A piece co-authored with my friend and colleague Teivo Teivainen. On how the recent wave of Occupations could add to their transformative practices some of the experiences developed over a decade and a half by activists in the World Social Forum.
Emotional Sequences in a Transnational Social Movement Organisation, the Case of the World Social Forum
Following the onset of the 2008 financial crisis, global justice movements themselves experienced the onset of an organisational and political crisis. The initial exhilaration due to the belief that times were ripe for radical change unravelled on account of the failure to take advantage of the opportunity to foster the change activists envisaged. I discuss this crisis from the vantage point of the International Council of the World Social Forum. I consider the way in which the crisis was negotiated and lessons learnt. The relationship between economic crises and protests is widely acknowledged. Indeed, the so-called first wave of the global justice movement of which the WSF is expression was linked to the 1997 Asian and the 2000 dot com crises. At the same time, the recurring cycles from exuberance to crisis in financial markets seem to affect the global justice movement as well. In social movement studies there is a substantial literature on cycles of contention and their structural and political, cultural, frames-related, social psychological and emotional aspects. To those debates this article contributes with a psychoanalytically informed approach.
A cognitive bias in the social sciences prevents us to fully appreciate the contribution of emotions to human (inter)subjectivity. Moreover, the so-called emotional turn in the social sciences has mostly been interested in the cognitive aspects of emotions. Alternative approaches to emotions are available and they rely on convincing neuroscience squarely posited against the cognitivist biases of experimental psychology. Emily Martin, in a recent article, however warns about the risks of the current infatuation for affects in anthropology and the social sciences. I consider her arguments in the following notes on: Martin, Emily 2013. ‘The Potentiality of Ethnography and the Limits of Affect Theory.’ Current Anthropology online first, http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/670388 . Continue reading
transnational activism provides spaces to imagine and practice alternatives to neoliberal politics and its intoxicating cocktail of market deregulation, liberalisation, privatisation and state downsizing that punishes the world’s weakest people and the environment. this book maps recurring dynamics, visions and practices in transnational activist networks, in particular the world social forum. it also reflects on the alterglobalisation movement from the anti-wto protests in seattle at the end of 1999, from which the world social forum took shape, to the latest wave of protests and revolutions such as the arab spring, occupy wall street, the indignados.
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a version of this paper will appear in “asking, we walk: the south as new political imaginary.” vol. iv
the world social forum (wsf) is presently the world’s largest and most diverse transnational activist network. its global events in brazil, india, kenya, mali, pakistan, venezuela and senegal and its regional, national and local avatars have attracted hundreds of thousands of participants and thousands of organisations and social movements. the wsf is a complex structure of loosely articulated networks and organisations aiming at individually and collectively pursuing transformative actions towards a more just and equal world. it aims at inspiring joint actions capable of advancing global transformation. to fulfil this goal wsf’s participants seek to create spaces of dialogue in which actors with different backgrounds and outlooks on society and the future can share their visions and design collaborative practices. wsf’s methodology privileges mediation but does not eschew compromise, it privileges transformation but does not avoid contingent strategic thought, it is both utopian and strategic. arguably, the wsf’s most innovative contribution to global transformations is the articulation of emancipatory discourses and practices (both prefigurative and strategic) recursively engaging issues of identity, vision and methodology. such cultural politics of transformation is illustrated in this essay through wsf’s cosmopolitan project based on emancipatory identities, relational knowledges and practices of liberation.