SOCI 5805

Challenging Empires : Open Space and Dissent in Movement

Course description* Civil movements and civil contestation are widely heralded today not only in terms of challenging empires but also, as an underlying message, and precisely through the action and culture of dissent, of carrying the seeds of a more democratic politics and society. This research-seminar course (OSDM) will however, critically interrogate dissent within civil movement. It will explore some key underlying ideas in progressive politics and in social and political movement in differing contexts, including the political-cultural concept of ‘open space’ - a ‘space’ where ‘everyone’ is said to be welcome and, crucially, equal; and of dissent in such spaces. It will attempt to look in depth at what ‘open space’ is and how it actually functions, and what its potentials and limits are, especially in terms of the dynamics of its availability for those perceived by those at the centre to be at ‘the margins’. It will also critically look at the idea that in the actual practice of civil politics there are – just as in real life – strong limits to the openness of the open spaces that people are invited to join.

Among other contexts, we will look closely at the World Social Forum as an open space.

The course will therefore require asking, and attempting to answer, questions that are sometimes a little uncomfortable but need to be asked.

Important for course participants to note is that I am by background an architect, activist, campaignist, and independent researcher in civil politics and not an academic - perhaps what some term a ‘scholar-practitioner’. The entire course will therefore be coloured by this : The reading material I suggest, the style of the sessions (where I come not as professor but as co-researcher and learner, and perhaps as facilitator), and the kind of outputs I am looking for. This course will be no less rigorous, but it may demand rigour in somewhat different ways. It will be a collaborative course, and I look forward to working with you in this exercise.

This course is related to and will (in terms of subject) intertwine with PECO 5501F on ‘Other Worlds, Other Globalisations’, another exploratory course that you might like to consider taking.

The course has three parts : Part 1 : Open Space, Civility, and Discontent (Session 1 / S1 - S5) Part 2 : Exploring Other Openings (S6 – S8) Part 3 : Open Space and Dissent in Movement : Course participant presentations (S9 – S12).

After starting by looking at the concept of open space and of dissent, in the first Part (September) we will also explore the concept and possibilities of ‘incivil societies’ and the relationships between civil and incivil societies, and then move on to look at some different modes and realms of assent, consent, and dissent.

The second Part (October) will begin with a mid-term review workshop for collectively reviewing the ground we have covered and for planning further sessions in that month – where I will be looking for offers from course participants to lead sessions, either individually or in small groups. It will also be a time for course participants to formulate and put forward outlines for review essays and research papers – and then for getting down to researching and writing your papers.

The third Part (November) will be focussed on continuing to open up the further ground defined in the midterm review workshop and on presentations by course participants of the material you are developing for your papers.

The number of course participants and the degree to which they decide to collaborate will influence the organisation of activities during October and November.

The course will end with a final workshop to review the work of the course and to define agendas for possible further work, both by course participants and myself; and with submissions of research papers.

The main objective of the course is to explore open space and dissent in movement. But the course has three further sub-objectives :

  • To critically locate ourselves, as individuals, with respect to these other worlds;
  • To improve our abilities in critical thinking, reading, writing, and presentation;
  • To develop a bibliography / bibliographies that can act as a resource for further work by participants in this course and also by others. The bibliography/ies will include written material, webspaces, films, plays, poetry, and other literature, all of which can and should form references for the course itself. Course participants are also welcome to suggest material in all these modes that we could display and look at during the course; and -
  • To have fun and to creatively explore the subject !

* I have benefited enormously from comments I have received on earlier drafts of this Outline, plus from sample outlines, reading lists, or other critical suggestions I have received, from : Anila Daulatzai, Arun Kumar, David Szanton, Fleachta Phelan, Giuseppe Caruso, Janet Conway, Jeff Juris, Julia Sánchez, Kolya Abramsky, Lee Cormie, Stellan Vinthagen, Subramanya Sastry, and Vanessa Andreotti. I thank them all !

This present version of the Course Outline has been finalised on November 24 2006, near the end of the course. The Outline has therefore been modified both to update it in terms of information (such as guest lectures, sessions led by Course Participants, and readings) and also to reflect certain modifications that were agreed upon with the Course Participants. It is also an annotated version, giving some reflection of what actually took place.

Created by admin. Last Modification: Thursday 21 of June, 2007 17:56:12 BST by admin.
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