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(en) US, The Nor'easter #7 - News - Nearly 300 Converge for the Inaugural NAASN Conference By NICO RAHIM

Date Fri, 08 Jan 2010 21:57:40 +0200



Nearly 300 people converged in Hartford, Conn. on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 21 and 22 for
the inaugural conference of the North American Anarchist Studies Network (NAASN).
Panelists and attendees came from throughout the United States and Canada to discuss
anarchist theory, history and current anti-authoritarian movements. ---- “(NAASN) is being
established with this conference,” said Nathan Jun, a conference organizer and a
philosophy professor at Midwestern State University in Texas. “So far it has exceeded our
expectations.” ---- The original expectation was that 30 or 40 people would gather at the
Charter Oak Cultural Center, but there was an “overwhelming” response to the call for
papers, discussions and panels in late-July, organizers said. The conference ended up
consisting of discussions on more than 30 papers, three workshops and more than seven panels.

Topics ranged from a report-back
on the anti-authoritarian movements
in Greece by Andrej Grubacic and a
presentation on collective participatory
action-research in Montreal by women
from CRAC (Collective de Recherché sur
L’autonomie Collectif), to a panel discussion
on anarchists in political organizations and
a paper presentation on Anarcha-Islam by
Mohamed Jean Veneuse.
Saturday was capped with the third
and final performance of “Emma”, a play
by Howard Zinn on the life of Emma
Goldman. The play was produced in the
egalitarian and anti-authoritarian spirit
of Goldman. The original director of the
production was let go because she did
not want to sacrifice creative control to
consensus decision making.
Organizers of the conference got the
idea for NAASN from the Anarchist
Studies Network in the United Kingdom,
Jun said. But unlike the U.K. Network,
which is affiliated and funded by the U.K.’s
Political Studies Network, organizers
envision the North American version as
being independent of any larger network
and made up of “professional and grassroots
scholars of anarchism,” he said.
Organizers felt that there was a
need to create a forum for academic and
nonacademic anarchist scholars to engage
in discussion, debate and, at times, self-
criticism.
“I do think there's a need for NAASN
in North America,” said Deric Shannon,
a conference organizer and a sociology
instructor at the University of Connecticut.
“One, because knowledge production is
bound up in the ways people are oppressed.
Secondly, because we need a space that
troubles this stupid divide between
‘professional’ scholars (academics) and
grassroots scholars. If we do this right,
NAASN can serve as one such space.”
The conference came to a close Sunday
with a discussion on “Developing the
NAASN.” Attendees and organizers
decided to hold rotating conferences
hosted at different locations by different
people, but planning for a conference in
2010 has been tabled for the time being.
Organizers are currently creating a listserv
and a Web site to facilitate the formation
of the network. A few professional scholars
have decided to work on collective projects
together under the auspices of the NAASN,
Shannon said.
“Like American society in general,
the anarchist milieu can be a pretty anti-
intellectual crowd. Likewise, we've just
gotten ridiculous with our sectarianism,
refusal to have principled debates, and our
inability to have disagreements that are
productive (look at almost any random
comment thread on Anarchist News, for
example),” Shannon said. “I wanted to
create a space that was safe for free inquiry
and debate and didn't turn into that kind of
counter-productive circus.”
_________________________________________
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