RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2015, Historical Geographies of Anarchism : situating struggles, studying environments, Exeter, 4 September 2015
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RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2015 Geographies of the Anthropocene

Session Title : Historical Geographies of Anarchism : situating struggles, studying environments

Session sponsor : HGRG - Historical Geography Research Group

Session Abstract : In the last years, international geographical research has rediscovered anarchism, as witnessed by the 2012 special issues consecrated to it by the journals ACME and Antipode and by the recent flourishing of papers and conferences, in English and other languages, on historical anarchist geographers like Elisée Reclus and Pëtr Kropotkin.
Following the session Demanding the impossible : transgressing the frontiers of geography through anarchism held in the RGS-IBG 2013 International Conference, the present session aims to analyse the relation between geography and anarchism on the standpoints of historical geography and philosophy and history of geography. For this purpose, we address the following topics :
Putting Anarchism in its place : historical experiences of anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist political and social practices analysed within their places, environments, cultures and genders, in the frame of the studies on Geography and Revolution.
Networks and circulations of anarchist knowledge, with a special focus on the literature onTransnational Anarchism, which is reconstructing the international trajectories of anarchist militants between the 19th and the 20th century, stressing their relations with anti-colonialist movements and non-European cultures, like African, Arabic and East-Asian workers or indigenous movements in Latin America.
Anarchism and Environmental History. In their last works, respectively L’Homme et la Terre and La civilisation et les grands fleuves historiques, Élisée Reclus and Lev Mečnikov tried to build a world geo-history in which natural and human features were seen as parts of a general harmony, which only a radical social change could realize. These works, starting by prehistory, could be seen today as a tentative to give an anarchist vision of Anthropocene, and can be analysed considering their effectiveness on present problems of global resources, which Reclus and Mečnikov considered related both to environmental problems and socioeconomic inequalities. Their approaches could serve present debates on limits of growth, political and social ecology, mesology, spatial justice, cosmopolitanism and international brotherhood.
Social and natural sciences for human liberation. Together with Pëtr Kropotkin, Reclus and Mečnikov elaborated the well-known theory of Mutual Aid, participating in the debates on Evolutionism and contrasting the Social Darwinism of that time, by considering cooperation as a factor in evolution. This concept also contributed to the socialist critiques of Thomas Malthus. Problematizing these topics entails reflexions on the present coming back of Creationism, Malthusianism and physical Determinism.
Anarchism, urban history and the origins of regional planning. Reclus and Kropotkin dealt with urban history considering towns as the places where the idea of free association was build. Nevertheless, they participated in a critique of the industrial town, influencing concepts like the Patrick Geddes’s Regional Planning, the Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City and the Arturo Soria y Mata’s Linear City. All these authors deserve further research which is welcome.
Some presentations give also openings on these topics in relation to contemporary challenges.

Keywords:Anarchism ; Historical Geography ; Situated Knowledge ; Global History ; Environmental History

Session Convenors
Gerónimo Barrera Research Institute “Dr. José María Luis Mora” gbarreratorre@gmail.com
Fabien Colombo University of Bordeaux fabien.colombo@aol.fr
Federico Ferretti University of Geneva federico.ferretti@unige.ch
Francisco Toro University of Granada fjtoro@ugr.es

Session 1 Title : Cities, technics and environments : Anarchist visions of Anthropocene

Session Chair : Federico Ferretti University of Geneva Federico.ferretti@unige.ch

Session presentation details
Presentation 1 Title : Lived places of anarchy : Colin Ward’s social anarchy in action
Colin Ward built a long history of anarchy in thought and action. He wrote vigorously and accessibly to a wide and varied readership, from editing and writing in Anarchy (and introduced brilliant contemporary art to its covers) to New Society and Town and Country Planning. Into his seventies he took trains across the UK to speak to local audiences as much as academic conferences. He worked on and presented TV programmes. Amongst his numerous books are Utopias ; The child and the city ; The child and the country – and a small edition of Fields, farms and factories ; self-build housing. He bristled with ideas and was a very practical anarchist and thinker. Kropotkin was a key figure of influence to him, acknowledged with many others in his book Influences.
We worked together on research and writing for *. We were brought together by a shared interest in reciprocity, self/co-operatively created space (landscape) ; the lived country and the lived city ; environments and ecologies ; political struggles ; hope too I suppose. And a commitment, felt politically necessary, to reach beyond the academy. Colin’s places of anarchy were not barricades. They were instead sites of everyday activity, meaning and value.
In this paper I want to give a sketch of these informing threads and ways in which he created a distinctly action-oriented anarchy philosophy, reflecting on ides from Kropotkin and Geddes in particular, and indicate some challenges therefrom for contemporary cultural geographies.

Author name : David Crouch University of Derby D.C.Crouch@derby.ac.uk

Presentation 2 Title : Elisée Reclus’ thought as an inspiration for contemporary degrowth theory
The theory of degrowth has emerged in the last decade as a bottom-up alternative to the dominant, hierarchical and centralized discourse of sustainable development. One of its main motto is “decolonizing our imaginary” from the growth myth and material accumulation of capitalism and consumerism (Latouche). Main experiences have occurred in Mediterranean and southern regions of Europe.
Thinkers and supporters of this movement have as common references and intellectual milestones the historical approach of urban environment and his critique of technique and human progress of L. Mumford, theory of needs and sufficiency of I. Illich, bioeconomy and thermodynamics applied to human systems of N. Georgescu-Roegen, urban socio-ecologic utopia of Patrick Geddes, among others. Is there any room for Elisée Reclus, knowing his ties and connections with a radical and critical side of progress and environmentalism ?
Reflection on needs, frugality, the idea of “good life”, and the advocacy of human welfare that reinforces qualitative dimension of human welfare over acquirement and possession of material goods, are immanent in some Reclus’ essays, being basic precepts of what degrowth philosophy should be. This work propose a review of some of these insights and their potential inspiration for degrowth movements and trace a line of connection with a radical and anarchist side of environmentalist and more transformative geographic thought.
Author name : Francisco Toro University of Granada fjtoro@ugr.es

Presentation 3 Title : Élisée Reclus, George Perkins Marsh, and the Earth
The article “Geology of Mankind”, published by Paul J. Crutzen, in Nature, on January 2002, started with this sentence : “For the past three centuries, the effects of humans on the global environment have escalated […] Its seems appropriate to assign the term “Anthropocene” to the present, in many ways human-dominated, geological epoch”. This article started the debate on the Anthropocene’s period, as if it was a new debate, or as if past scientists were not aware of these effects. Crutzen himself wrote that “the Anthropocene could be said to have started in the latter part of the eighteenth century”, which means in the rise of socialism, in political philosophy, and Darwinism, in natural philosophy. Could be possible that scientists of this period missed the fact that mankind was becoming a very important geological force in history ?
The purpose of this presentation is to underline that, not the debate, but the simple observation of Anthropocene’s beginning, was contemporary of Industrial Revolution. If the human action on nature was a simple observation, the real debate of this time was the one about the way to protect it. To illustrate my point, I will refer to the differences between Élisée Reclus and George Perkins Marsh. The first was a French anarchist geographer who was also an atheist, and the second was an American environmentalist who mentioned the Great Creator in his works. These differences between Reclus and Marsh are very important, because it mainly influenced their vision of mankind relationship with nature. Moreover, Reclus and Marsh knew each other : Reclus introduced Marsh’s works in France ; Marsh introduced Reclus’s works in United-States.
With this presentation I hope to demonstrate that the two main approaches in environmentalism, between preservation and conservation of nature, were very influenced by the differences between Élisée Reclus and George Perkins Marsh regarding man and nature. It will also accentuate the importance of anarchist geographers and socialist thinkers in the environmental studies.

Fabien Colombo University of Bordeaux fabien.colombo@aol.fr

Presentation 4 Title : The Anarchists and the city : governance, revolution and the imagination
Since the emergence of classical anarchism in the mid-nineteenth century, the city and the commune have been central to the anarchism imagination and anarchist socio-political action. The paper presents a synoptic overview of the uses of the city in anarchist programmes, tactics, strategies and visions. From the Paris Commune 1871 as the symbol of the revolution to the late work of Murray Bookchin on municipal forms of politics, the city has been central in transforming philosophical anarchism to a quotidian, vivid practice.
The following themes are covered. 1. The role of the Paris Commune in catalysing the anarchist wing of the First International. 2. Anarchist praise and criticism of the governance of the Paris Commune (1870-1914). 3. Kropotkin, the medieval European city and the future anarchist garden city. 4. From anarchism to maximalist municipal socialism to gas and water socialism : Paul Brousse and Andrea Costa. 5. Cities, Anarchism and the Global South in the late nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries : the port city, global hubs and transnational networks. 6. From Montmartre to New York Lower Eastside Art Gangs : Art, Anarchism and the Capitalist Art Market ; 7. Red and Black Barcelona in 1936 : Paris Commune redux. 8. Paris 1968 : ‘Beneath the paving stones the beach’. 9. Colin War and Murray Bookchin and the city. 10. ‘Tearing down streets’ : the anarchist imagination, the city and Occupy movements.

Carl Levy Goldsmiths, University of London c.levy@gold.ac.uk

Session 2 Title : Transnational Anarchism and Anarchist Geographers : situating theories, networks and struggles
Session Chair : David Crouch University of Derby D.C.Crouch@derby.ac.uk

Presentation 1 Title : North American coal dust and Italian anarchist propaganda : understanding the political culture of the Cronaca Sovversiva by examining its audience
Presentation 1 Abstract An awareness of the places where anarchist propaganda was consumed helps us understand many of the cultural characteristics which colour branches of the anarchist movement. My presentation focuses on maps I have constructed of the subscribers to the Italian-language anarchist newspaper Cronaca Sovversiva (Subversive Chronicle). Printed in Barre, Vermont and Lynn, Massachusetts (1903-1919), the Cronaca has long been associated with the newspaper’s major editor Luigi Galleani. The readers of the paper have often been simply referred to as Galleanisti. My work reveals the actual places where the Cronaca was consumed. I connect the newspaper not only to the textile miles and Granite quarries of New England, but also the coal fields of Illinois, West Virginia and Pennsylvania as well as to miners scattered across the United States and Canada. I argue that awareness of the labor conditions which shaped the lives of base-militants, such as the strict gender divide that existed in coal-mining communities, the role company towns played in miners experience of class, and the access/knowledge such men would have had regarding the use of explosives, help us better understand their affinity for Galleani’s brand of anarchism. I conclude that we need more social and cultural history that is sensitive to the localized reality of the people who supported and consumed anarchist propaganda if we are going to connect with the subaltern militants who were the bones and blood of the movement.
Author name : Andrew Hoyt University of Minnesota hoytx059@umn.edu

Presentation 2 Title : Revolutions, and their places : the Anarchist Geographers and the problem of nationalities in the Age of Empire
This paper addresses the network of the Anarchist Geographers Elisée Reclus, Pëtr Kropotkin, Mikhail Dragomanov and others, who constructed, between the 19th and the 20th century, an original vision of nations and empires existing at that time. I focus here on their ideas about nationalities, central both in their scientific work and in their militancy.
Though Anarchism is traditionally intended as strongly opposed to nationalism, Reclus & C. expressed their solidarity to several struggles for national liberation, i.e. the Italian Risorgimento, the Spanish Sexénio Democrátco and the Polish’ and Slaves’ claiming for independence in Eastern Europe, against the empires of Moscow, Vienna and Constantinople, hoping that these national revolutions could make explode the social ones.
Drawing on Benedict Anderson’s concept of ‘postcolonial imagination’, I link these European cases with the broader solidarity that the Anarchist Geographers expressed for anticolonial struggles out of Europe, concerning colonized countries but also newly decolonized nations like the Latino-American ones. I put here the example of Reclus’ collaborations with South-American Republics like Brazil in their diplomatic disputes with French and British colonial empires in the Guianas.
My main hypothesis is that, if places and circulations play a role in the construction of knowledge, the transnational nature of the Anarchist movement, recently studied by several historians, influenced the cosmopolite approach of its militants. Thus, they believed in internationalism without neglecting local and national identities and cultural differences as instruments for a critique of the empires, being aware, at least empirically, of the importance of situating struggles.

Presenter : Federico Ferretti University of Geneva federico.ferretti@unige.ch

Presentation 3 Title : Kropotkin and the politics of space : a contextualist approach
Although mostly known for his anarchism these days, Pëtr Kropotkin throughout his life engaged in scientific work and the identity as a scientist constituted a crucial aspect of his selfimage, as well as that of his contemporaries. Looking at his scientific career from a historical point of view, a significant transformation of his interests and approach emerges, falling –roughly speaking – into two parts : A first phase in the 1860s with a series of publications on physical geography and a second at the turn of the century with evolutionary biology as the new main interest. If the latter has clear social and political implications, these implications are less obvious for the former. Does this mean Kropotkin’s geographical work is un-political ? Following recent work on the complex connection of anarchism and geography in the work of Élisée Reclus, my paper seeks to contextualise Kropotkin’s use of spatial categories within Reclus’ network of anarchist geographers in Switzerland and larger debates in Russian intellectual history.
I argue that Kropotkin never abandoned his interest in geography and space, but progressively developed more intricate manners of integrating it into his political project ; sometimes even revisiting and reinterpreting theories. In an analogy to the Lamarckian thrust adding a voluntaristic dimension to his Darwinism (against more crudely deterministic models), Kropotkin, also in the realm of geography, tried to reconcile universal laws with scope for individual action. With humans as an integral part and factor of transformation of the environment, Kropotkin offers an early vision of an anthropocene.
Author name : Pascale Siegrist Universität Konstanz pascale.siegrist@gmail.com

Presentation 4 Title : Biopolitical Authority, Laughter, and Violence in fin-de-siècle French Anarchism
This paper explores relationships between laughter, biopolitical authority, and ‘propaganda by the deed’ in late 19th century French anarchism. As has been well documented, anarchism proved attractive to many members of the French artistic and literary avant-garde. Both groups experimented with shock-effects, hidden symbolisms, and new relationships with nature. An important aspect of this relationship, however, has been largely overlooked. This is the affinities between laughter and violent revolt in in-de-siecle anarchist spatial politics of affect. Through a discussion of the influence of the vitalist sociologist/philosopher Jean-Marie Guyau on anarchist thought, the article argues that anarchist popular culture posed powerful challenges to dominant biopolitical discourses concerning the life of the city. Both carnivalesque humour and individual acts of revolt aimed to initiate a ‘healthy contagion’ that would spread the truth of the coming anarchist society throughout the city. In both cases, truth was to be lived through affective life rather than discursive representation. Fin-de-siècle anarchism, however, failed to free itself from certain problematic aspects of dominant biopolitical discourse.
Author name Julian Brigstocke University of Cardiff BrigstockeJ@cardiff.ac.uk

Session 3 Title : Places, states and politics : situating critical traditions and present challenges
Session chair : Francisco Toro University of Granada fjtoro@ugr.es

Presentation 1 Title : The social ecology tradition and the city
Today we are facing incredible challenges, due to environmental and social crisis on a global scale, where cities are at the forefront of these challenges. In this context, this paper will explore how social ecology, as defined by Murray Bookchin and as a part of the anarchist tradition, can help to analyse this reality and to what extent it offers new insights to take action for social change.
Social ecology is proposed as a coherent theory that, while critiquing current social and ecological crises, provides a reconstructive vision as well as the tools to achieve a free and ecological society. Permeated by dialectical naturalism, social ecology presents two important projects. On the one hand, it challenges the current capitalistic system and all forms of oppression including racism, ethno-centrism, and patriarchy. On the other hand, social ecology offers a reconstructive and revolutionary vision for an ecological post-scarcity society. Social ecology considers current societal struggles that surface in both urban and rural contexts, while also addressing central questions of nature, science, and technology that arise in these contexts. What is more, social ecology suggests how to construct a new society, promoting pre-figurative political organizing strategies that include affinity groups, the formation of directly-democratic social movements, as well as educational and political projects that include communalism or libertarian municipalism. Moreover, social ecology provides an ethics of complementarity that lay at the foundation of struggles to promote sex/gender liberation, horizontalism, egalitarianism, mutual aid, self-determination, and decentralization.
Using an in depth literature review and original elaboration, this paper will theoretically contribute to the rediscovery of the role of social ecology in the urban struggles.
Author name Federico Venturini University of Leeds ml10fv@leeds.ac.uk

Presentation 2 Title : Moment, Flow, Language, Non-Plan : the unique architecture of insurrection in a Brazilian urban periphery
Abstract When June 2013 Brazilian urban demonstrations came in Belo Horizonte Metropolitan Area those events happened to be a new type of political action that allowed a different kind of recognizable social actors emerge,– the citizens who live on the poor peripheries of capital cities.
It was a political moment with significant territorial impact that, beyond the administrative limits of the most important city in the region, has unfolded in neighbourhoods along the so-called peripheric centralities of metropolitan area. The uprisings took place in the outskirts of peripheral neighbourhoods connected to Belo Horizonte by federal roads where people built barricades to block transportation. Those events were, in fact, an unpredictable and ephemeral architecture since Belo Horizonte is a city that hides its poor inhabitants, in opposition to Rio de Janeiro, where the contact surface between slums and middle class neighbourhoods mix people and places all the time. Government discourses naturalize segregation to the point of incorporate the academic jargon ’extensive occupation’, or take the conceptual invariant ’the design of Belo Horizonte and its outlying suburbs’.
Those insurrections did not pose the problem of replacing governments ; before, the struggle was waged by the transformation of logical centre / power / margin / oppression that defines the capital city. The periphery, comprising its territory as a peripheral centrality, starts to reverse the control schemes in the metropolis and operates with other underlying logic, able to establish lines of escape from urban poverty ; those off-centre and polycentric movements are built in favour of citizenship.
Author name Rita Velloso Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais – UFMG (Brazil) ritavelloso@gmail.com

Presentation 3 Title : Post-statist geographies : anarchy, history, and contingency
“The state is only one of the forms assumed by society in the course of history. Why then make no distinction between what is permanent and what is accidental ?” (Kropotkin, 2009 [1896] : 6)
This presentation critically investigates past and present treatments of the state within geography. We propose that there has been a silent statism within geography that has shaped the discipline’s epistemologies and ontologies in ways that distort and limit geographical imaginations. Statism, herein, refers to a pervasive organizational logic that valorises and naturalises sovereign verticalist relationships, within and beyond state spaces. Drawing from anthropological work on state formation, and anarchist state theory, it is clear that the state is a young, vulnerable, and historically contingent phenomenon. We argue that although the explicit, colonial statism that characterised early geography is past, traces of statism continue to implicitly underpin much of the discipline. This silence is politically and intellectually untenable and we argue that statism should be no less a subject of critical interrogation than any other oppressive relation. As a result, we propose that silent statism reproduces five core myths that form its logical foundations. In concluding, we recommend three initial areas in which post-statist geographies can make inroads : studying and theorising intersections between statism and other power inequalities ; constructing new, post-statist epistemologies and methodologies ; and making a critical shift in the way we represent the state in our writing and communication.
Author name Anthony Ince University of Stockholm anthony.ince@humangeo.su.se

Presentation 4 Title : About other geographies and anarchisms
Reclus and other anarchists envisaged an intimate relationship between human societies and the transformations of their own environments. In this way, the search for an harmony or equilibrium between these two terms was one of Reclus’ objectives, considering that that the environmental destructions were caused by the lack of freedom, and by the imposition of economical projects from few social sectors over the vast majority.
Facing the Anthropocene as a new phase in socio-ecological history that characterizes the overwhelming human transformation over nature, and as a crisis of the Western civilizing model, it is necessary to go in depth with the analysis of the impact of the human footprint on Earth, including those other worldviews that have been obscured, excluded or exploited by the abysmal thought-action of Modernity.
We propose to continue the analysis of the current generalized socio-ecological deterioration by incorporating other ways of looking at- and inhabiting the world, and relating them with alternative experiences that have been obscured and marginalized, like the life plans that have been ancestrally constructed from the other worldviews and world lives in the day by day continuum. Our discussion will deal with three main topics : 1) the anarchist ideas about the Modernity project and the possibility to rethink it as “concrete universality” ; 2) the political emergence of the plurality of social actors and their knowledge-practices as a possibility to mitigate the perverse socio-ecological consequences imprinted by the present civilization model, thus rethinking the universe as a pluriverse, and 3) to discuss a theoretical framework that incorporates/recognizes the multiplicity of worlds and anarchisms from a temporal/spatial point of view.
Author name : Gerónimo Barrera de la Torre Instituto de Investigaciones “Dr. José María Luis Mora” gbarreratorre@gmail.com
Narciso Barrera-Bassols, Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro (Mexico)

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