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(en) US, Carleton, Media, Anarchist academic talks about successful political organizing

Date Mon, 03 Nov 2014 17:09:47 +0200

Chris Dixon, a sociology adjunct reseach professor at Carleton University, leads discussion on radical political movements. ---- According to anarchist academic Chris Dixon, Ph.D., successful social justice movements require combative natures and alternative options, as well as an understanding of the current social and political climate. ---- Dixon, an adjunct research professor at Carleton University and a longtime anarchist organizer, writer, and educator, addressed a crowd of 30 people in Smith Hall, room 211, on Thursday night about his new book, “Another Politics: Talking Across Today’s Transformative Movements.” ---- The talk was organized by the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies, jointly housed in the departments of political science and history. The Comparative History of Ideas program and Walter Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities also sponsored the event.

Andrew Hedden, program coordinator at the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies, organized the talk.

“[Dixon’s] book is an important contribution to documenting current social movements,” he said.

He said he hoped students, activists, and faculty who attended the talk would bring away new ideas about effective activism and spark further research.

Dixon became involved in anarchist liberation movements as a teenager. His progressive teachers at his alternative secondary school introduced him to the environmental movement. This eventually led him to study at Evergreen State College, which has a reputation for activist work.

The book began as Dixon’s doctoral thesis at the University of California in Santa Cruz. His thesis, which he wrote to address themes he experienced while organizing movements and protests, documented social movements throughout history, and relied on interviews with experienced organizers.

Dixon said, through his book — which took him more than eight years to finish — he sought to answer questions that activists pose, such as “What are we learning [in the process of organizing these movements]?” and “What kinds of challenges are we coming up against?”

He has organized protests against the Iraq war, globalization, animal mistreatment, and sexism. He was also an organizer of protests in Seattle during the World Trade Organization (WTO) conference in 1999.

In the process of writing his book, Dixon interviewed activist organizers from across the United States and Canada for his research, and studied the history of activism in both countries. He said, through his research, he found successful movements both combat a present power and provide alternatives to the status quo.

“Successful transformative movements have to combine two aspects of work that are often disconnected,” Dixon said. “We can fight and fight and fight, but unless we have alternatives to put forward nothing will change.”

Dixon said if people — activists — want to transform this world, they must first relate to the society they live in.

“The term ‘another politics’ is useful because it gestures poetically to something unprocessed,” he said. “Something that people share in common, that we can work on together. There’s no central line.”

Dixon said most of today’s movements can be traced to three types of activism: women of color feminism, prison abolitionists, and anarchism. All these forms of activism are connected through large-scale direct action, decentralized organization, and collective-caring practices, such as food co-ops. What has emerged is what Dixon calls an “anti-authoritarian current.”

“We have to find a way to merge all these [three] aspects together,” he said.

Dixon also spoke about his experience in the Occupy Movement in Greater Sudbury, Ontario, where he saw people in poverty and indigenous people argue and learn about each other’s social and political status.

“The stakes are really high; they’re undermining life and life-making,” Dixon said.

He said this situation depicted how people dealing with unique issues came together under one movement.

Disconnectedness of issues and people in activism, he said, can often be a hindrance to enacting social changes. He said this phenomena explains why small-city organizers tend to be very isolated from big-city activists.

He hoped his presentation talk opened up, “spaces for all kinds of different activism.”

Dan Berger, assistant professor of comparative ethnic studies at the UW Bothell, met Dixon shortly after the WTO protests in 1999, and considers Dixon’s book as a tool for conversation.

“His work is unique in being intellectual and rigorous, but, at the same time, [being] accessible,” Berger said. “It’s enabling people to have a cohesive conversation.”

Reach reporter Izumi Hansen at news@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @i_isen
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