The Ethics and Politics of Possibility: Principles and Practices of Prefigurative Knowledge and Research
From 8–14 August 2016, eight scholar-activists from around the world gathered to develop new theories and methods for understanding and practicing the ‘politics of possibility’ – in short, the ‘capacity to produce form beyond or against and beyond what is given’ when working towards deep transformation in thinking, being and everyday life (as suggested by Raquel Gutiérrez and Huáscar Salzar Lohman in ‘The community reproduction of life’). The week-long residential retreat drew together members of a new transnational author collective, ‘Women on the Verge’, who are working in universities, in communities and on a range of projects including Enlivened Learning and the Ecoversities Network (Costa Rica), a permanent seminar on ‘Community Weavings and Forms of the Political’ (Mexico), Connected Communities (UK), the Social Science Centre (UK), and rethinking the state, the criminalisation of politics, and autonomous social movements (US).
Since the turn of this century, there has been a (re)turn towards the ‘prefiguration’ of alternative futures through collective theorizing and action, which informs a multiplicity of grassroots, community and institutional struggles against social domination and for a politics of life. However, while many new ways of thinking and doing politics have emerged in this movement, we are still learning about their epistemological, political and ethical elements and thus ‘are seldom properly equipped to account for the “prefigurative” feature of collective action’ today. This means that we may not only be ‘unable to address new problems highlighted by…societies in movement’, but also risk widening the ‘knowledge gap between the apparently inescapable reality of global capitalism and its crises…and the newly emerging practices, values, and imaginaries beyond capitalism, colonialism and patriarchal society’ (quotations from the introduction to Ana Dinerstein’s forthcoming edited collection, Social Science for An Other Politics: Women Theorizing without Parachutes). This workshop took important steps towards closing that gap. The next question is, what does this mean for learning and for educators?
‘Re-learning Hope: A Story of Unitierra’ tells a story about Unitierra (University of the Earth) in Oaxaca, Mexico. The film, co-produced by producers Udi Mandel and Kelly Teamey with partners and participants from Unitierra, explores the emergence of this autonomous university and its ‘powerful critique of education and development’. It is a ‘hopeful example of how communities are taking control of their own learning and shaping an ecological path for their communities amidst a context of violence’. And, ‘amidst the multiple crises we are all experiencing, in our economies, political institutions and communities, Unitierra is promoting ways of living and learning together that is inspiring, showing us that another world is indeed possible’.
Look out for a new collection of papers in this project later this year, edited by Ana C. Dinerstein: Social Science for An Other Politics: Women Theorising without Parachutes (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).