Academic Silliness: “Resistance Studies”

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The left academic scene is rife with interdisciplinary silliness these days. It started in the heyday of the New Left with “(insert favorite minority group here) Studies,” expanded to include “Women’s Studies,” “LGBT Studies” and “Peace Studies.” From Negations, I learn of the “Resistance Studies” journal emanating from the University of Göteborg (Sweden).

In the editors’ words, “Due to the multifaceted reality of social relations (understood in the widest of senses), there can be no a priori rules of method confined to disciplinary boundaries.” Not only is this a misguided effort but the editors can’t even manage to get the facts right.

C. Kullenberg and J. Lehne write:

On the 15th of February 2003 millions of people around the world hit the streets in a manifestation against the war in Iraq. The protest was coordinated from ‘below’, by grass-root movements displaying their ability to form transnational networks. But how could the protest evolve like this in the first place?

Well, it helps to tell the truth. In the United States, these protests were organized by communist sects like ANSWER. I would never claim or even imply that most of the participants were members of ANSWER but the funding and logistics (busses, etc.) was clearly coming from this unsavory group. But I realize its not good PR to say, “we are all useful idiots and fellow travelers,” so you need to wrap it up in some hip new social movements jargon.

Tim Gough (Kinston College), a contributing author to the journal notes, “There is an apparently paradoxical nature to resistance. Resistance is resistance against something, towards which it appears inimical. This resisted thing, however, requires such resistance in order to define itself and keep itself safe.” Deep, man. Real deep.

But my favorite was Jeffrey Shantz’ “Anarchist Futures in the Present” in which he profers “autonomous zones” as building blocs of a future libertarian communist society. Are you kidding me, man? This is what passes for intelligent discourse in the academy these days and it’s quite sad, really.

Don’t believe me? Visit the Resistance Studies blog.

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7 responses »

  1. Thank you for commenting on the Resistance Studies Magazine! As the editor and publisher I try to find out who is reading the magazine, and it is a difficult task when publishing online.

    I am not sure about what you consider to be a false statement. Of course that would depend on what the definition of a grass-root movement. Since I am unfamiliar with the organisation ANSWER, I can only give you a general reply. The demonstrations were non-governmental and unsupported by the ordinary social institutions of nation-states. However, I do agree with you that grass-root also implies also that it is not large-scale. In times of radical globalisation, maybe we have to revise that. The Internet, for example, has made possible large scale organisation, no matter if it belongs to the left or right.

    All the best! /Christopher Kullenberg

  2. Thanks for commenting.

    As you may have guessed, I do not consider rallies and demos organized by the dinosaurs of the totalitarian left as “grassroots,” not in the slightest. Nor do I consider puppet making revolutionary.

  3. “craftism”? Is this a joke? Making a quilt, or a puppet, is now an “ism”, an ideological, political resistance, activity?

    If I heard this term without the context my first thought would be that this is the name of a school for scandals…

    It also seems unbelievable that an author who is so obviously enthusiastic about the anti war rallies would be unaware of ANSWER. After all, ANSWER banners were everywhere in those rallies.

    Here is some information from the Annual Report: Antisemitism and Racism. Stephen Roth Institute (2002-2003):

    ” The ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) coalition, created by the New York-based International Action Center to protest the bombing of Afghanistan, has organized many anti-war protests around the country since September 2001. Anti-Israel and antisemitic content has marked some ANSWER events, which have been endorsed by such groups as the international Al-Awda – Right of Return Coalition and the Illinois-based Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP).

    ANSWER has become one of the most effective organizers of anti-war rallies, playing a key role in bringing Arab and Muslim groups into the anti-war and anti-racism movements, which has led to extreme invective against Israel during protests. The largest and most disturbing ANSWER event was held on 20 April 2002, in Washington DC. Called the “National March for Palestine against War and Racism,” the rally was attended by approximately 200,000 people, including thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators. The rally served as a forum for supporting violence and terror organizations, and for a proliferation of antisemitic expressions. Slogans and images included: “End the Holocaust” (with a picture of Sharon), an Israeli flag with a swastika replacing the Star of David, a US flag with a Star of David replacing the 50 stars and the message, “Free America,” “Bush and Sharon, Tag-team Terrorists,” and “First Jesus Now Arafat, Stop the Killers.” The ANSWER coalition advanced the date of its rally to April 20 to coincide with anti-globalization demonstrations, which were organized to protest the IMF and the World Bank. ”

    http://www.tau.ac.il/Anti-Semitism/asw2002-3/general.htm

  4. newcentrist: point taken. You may be right in calling this organisation totalitarian. Nevertheless, the aggregate of protests did point to some kind of rupture in global resistance co-ordination.

    Noga: It is of course up for debate whether craftivism is an ideological struggle or not. However, it is definately political: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craftivism

    I did some research on the ANSWER movement and it seems like it is mainly a US-phenomenon. The anti-war demonstrations did however occur on a global scale, and of course the heterogeneity of such a large enterprise makes it impossible to agree or disagree with all or any organisations involved. As you may read from the quote I am asking a descriptive question “how could the protest evolve like this in the first place?”. There is plenty of unethical resistance going on in the world, and we need to understand all forms in order to critically evaluate them later on.

  5. Ask yourself this question:

    If, by some fluke, the US were to declare a war upon Israel, would your resistance to war movement rally globally to prevent such a war?

    What is the real motivation of the anti war movement? Why don’t we see them rallying similarly in millions to demand a stop to the war in Darfur? There are currently fifteen African countries involved in war, or are experiencing post-war conflict and tension, where is your resistance to war movement in those places? Why don’t they give a hoot for Africans when they are poor, massacred, mutilated, raped, for years and years?

  6. “It is of course up for debate whether craftivism is an ideological struggle or not. However, it is definately political: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craftivism.”

    I’m sorry but this is nonsense. Knitting is not political resistance. Neither is making puppets. It may reinforce your political identity and sense of self esteem but in the end, it makes no difference on policy, at least not here in the U.S. Maybe things are different in Scandinavia.

    I expect an academic to have higher standards than wikipedia. I do not allow my students to use it as a source on any of their written work. If they do, they receive an “F”. I also suspect you or one of your fellow “craftivists” posted that definition yourself.

  7. Thanks a lot for your input!

    Noga: Don’t get me wrong, I am not a representative of some resistance movement. Personally I would however react strongly if US declared war on Israel. I am against all wars, and I have several (jewish) friends in Israel that I care about.

    You are absolutely right about the Darfur case, as well as many other African and Asian cases. The RSM has yet, only in two issues, highlighted resistance in Sierra Leone, Thailand, Nigeria and India, and we try really to work in this direction.

    Newcentrist: You are right in the sense that craftivism has poor effects on policy. I would however still label it as a political action, since it does point to new modes of production, new interpretations of intellectual property and so forth.

    The wikipedia reference was made out of convenience. I am trying to convince some of my craftivist friends to write a proper academic article for the Resistance Studies Magazine, in order to put it under proper debate. There is already one book called “Abstract hacktivism” that I know of, which can be downloaded from this link: http://www.isk-gbg.org/abstracthacktivism/
    It connects sewing and knitting to open source programming and philosophy. Once again, I am not a spokesperson for the craftivist movement. It is only one of several lines of phenomenon in a continuum of political actions.

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