Third World, Indigenous and anti-colonial feminist, queer, transgender and lesbian international solidarities and alliances include, but are not limited to:
  • Genealogies of Third World, Indigenous, internationalist and transnational feminist, queer, transgender and lesbian solidarities;
  • Genealogies of internationalist and translocal feminist, queer, transgender and lesbian activisms in and across movements against colonialism, settler colonialism, occupation and racism, and for peoples’ liberation;
  • Reflections upon the politics and relations of power implicated in the production, erasure, or sustenance and deployment, of archives.
Movements’ Relationships and Entanglements with Contextual Relations of Power:
  • The place of differential formations of colonialism including settler colonialism, as well as capitalism, globalization and neoliberalism in relation to movements;
  • Movements and the co-constitution of spaces and scales;
  • The ways that entanglements with power inform the remembering or forgetting of radical histories;
  • Materialities and the political economies of movements.
Experiences of Resistance, Solidarities, Political Action and Movements:
  • Materialities and political solidarities and action;
  • Embodied and lived experiences and affect of struggle and political action;
  • Communes, communities and other configurations of collective life of movements and political solidarities;
  • Erotics, imaginaries, utopic visions, heterotopics, freedom dreams, resistance and revolution;
  • Poetry, art, film, documentary and other cultural labor and production in radical justice and liberation movements;
  • Internal problematics and politics of movement and coalition building.
Experiences of Repression and Multiple Forms of Violence:
  • Incarceration, surveillance, torture, repression, intimidation, assassination, and other forms of violence and death;
  • Displacement and exile;
  • Affect, trauma and Repression;
  • Disciplinary mechanisms as they pertain to the suppression, elision, re-writing and distortion of historiography.
Knowledge Production and Approaches to Archives:
  • Terminologies and languages of radical justice and freedom of the 1960s to the 1980s;
  • Traces, memories, memorials, and memoralizations;
  • Trauma, affect and amnesias of the archive;
  • Radical critical archiving historically and today.
The Contemporary:
  • How contemporary desires and imaginaries of justice are linked to multiple historical struggles;
  • Affective economies of ongoing struggle;
  • Inter-generational memories and movement building;
  • Continuities and ruptures with earlier liberation movements in the present;
  • Simultaneous temporalities of solidarities and radical movements.
Scholarly papers, analytical essays, first person reflections and other creative submissions and expressions (poetry, spoken word, etc.) of between 6,000 and 7000 words are welcomed. For consideration, please submit an abstract of 500 words to by April 6, 2015 to: Inquiries may be sent to the same email. Full article submissions are due on September 28, 2015.

Mar 12, 2015

Academic strike solidarity

Canadian academia is on a roll in the struggle to defend truly public quality education for all. TA’s and RA’s are on strike at York U and U of Toronto, and faculty are striking for their first contract at UNBC. We are at the forefront of fighting the global neoliberalization of the academy and the precarization of academic work.  University is where students learn what ‘work’ is like and what to expect and be willing to put up with throughout their work lives – so it is a crucial frontline in the broader struggle against precarity and for dignified work for all (a point well made by Alan Sears at a recent cupe3903 free school event).

I have been particularly inspired by the solidarity of York TAs, whose main demand is to keep the tuition indexation that currently ties tuition increases to equivalent salary increases. They have been offered a tuition freeze for themselves, but it would knock out the bottom rungs of the ladder for future students, who would continually have to pay more at the company store with the same salary. As Eve Haque put it at the free school, we know what groups are the first out when it becomes harder to go to graduate school. Not only are York TAs striking then to keep graduate school open to lower income and racialized students, but they are also explicitly asking for LGBTQ Equity Language.  I have been astounded that a university with a social justice mandate has been so intransigent on this request. Perhaps they think we are somehow not only ‘post-racial’ but also ‘post-gay’ – but surely even they can see that transgender people face employment hurdles? 

At any rate, the solidarity of the graduate students is deeply inspiring to me.  I am also moved and heartened by the solidarity of faculty, including the following letter from my own department at York in the face of administration attempts to force us back to teaching. 


We, the undersigned faculty members of the Department of Geography, feel strongly that the resumption of classes in Geography’s multiple programs during the current labour disruption is ill advised. The Department strongly urges the University Administration to continue working through the collective bargaining process and achieve a settlement before resuming any further courses. There are compelling pedagogical, safety, and ethical reasons for our position. 

1. Pedagogically, specifically in the discipline of Geography but others as well, there are a number of large classes (100s of students) where tutorials and labs are deeply integrated with lectures in first year offerings. Holding lectures without accompanying labs and tutorials is incomplete course content delivery. At the first year level, our new general education course (GEOG 1000) and other first year courses (GEOG 1400, GEOG 1410) are Teaching Assistant (TA) dependent offerings. There are many other courses in physical geography (at all year levels) that also include labs instructed by TAs. We cannot and will not perform TA tutorial duties. 
2. Tests and exams in several courses are not based solely on readings but on lecture content. TAs are often required to attend lectures so they can assist students and grade material. The absence of TAs during a labour disruption does not allow for lecture attendance. Further, the diminished undergraduate attendance that results from students refusing to cross a picket line to attend class (as Senate rules allow) limits what lecture content can be fairly examined. We cannot and will not perform TA exam grading duties. 

3. In order for students to progress through course material effectively, regular feedback must be given on previous tests and assignments. In some cases, students must receive feedback on one part of an assignment before they can complete it. Many tests and assignments from the first half of the winter semester have yet to be assessed by TAs. Again, we cannot and will not perform TA marker/grader duties. 

4. As students may refuse to cross a picket line without academic discipline or disadvantage, the resulting lower attendance threatens overall course integrity. For example, fourth year seminars (capped at 25 in Geography) with large discussion components are not easily carried out with low attendance. At the same time, students who miss discussions can’t easily reproduce the inclass learning experience. 

5. While Geography is not a large program, we do have members of Unit 1 teaching ‘ticketed’ winter semester courses through the exclusion program. These instructors will still be on strike and the classes will not resume with the others. We cannot and will not perform Unit 1 teaching duties. 

6. The last experience the Department had with the continuation of classes during a labour disruption was 20002001. During that time, attendance in classes was approximately 20% – this in a period when students had fewer protections via Senate regulations. The resultant remediation period was frustrating
for students and instructors as some material had to be repeated after the labour disruption in any case in order to ensure the academic integrity of the course and the program’s learning objectives. 

7. Safety for students and the entire York community is a major concern. Even the most disciplined picket lines have, can and, in all likelihood, will experience violence as people enter and exit campus. We have reports of one of our Geography TAs and others already being injured on the picket lines with classes cancelled. We imagine a much more tense situation if the Administration attempts to resume programs. Violence on York University’s campus is consistently captured by the media. Indeed, York’s reputation will only be further harmed by incidents that depict student against student conflict in what is already a divisive situation. 

8. Lastly we feel that there are ethical reasons for not resuming classes during a labour disruption. Picketing and the disruption of production and services through the withdrawal of labour are all legal and democratic tools workers in an unequal power relationship with employers have to guarantee reasonable working and living conditions. Attempting to resume normal activities in the face of pickets is counter to respected democratic values and principles. These sentiments were eloquently expressed in a recent letter from Osgoode Hall law students to their Dean. 

9. We are in solidarity with all students affected by the current labour disruption. These include: the graduate teaching assistants currently exercising their democratic right to strike; the 4000+ undergraduate students who have expressed that classes should not be continued during a labour disruption (many from LA&PS); undergraduates who regardless of their views on the strike deserve to be taught in stable conditions; and future graduate students in Geography and other disciplines who may very well benefit from what TAs are currently protecting through the collective bargaining process. 

For these reasons, we strongly urge that classes not be continued until the Administration expeditiously negotiates a settlement that ends the current labour disruption. 


Alison Bain
Ranu Basu
Richard Bello
Ulrich Best
Raju Das
Jennifer Hyndman
William Jenkins
Philip Kelly
Sara Koopman                    

Min-Jung Kwak
Elizabeth Lunstrum
Valerie Preston
Tarmo Remmel
André Robert
Robin Roth
Steven Tufts
Peter Vandergeest
Patricia Burke Wood

Mar 4, 2015

geographers on and with social movements

I have a chapter in the forthcoming new edition of the Blackwell Companion to Political Geography on social movements.  A long version of it is available here and I have hopes that it could be interesting and useful not just to geographers but also to activists and other academics interested in social change. It comes with a collaborative zotero bibliography that you can add to.

Rather than an abstract, below are some nuggets from it:

... Social movement is not a clearly defined or well agreed upon category for collective action and organizing for social change, and that is true in geography too (Keith & Pile 1997, Routledge & Cumbers 2009. McCarthy 2011, Chatterton et al 2013). What counts as a social movement, how to categorize them, and even what they should be called, have been contested, both by academics and by activists - sometimes for theoretical or methodological reasons, sometimes for political or ethical ones. Issues have included: How many groups does it take to count as a movement? Do they have to be connected and/or coordinated? Do they have to be effective at creating social change to count? Can groups have paid staff? Can they be involved in electoral campaigns? Can they take up arms? Engage in property destruction? What if groups have no office, or no formal structure? ...

... These are not “new social movements”, a term that is now fairly old, and broadly refers to movements shifting in the 60s to be more cross-class, issue specific, and tied to identity (though, for example, women’s and gay rights organizing happened before then, but the argument is that these changed and flourished at that time). There are plenty of critiques of the term, for example, environmentalism is not really about identity per se, but the term continues to be widely used academically. Entertainingly the recent shift has been referred to as the ‘new new’ movements (Feixa, Pereira, and Juris 2009), but that term has not caught on....
... New ICT (information and communication technology) tools are yet again changing the look and feel of organizing and what it means to ‘do’ politics. As burgeoning smart phone use makes the internet available to many more people in the global South these dynamics are growing fast. But widespread autonomous horizontal organizing in many ways similar to this recent wave in the global North also has a longer history in Latin America on the other side of the digital divide, notably in the El Alto uprising in Bolivia in 2005 and the ‘Que se vayan todos’ (throw them all out) uprising in Argentina in 2001. But these were not entirely without ICTs of a sort, for pirate and community radio stations have played an important role in organizing throughout Latin America. ...

... Whether they use the term movement, network, NGO, contentious, collective, or connective action, what geographers have brought to understanding the work of movements is a focus on space. Social movement studies had until recently tended to write about movements as if they happened ‘on the head of a pin’ (Nicholls 2007). Geographers have asked, how do movements use space, how does space shape movements, and how do movements shape space? We have used different spatial concepts to get at this: place, networks, and scale in particular, though also sometimes territory, city, and region. Nicholls, Miller, and Beaumont (2013) argue that in the 1930s to 1950s it tended to be region, 1960-1970s: space, 1980s: place, 1990s-2000s: scale, and now networks and mobility, and they offer a helpful review of how each has been taken up for movement studies....

... Through their work on, with, and across social movements, geographers have also contributed to broader debates about the spatialities of solidarity. Much of political geography is about the relationship between here and there, us and them. Some of what political geographers have offered, as I will review here, is a perspective on what can shift and bring those categories together, and how movements build connections across distance and difference. This has ranged from analyses of commonalities, to how difference is reworked, to the emotional work involved...

If that makes you want to read more, the full chapter is here.

(All art by Rini Templeton, copyleft and available at