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Polis (Santiago)

versión On-line ISSN 0718-6568

Polis vol.11 no.33 Santiago dic. 2012 

Polis, Revista Latinoamericana, Volumen 11, Nº 33, 2012, p. 51-90



In defense of conviviality and the collective subject

En defensa de la convivialidad y del sujeto colectivo

Em defesa da convivência e do sujeito coletivo


Manuel Callahan

Universidad de la Tierra Califas, San Diego, USA. Email:


Abstract: This essay takes up the question of a "new" social paradigm by firstexamining the recent emergence of the U.S. Occupied Movement (OM) as a provocativeand inspiring moment of political re-composition, but one that also narrates a morecomplex unraveling of what W.E.B Du Bois called "democratic despotism." The mostrecent political tensions and economic "crisis" of the global north point to the disruptionof a white "middle class" hegemony alongside inspiring moments of reconstructedconviviality. I suggest that the tension within spaces of occupation and convergence areanimated by conviviality that should be read "politically" by noting the emergence oftools in service of community regeneration. Towards that end, I introduce Universidadde la Tierra Califas, a local project somewhere in-between network and collectivepedagogies that is also a project of strategic conviviality and a Zapatismo beyond Chiapas.I argue that UT Califas engages a collective subject as part of an epistemological struggleinspired by Indigenous autonomy currently underway throughout Latin America.

Key words: autonomy, collective subject, conviviality, democraticdespotism, necropolitics, insurgent learning.

Resumen: En este ensayo se aborda la cuestión de un «nuevo» paradigmasocial, examinando en primer lugar la reciente aparición del estadounidense Movimiento Ocupado (OM) como un momento provocador e inspirador de recomposición política, pero que también narra un desenlace más complejo de lo que W.E.B.Du Bois llama «despotismo democrático». Las tensiones políticas más recientes yla «crisis» económica mundial del extremo norte señalan la interrupción de la hegemonía de la «clase media blanca" junto a momentos de inspiración de convivencia reconstruida. Se sugiere que la tensión dentro de los espacios de ocupación yconvergencia, están animados por la convivencia que puede ser leída «políticamente»al apreciar la aparición de herramientas al servicio de la regeneración de la comunidad.Con ese fin, se presenta la Universidad de la Tierra Califas, un proyecto local en algúnpunto entre la red y las pedagogías colectivas, que también es un proyecto de convivencia estratégica y un zapatismo más allá de Chiapas. Se sostiene que UT Califas seacopla a un sujeto colectivo, como parte de una lucha epistemológica, inspirado por laautonomía indígena actualmente en curso en América Latina.

Palabras clave: autonomía, sujeto colectivo, convivencia, despotismo democrático, necropolítica, aprendizaje insurgente.

Resumo: Este ensaio tem-se a questão de um «novo» paradigma social,analisando o recente surgimento do Movimento EUA Ocupados (OM) como um momento provocador e inspirador da política de recomposição, mas que tambémnarra um desenlace mais complexo do que W.E.B. Du Bois chamou de «despotismo democrático.» As mais recentes tensões políticas e «crise» econômica do norteglobal mostra o rompimento da hegemonia de um branco «classe média» ao ladode momentos de inspiração de convívio reconstruído. Eu sugiro que a tensão dentro de espaços de ocupação e convergência são animados por convívio que deveser lido «politicamente», observando o surgimento de ferramentas no serviço deregeneração da comunidade. Para este fim, apresento Universidad de la TierraCalifas um projeto local em algum lugar entre a rede e pedagogias coletivo que étambém um projeto de convívio estratégico e um zapatismo além Chiapas. Defendoque UT Califas envolve um sujeito coletivo, como parte de uma luta epistemológicainspirado na autonomia indígena em curso na América Latina.

Palavras-chave: autonomia, sujeito coletivo, convívio, despotismo democrático, necropolitics, aprendizagem insurgente.


The question of a new social paradigm is critical.1 For some, it is already here. For others, we are at an undeniable threshold. But, what actuallyconstitutes this new social paradigm and how to advance it remains a topicof some debate. Much of the discussion centers around a number of initial questions, including some disagreement if we are yet able to fully observeit, and, if so, where do we observe it most clearly? How is this new paradigmadvanced? Can the praxis associated with it be reproduced in other sites? Iagree with others that a new social paradigm is certainly underway. Moreimportantly, it is most easily observed in the "dislocated spaces, (where)rhythms are disrupted and the social roles imposed by the dynamics ofdomination are forgotten." (Ceceña, 2012: 113) This "new" social paradigmis most easily observed in the multiple spaces of convivial reconstructionunderway, including, but not limited to the space of Indigenous autonomythroughout Latin America.2

In what follows I want to offer three areas for reflection and these in relation to the question of a new social paradigm. The first revolves aroundthe need to be clear about how we are analyzing the current conjuncture. Isuggest we advance the discussion of a "new social paradigm" by firstrecognizing the need to agree somewhat on how we are reading the currentconjuncture in relation to "crisis." I stress the importance of reflecting onthe current moment to propose that how we read the "crisis" determines inlarge part what we are able to observe regarding the dynamics, opportunities,and challenges of different spaces of opposition. Highlighting our approachto analysis draws our attention to the complexities of the current conjuncturewhile also exposing the epistemological dimensions of the many trajectoriesof struggle that animate this moment. I insist that the current moment presentsnot only a particular set of "crises," but a epistemological struggle.3 The recent emergence of the U.S. Occupied Movement (OM), for example,punctuates a provocative and inspiring moment of political re-composition,but it also narrates a more complex unraveling of what W.E.B Du Boiscalled "democratic despotism." More than simply a disruption of financial markets or the political instability that results from austerity programs, thecurrent political tensions that reverberate through the wave of occupations,emerging commons, and community assemblies point to the disruption of awhite "middle class" hegemony alongside inspiring moments ofreconstructed conviviality. "The individualism which was imposed on thecolonies, today nation-states," explains Jaime Martínez Luna, "is reachingits limit in regard to the development of equality and democracy as itconfronts the truly vibrant epistemological proposal of comunalidad." (Martínez Luna, 2012: 85)

Second, given that many spaces have become infused with orpotentially animated by a conviviality, I want to briefly interrogate IvanIllich’s monopoly of the concept by "reading him politically" much in thesame way Harry Cleaver suggests for reading Marx, namely to engage himstrategically. A political reading takes as its perspective the working classand "self consciously and unilaterally structures its approach to determinethe meaning and relevance of every concept to the immediate developmentof working class struggle." (Cleaver, 2001: 30) Toward that end, I brieflyconsider conviviality as a "methodology," or tool, for analysis and imagineit as a strategy in relation to an emerging "collective subject." My primarypoint of reference for both conviviality and a collective subject is the EZLNand the diverse Zapatista solidarity community that has emerged with them.In addition, I am also informed by local efforts to pursue a Zapatismo beyondChiapas. Unfortunately, space does not permit a thorough discussion of thecontributions the Zapatistas have made to strategic discussions about howwe might promote a collective subject as an emerging force of democraticrenewal.4

Third, I want to briefly examine local efforts that attempt a strategicconviviality that I also read as an attempt at a Zapatismo beyond Chiapas.In this case, I examine the Universidad de la Tierra Califas, a project currentlyunderway in the southern portion of the San Francisco Bay Area and SouthernCalifornia. I read its engagement with conviviality through insurgent learningand convivial research, an autonomous political praxis that embraces acollective subject and insists that knowledge production is a fundamentaldimension of popular democratic processes and pre-figurative politics. Atthe core of UT Califas’ convivial reconstruction is an effort to make learningan on-going dimension of democratic renewal. Insurgent learning is a "newform of learning: a kind of learning nourished by the experiences andsensitivity of old fighters and by new ideas that desecrate the sanctuaries ofpower." (Ceceña, 2012: 113)

The "Crisis" of Democratic Despotism

San Jose, like much of the country, has been infected by a rash ofoccupations and assemblies. Unfortunately, there has been little to distinguishOccupied San Jose (OSJ), from much of the OM. Indeed, OSJ, to mostobservers, has been overshadowed by the more militant and creative mobilizations underway in San Francisco and Oakland.5 San Jose has not earned any special attention in the politics of occupation. However, whileSan Jose is only one of many occupations most observers associate with theArab Spring and indignados of Spain, it does provide some critical insightinto how we currently define and analyze "crisis."

What converted a rather lack luster occupation in San Jose from apredictable, scripted protest to a display of democratic despotism’sunraveling begins with a simple gesture to share new facilitation tools andtechniques with OSJ’s General Assembly (GA). Responding to a pattern ofmarginalization in the GA, a number of representatives from San Jose’sethnic Mexican community advocated for a more inclusive and diverseassembly process. Towards that end, representatives of San Jose’s diverseethnic Mexican community agreed to facilitate a GA and introduced anapproach borrowed from the asamblea popular most prominently on display during the Oaxaca commune.6 After presenting a somewhat modifiedfacilitation strategy intended to address issues specific to the dynamics ofOSJ, the guest facilitation team initiated the day’s proceedings.7 The facilitators for the day opened the GA by inviting local Native Americanelders to inaugurate the gathering with a brief ceremony to acknowledgeprior claims to the land being used for the GA, celebrate ancestors, andhonor the present gathering.

In short order, many of the most prominent and active members ofthe GA, as it was then constituted, voiced their outrage. A number of theOSJ’s recognized "leaders" denounced the proceedings, shouting that theydid not want a "Hispanic revolution." The most vocal declared that Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlán (M.E.Ch.A.) and a network ofSpanish-speaking separatist groups were hijacking the GA. After hours ofaccusations, righteous indignation, and unsolicited paternalism the GA wasreclaimed by "the majority" of active GA participants (read white), especiallythose keen on making sure working committees could fulfill their chargeand resume the bureaucratic chores of presenting committee report backs.The gesture was an effort to reclaim the "real business" of the GA and theOSJ. Unfortunately, the tension at the GA proved that many of "theoccupiers" might be able to protest banks, direct invective at ineffectiveelected leaders, and reclaim abandoned public squares, but that Sundaythey demonstrated they cannot or are unwilling to learn complex strategiesof assembly and community formation increasingly associated with a newpolitics of encounter from the ethnic Mexican community of GreaterMexico.8

The unfolding of the OM in San Jose is a stark contrast from thepolitical energies that converge in other parts of the San Francisco BayArea, especially the North and East Bay. To be sure, the experience in SanJose reveals a dimension of the social and racial antagonism observed inportions of other occupations associated with the OM. However, I evokeSan Jose’s experience with the OM to suggest that what is at stake in thecurrent conjuncture is not only a moment of capitalist crisis but also to underscore the limits of democratic despotism. The political tensionsexposed in OSJ echo the political restrictions witnessed in, for example,Arizona and increasingly other states as political forces continue to mobilizeand invest in strategies of "differential inclusion" and preemptive prosecutionprimarily directed at the Mexican community.9 Moreover, the expulsion ofthe region’s ethnic Mexican community witnessed at OSJ reenacts the rigidracial barriers that inform much of the OM’s mobilization as well as the larger society.

One of the principal achievements of the OM has been to introducea shared language of opposition against capitalism and the elites who profitmost by it. The success of the OM according to George Caffentzis was "theremarkable job of attracting many new strata of the 99% (or what used tobe the working class) to the occupy site." Besides bringing more of whatwas "traditionally" known as the working class back into the politicalprocess, OM facilitated a shift away from representative political strategiesto a "body politics," or the necessity "to have to bodily be at the center ofthe circulation of cities to practice politics." Additionally, many have beeninspired, come to learn, or been reminded of the power of the street. Morepeople have taken to the street Caffentzis notes to convert public space intocommunity commons even at times using the antiquated tactic of the siege.Most importantly, the OM has proven to be a "self-reproducing" movementin the sense that it puts reproduction at the center of political work, reducingthe gap between the "personal and the political." (Caffentzis, 2012) Alongwith the infectious energy of reclaiming commons there is a growingawareness about the importance of linking work, environmental, health,food, and safety at the level of community struggles. Thus, the OM hassuccessfully brought a number of critical issues to the attention of themainstream and has begun to shift the "common sense" beyond the relianceon political machines and the non-profit industrial complex. Notable amongthese are the criminal transfer of wealth by elites; excessive force deployedby militarized police; systemic restrictions to commons; and the limits of arepresentative system of governance that pretend at democracy.

Unfortunately, even a cursory review of the achievements of the OMcannot escape the difficulties around race especially notable in multipleefforts to decolonize occupied spaces. Declarations of "we are the 99%have been challenged by groups who believe they have been excluded ormarginalized from occupy spaces. Much of the discussion has been focusedon the complications of inclusion. Not surprisingly, "decolonizing" the spacein many instances has been limited to issues of representation, mirroring inmany ways how racial violence is diffused through identity politics.Declarations that the OM has been the first or is unique in articulatingstruggles for rights, equity, and access have been met with the subtle and attimes not so subtle reminder that historically marginalized groups have beenfighting for their homes, wages, and healthcare for some time.

Less than a month after the incidents in San Jose, observers were shocked at police violence directed at occupiers peacefully assembled at UC Davis. In this context OM also exposed what Dylan Rodriguez calls the"political abyss" of U.S. liberal-progressive politics. In the context ofoccupied, police violence has been increasingly directed at emboldenedoccupiers even finding its way to the occupations on University campuses.Police excess at UC Berkeley, and later UC Davis, for example, outragedmany sympathetic to the OM and further raised the awareness of even thoseonly recently aware of the struggle. Escalation of police misconduct occurredwhen riot-clad UC Davis police brutally pepper sprayed campus occupiers.Police brutality directed at mostly students generated an immediate andvocal disapproval, including from folks only moderately interested in theOM. The police debacle at Occupy Davis underscored how militarizedpolicing that has been a central part of a larger strategy of low intensity wardirected at historically marginalized communities and youth of color forthe last thirty years can be, according to Rodríguez, increasingly applied toall variety of protestors. Rodriguez reads the chasm as one "that allows foracute indignation to be reserved for the policing of those presumed raciallyinnocent (white)" against the violence inflicted on criminalized Black andBrown bodies who are daily victims of "undisguised modalities of domesticracialized warfare." Rodríguez rightfully concludes that racial antagonismstill "structures major strains of many progressive, social justice orientedstruggles, including the domestic Occupy Movement." (Rodríguez, 2012:301-313)

Thus, the OM embodies the uneasy tension between militantintervention and convivial reconstruction within a context of persistent racial inequality. External limits are the organized police attacks under thepretext of enforcing "municipal biopolitical ordinances." (Caffentzis, 2012)The repression is a coordinated effort of multiple law enforcement agencies at the local, state, and federal level. Internal limits include the discord in the encampments. For some the encampments are an expression of the"spontaneity" that Ceceña refers to in relation to subaltern resistance.Spontaneity embodies "a long ruminated freedom" and "learning throughinvention." (Ceceña, 2012: 114) Others, many new to active public politicalinvolvements, worry about "sending the right message" and mobilizinggreater participation or sympathy by not appearing excessive or extreme inthe deployment of specific tactics and the development of a long-termstrategy. The recent accusations against the Black Bloc as a disruptive force within Occupied Oakland, for example, underscore the political strugglesbetween those who insist on an "organized" PR campaign competing to"get the right message out" and those who occupy as a strategy intent onliberating spaces, reclaiming commons, and deploying a "diversity oftactics." One faction is being careful to stay within the parameters ofdominant discourses that authorize political activity while the other strugglesto imagine a space beyond capital and the state.

Although confronted by external and internal limits, the OM still isable to facilitate politically potent moments of conviviality. Thus, the OMis at a critical turning point. How to disrupt dominant forces and still maintainconvivial reconstruction? At stake is the challenge of moving beyond the initial "spontaneity" to constructing a space for co-generation of interculturalknowledges and strategies capable of embracing or inventing alternativesto capital and the state.

The violent and coordinated dislocation of the OM from public spaceunderscores how occupation has refocused attention on "democracy" as arenewed site of struggle. The spectacles of "oligarchic democracies" thatmanage interests through "free" elections, political parties, corporate press,and financial markets proceeds against the back drop of the OM’s internaland external struggle -those who insist on converting occupation into anorganization within the existing framework of a representative bureaucracyconfront refuseniks who prefer to embrace it as a process and strategy.According to Kristin Ross, democracy either describes the undeniablecapacity of people to manage their own lives or "a world governmentcentered on great wealth and the worship of wealth, but capable of buildingconsensus and legitimacy through elections that, by limiting the range ofoptions, effectively protect the ascendency of the middle and upper classes."(Ross, 2011: 98) "What we’ve witnessed in the countries we call ‘thedemocracies,’" adds Jacques Rancière, "has been a mistrustful and faintlyor openly derisive attitude toward democracy." More to the point, "a largepart of the dominant discourse is working in one way or another againstdemocracy." (Rancière, 2011: 76) But, it is democracy that is a vital site forradical transformations –"a method of doing the impossible." "It is," explains W.E.B Du Bois, "the only method yet discovered of making education anddevelopment of all men a matter of all men’s desperate desire." (Du Bois,1915: 712)

It is worth repeating that the provocations, challenges, andopportunities of the OM emerge within a context of extreme levels ofpersistent, everyday violence organized through the intersections ofpermanent global war, militarization of the everyday, and the increasingprivatization of violence articulated in part in the virulent forms of differentialinclusion and abandonment.10 Since 9-11, the Patriot Act, and, more recently,the approval of the National Defense Authorization Act underscore theperceived threat to political liberty racialized enemies pose, underscoringthat "freedom" at home depends on "democratic empire" and the U.S.’sefforts to advance democracy abroad. According to Sylvia Federici: "it isin the irreducible nature of the present capitalist crisis that no mediation,either at the level of programs or institutions are possible, and thatdevelopment planning in the Third World gives way to war." (Federici,2000: 153)

The battle over "democracy" as a consensus building process thatcelebrates faith in the capacity of people to manage their own lives ratherthan submit to a failed representative system takes place alongside a spectacleof violent racial restriction directed against the ethnic Mexican communityof Greater Mexico. The recent killing of two migrants by an armed group ofcamouflaged vigilantes just outside of Eloy, Arizona underscores apermanent war at home executed by just about any fanatic with a gun eager to «patrol the border.» All too common violent assaults, custodialmisconduct, and police and border patrol shooting deaths operate alongsidea growing apparatus of preemptive prosecution exemplified in Alabama’sHB 56 and Arizona’s SB 1070. Attacks and exclusions have reached a level dangerously in sync with political processes more common to fascism whenbooks are banned and ideas made illegal as in the well-funded andorchestrated campaign against Mexican American Studies in Tucson.Targeted use of I-9 raids directed at selected factories across the countryspreads terror to key portions of the ethnic Mexican workforce. Increaseddeportations alongside the expansion of detention centers have become oneof the main growth areas of the Prison Industrial Complex and insure itslongevity. Despite local law enforcements disfavor and, in many notablecases resistance, to S-Comm, a nation-wide dragnet continues to terrorizewhole communities with a devastating impact on families that areincreasingly torn apart due to alarming rates of deportations. The severecriminalization of undocumented status promised in HR 4437 and S 2611that earlier had mobilized over two million protesters in 2006 has becomede facto if not de jure. The current battle underway in places like Arizonareminds us that even exercising the most benign democratic principles canpose a serious threat, leading to increased levels of criminalization of"historically underrepresented" communities, securitization of already failedschools in low income areas, and privatization of all areas of redressorganized through the non-profit industrial complex.

The Unraveling of Democratic Despotism

The current opening created by the wave of occupations has notonly revealed the disruption of international capitalism as much as abreakdown of "democratic despotism." The confrontation with "theAmerican paradox" is best observed by the sustained rebellion againststructural adjustments, followed by the serial protests of the alterglobalization movement, and, more recently, the wave of occupationssweeping the globe. These occupations have finally reached the U.S. aftermore than thirty years of pitched battles and autonomous alternatives thathave confronted Structural Adjustment, Free Trade, Privatizations, and LowIntensity Conflict coordinated in the intersecting wars against drugs,migrants, terror, and the social factory. More importantly, this critical momentof political re-composition has also witnessed the fraying edges of whatonce was a "democratic nation composed of united capital and labor." (DuBois, 1915: 709)

In the U.S. "crisis" has been used somewhat successfully to organizeracialized violence directed at various "enemies of the state" at times decomposing the class and always deflecting attention away from the state apparatus.11 The manufacture and manipulation of "crisis" makes possiblethe production of an ideological surplus value that organizes relations withina system of globalized white supremacy. Ruth Wilson Gilmore argues thatfrom "the genocidal wars against Native Americans to the totalitarian chattel slavery perpetrated on Africans, to colonial expansion, to the obliterationof radical anti-racist and anti-capitalist movements, the annals of US historydocument a normatively aggressive, crisis-driven state." From slaverythrough colonial expansion, including domestic disruption of oppositionalmovements, "the US has been committed to the relentless identification, coercive control, and violent elimination of foreign and domestic enemies."The state claims "permanent ideological surplus value in the realm of‘defense’" on a number of scales. Gilmore’s theorization of ideologicalsurplus value links strategies of representation to the material and structuralviolences of capitalist command and primitive accumulation organizedthrough racial and gender hierarchies. Moreover, Gilmore’s analyticalframework exposes hegemonic apparatuses that at their core depend onpower relations organized through a permanent war that articulates the state’s"capacity to wield despotic power over certain segments of society."(Gilmore, 1998/99: 178) "Racism," she concludes, "is a practice ofabstraction, a death dealing displacement of difference into hierarchiesthat organize relations within and between the planet’s sovereign politicalterritories." (Gilmore, 2002: 21) By insisting on the fundamental intersectionbetween the production of surplus value and ideological surplus value moregenerally, Gilmore complicates our notion of a politics of representation bynot only interrogating how we live or experience race in relation tohegemonic apparatuses but also underscores how knowledge production isintegral to capitalist command.

W.E.B Du Bois has also examined the production of ideologicalsurplus value in his investigation of global war and the intersection of racial difference, nation building, representative democracy, and colonialoccupation. Du Bois’ opposition to WWI pointed to the competition betweenambitious, predatory colonial states and the need for capital to placate awhite working class elite as the cause of war and all future wars. Accordingto Du Bois, the U.S. industrial working class enjoys material andpsychological benefits as a labor aristocracy –a position only made possiblethrough the brutal exploitation of workers in the colonies. In practical terms,the white working class welcomed concessions from capital in the form ofmodest control over working conditions, higher wages for a few luxurygoods, and, most importantly, the "psychological wage" of a perceivedsuperiority over another worker.12 More importantly, white working classprivileges are consolidated through a system of representative democracy,an accompanying nationalist identity, and the select opportunities ofcitizenship.13 White working class composition requires the production andmaintenance of internal and external colonies through an expanding systemof persistent wars. Thus, the "imagined communities" of capitalism arenecessarily produced through organized violence as much as a dependenceon print culture.14

Thus, for Du Bois the political crisis embodied in World War I, indeedall wars on a global scale that would follow, have at their root the competitionfor the plunder of Africa –a continent considered, then as now, as havinglittle to do with the world affairs of Europe and the U.S. Acknowledging a long history of African civilization, Du Bois recounts that "lying treaties,rivers of rum, murder, assassination, mutilation, rape, and torture havemarked the progress of Englishman, Frenchman, German, and Belgian onthe dark continent." The investment in Africa responds to the politicalimperatives of "economic changes in Europe" as much as from the temptationfor lucre.

Slowly the divine right of the few to determine economic incomeand distribute the goods and services of the world have been questionedand curtailed. We called the process Revolution in the eighteenth century,advancing Democracy in the nineteenth century, and Socialization of Wealthin the twentieth. But whatever we call it, the movement is the same: the dipping of more and grimier hands into the wealth bag of the nation untiltoday only the ultra-stubborn fail to see that democracy in determiningincome is the next inevitable step to Democracy in political power.

The world, Du Bois concludes, invested in "color prejudice" andestablished a color as Europe was "groping towards a new imperialism."Thus, the American Paradox spreads across the globe. "It is this paradox,"Du Bois explains, "which allows in America the most rapid advance ofdemocracy to go hand in hand in its very centers with increased aristocracyand hatred toward darker races." (Du Bois, 1915: 709)

Du Bois astute linking of nationalism and state building with thepsychological benefits of membership in an "imagined community"articulated through race and dependent on the continued exploitation ofworkers in the "developing world," invites a more sophisticated approachto war. Interrogating the privileges of a psychological wage, Du Bois drawsattention to the thin ideological veneer that makes it possible to celebratesome wars, especially those that narrate the heroic rise of the nation-state,and justify others as necessary. War is a permanent affair always present iforganized on different, some time smaller scales and far away locations.(cf. Retort, 2005) But, more importantly, the national bond sharpenedthrough imperial competition is only possible through war’s domestication.At the center of this more complex process of domestication is the successfulerasure of colonial violence.

Democratic despotism is not possible without, as Achille Mbembehas astutely argued, the world’s first "state of exception" in the form ofslavery and colonial occupation. Mbembe’s recent interrogation of "stateof exception," biopower, and the multitude echoes an earlier critiqueproffered by Du Bois and Aimee Cesaire.15 Many postcolonial intellectualshave taken prominent European theorists to task for assuming that the violenthistory of European fascism in the mid-twentieth century is somehow singular. At the root of Mbembe’s more recent intervention is a concern thatcritics of late modernity have too quickly accepted fascism and theconcentration camp as the unique embodiments of violence specific toEurope of the twentieth century.16 Underlying the telos of European fascismis a brutal history of "discovery" and a discursive apparatus that masks earlier moments of equally brutal "exception," namely slavery and colonialoccupation. Mbembe’s introduction of colonial occupation as a categoryre-centers the debate and recovers a much longer history of extreme,dehumanizing violence that long precedes European fascism’s arrival.Occurring through successive periods of modernity, there can be little doubtthat contemporary forms of expansionist and international warfare are theby-products of an on-going European, capitalist colonialism.17 These new forms of exceptional violence continue the mechanisms articulated throughcolonial occupation.

According to Mbembe, colonial occupation has always been "a matterof seizing, delimiting, and asserting control over a physical geographicalarea –of writing on the ground a new set of social and spatial relations."These new spatial relations produced "boundaries and hierarchies, zonesand enclaves; the classification of people according to different categories;resource extraction; and finally, the manufacturing of a large reservoir ofcultural imaginaries." Moreover, it is the imaginaries generated throughcolonial violence that "gave meaning to the enactment of differentiated rightsto differing categories of people for different purposes within the space; inbrief the exercise of sovereignty. Space was therefore the raw material ofsovereignty and the violence it carried with it. Sovereignty meant occupation,and occupation meant relegating the colonized into a third zone betweensubjecthood and objecthood." (Mbembe, 2003: 25-27) Of course theproduction of boundaries and the discursive systems they reinforce not onlywork through the colony but include "the frontier" and "the border."18

The colony "as a formation of terror," according to Mbembe, is madepossible through Europe’s domestication of war. The success of a Europeanjuridical order, or jus publicum Europaeum, through the two key principlesof the juridical equality of all states and the territorialization of the sovereignstate, determine specific boundaries within a global order and make itpossible for certain privileged states to enjoy "the right to wage war." "Underjus publicum," explains Mbembe, "a legitimate war is, to a large extent, awar conducted by one state against another or, more precisely, a war between‘civilized’ states." "The centrality of the state in the calculus of war,"Mbembe adds, "derives from the fact that the state is the model of politicalunity, a principle of rational organization, the embodiment of the idea ofthe universal, and a moral sign." The effort to "‘civilize’ the ways of killing"attributing rational objectives to extermination also worked in conjunctionwith the determination of "those parts of the globe available for colonialappropriation." (Mbembe, 2003: 24) Thus, the colony, according toMbembe, is the site "where sovereignty consists fundamentally in theexercise of a power outside the law (ab legibus solutus) and where ‘peace’is more likely to take on the face of a ‘war without end.’"

Europe’s success in domesticating war makes it possible for thecolony to work as a "formation of terror." The colony operates as "the zonewhere the violence of the state of exception is deemed to operate in theservice of ‘civilization.’" Consequently, colonies, much like the frontier, can only be "inhabited by savages" and subsequently denied "a state form."Thus, they do not imply "the mobilization of sovereign subjects" andtherefore cannot claim distinct armies and legal recognition as enemycombatants in a context of a formal war conducted with agreed uponprotocols and concluded with a ritualized peace. That is they are outside ofthe social apparatus of warfare that define the international system ofsovereign states. The violence essential to colonial subjugation can neverbe elevated to the status of "just war" or the warfare between sovereignstates. (Mbembe, 2003: 23-25)

Mbembe historicizes colonial occupation into three periodsculminating in late modern colonial occupation that combines disciplinary,biopolitical, and necropolitical formations. The necropolitical, or"contemporary forms of subjugation of life to the power of death," organizesweapons "deployed in the interest of maximum destruction of persons andthe creation of death-worlds." In this instance, a new biopolitical formationdetermines vast populations are "subjected to conditions of life conferringupon them the status of living dead." Palestine represents "the mostaccomplished form of necropower." It marks a shift from early modern tolate modern colonial occupation where more contemporary forms of warfareconverge in the colonial state’s ability to "derive its fundamental claim ofsovereignty and legitimacy from the authority of its own particular narrativeof history and identity." (Mbembe, 2003: 39-40; 25-27) Thus, Gaza and theWest Bank, for example, embody both the excesses of contemporary warsand the logics of colonial occupation.19

As the brutality of WWI raged on Du Bois asked, "what are we todo, who desire peace and the civilization of all men?" After noting wrylythat peace-niks mostly confine themselves to war’s costs and "platitudeson humanity," he reminds us that nations care little about spendingmillions in materiel or losing an equal number of lives when war insuresgreater access to spoils. Du Bois insists that those of us who want peace"must remove the real causes of war" by extending "the democratic ideal"to all peoples. "We shall not drive war from this world until we treat themas free and equal citizens in a world-democracy of all races and nations."(Du Bois, 1915: 712)

Convivial Reconstruction and the Collective Subject

I have titled this essay, "In Defense of Conviviality," not so much tosuggest that conviviality needs any special advocacy, but rather to highlightthat it remains a grossly overlooked and, as a consequence, under theorized concept.20 In one sense, conviviality needs little to no explanation or furthertheorization given that it is a fundamental dimension of humanity. We areby definition biologically and socially convivial even if that conviviality isnot always so visible due to the mediation of other forces. Therefore, Ipropose we think about conviviality in at least two ways –one treatsconviviality as fundamental to human kind and present as part of a sacred process of social renewal and the other approaches it as an effort to reclaimthose social processes in specific political contexts. Thus, the struggles toengage conviviality can be observed in oppositional spaces over time andin specific instances. The necessity to reclaim conviviality as a category ofanalysis, political objective, and political praxis is underscored by the lessonsgleaned from the many political successes of what Zibechi calls "societiesin movement." (Zibechi, 2010; Zibechi, 2012)

The relation between a conviviality that is both a sacred process anda historical praxis echoes the tension between the political and politics.Sandro Mezzadra reminds us that the debate between what constitutes the political and politics has been central to movement discussions since ’68.More importantly, it has inspired efforts "exploring and materially buildinga political landscape beyond the state."21 The significance of an imaginarybeyond the state cannot be over emphasized. It is in the political, as thespace for radical imaginaries to flourish, that a politics beyond the statemust take root. And, it is in the space of the political that conviviality isalways present. It is, as Ceceña reminds us, in the play of subjectivitieswhere difference is nurtured in spaces of rebellion.22 Its conviviality’sessential characteristics, as part of the political, that makes it vital to politicsand, not surprisingly, why it is in that realm it is most often restricted.Nowhere has that denial been more evident than in the politicalmarginalization of indigenous autonomous projects emerging from the Global South. Conviviality has had a special resonance in indigenousautonomous movements that resist colonization, internal colonialism, and neocolonizations.23 The struggle over conviviality throughout the Americascontinues to challenge, inspire, and facilitate anti-colonial, anti-capitalist,and anti-state struggles.

Thus, reclaiming Illich politically requires approaching convivialityas a strategic category. It is worth noting that Illich did not use convivialityas an ontological category as much as a category to highlight the strategiesthat precede and resist the imposition of industrial tools. At the center ofconviviality is an effort to restore our capacity to manage our lives inharmony with our tools. Illich approaches tools "broadly" in order "tosubsume into one category all rationally designed devices, be they artifactsor rules, codes or operators, and to distinguish all these planned andengineered instrumentalities from other things such as basic food orimplements, which in a given culture are not deemed to be subject torationalization." Consequently, tools can range from "simple hardware" to"productive institutions" or "productive systems" as well as "intangiblecommodities" associated with health, education, etc. The importance oftools cannot be overestimated given that they "are intrinsic to socialrelationships." They are so fundamental to society that "an individual relates himself in action to his society through the use of tools that he activelymasters, or by which he is passively acted upon." (Illich, 1990: 21-22)

Illich defines convivial tools as "those which give each person whouses them the greatest opportunity to enrich the environment with his or her vision." As a consequence, convivial tools promote "individual freedomrealized in personal interdependence." Tools advance conviviality whenthey are easily accessible and in service of the user. Convivial tools, therefore,do not imply "the total absence of manipulative institutions and addictivegoods and services." Rather, a convivial society manages "the balancebetween those tools which create the specific demands they are specializedto satisfy and those complementary, enabling tools which foster selfrealization." (Illich, 1990: 24) Thus, a convivial society emerges through"social arrangements that guarantee for each member the most ample andfree access to the tools of the community and limit this freedom in favor ofanother member’s equal freedom." A society that maintains a balance allows,"all its members the most autonomous action by means of tools leastcontrolled by others." (Illich, 1990: 20)

Illich made every effort to insure that conviviality would not be treatedas an abstract category. He worried that if he were only to "deal with politicalstrategies and tactics" it would divert attention away from his main argument.However, I propose Illich made it possible to engage conviviality as astrategic concept. By strategic I mean thinking in action in relation to theactual "reconstruction of convivial tools." In order to advance convivialityas a strategic category, or to read Illich politically, I suggest in Illich can befound a "methodology." First, we must distinguish industrial from convivialtools. Second, Illich’s method makes it possible to determine the kinds ofindustrial devices that impact our lives and when they have exceeded theirlimits. Industrial tools that no longer are in service of their users must berecognized for their corrosive impact on social processes. In other words,we must determine the manner that they undermine dignity and restrict thelives of their users rather than being in the user’s service. Thus, Illichproposes convivial reconstruction begin with an examination to determineat what point tools have begun to exceed their purpose and are no longerserving everyone without limiting an other’s desires and restricting theirrelationship to the local environment. The goal is to work toward "societyof responsibly limited tools." An advanced "methodology" furtherdistinguishes between corrosive and collective tools by distinguishingbetween different kinds of institutional arrangements: "there are tools whichcan be used normally for fully satisfying, imaginative, and independent work;others tend to be used primarily in activities best labeled as labor; and finallycertain machines can only be operated." Of course, only the former isconvivial. Illich calls for an additional strategic effort in order to analyzeimperialism according to "the pernicious spread of one nation beyond itsboundaries; the omnipresent influence of multinational corporations; andthe mushrooming of professional monopolies over production." Thus, therecan be little doubt that the state is a primary tool within the industrial modeof production.

Illich’s collective research at CIDOC advanced an awareness that "a society committed to high levels of shared learning and critical personalintercourse must set pedagogical limits on industrial growth." (Illich, 1990:x) In short, the project of discarding corrosive or limited tools and the effort to construct new convivial tools must take up issues of deprofessionalization,cultural regeneration, political balance, and ecological harmony of acommunity of struggle. Illich frequently points to velocity as a way of readingthe excess in the industrial mode of production. "Speed is one of the meansby which an efficiency-oriented society is stratified." (Illich, 1990: 38)Discussion about the velocity of politics has been central to Zapatismo’scommitment to engage political work "at the pace of the slowest."

The wave of occupations and assemblies sweeping the U.S. extendsome of the more militant strategies and practices increasingly common tothe Global South. The current excitement has reawakened interest in the political possibilities of a collective subject. Unfortunately, the Left has notbeen a faithful companion to the collective subject. Although the Leftoriginates from a critical analysis of inequality, it has not consistently putforward a praxis that privileges analysis of a collective subject as the criticalagent of social change. The Left has been most promiscuous, for example,in those instances that it has allowed individualism, elitism, and vanguardismto determine its political practice and organization. More often than not,the Left has taken the collective subject for granted, assuming it alone hasunquestioned rights and access to it politically and socially.

In its arrogance, the Left has overlooked the opposition’s seductionof a neglected companion. Of course, in the company of the politicalmainstream the collective subject has been capable of all kinds of mischiefand in many instances the most obscene kinds of violent excess –the lynchmob, the corporation, and the nation-state come readily to mind.24 But, here too, the Left has been opportunistic. Too often the Left has allowed itsown opposition to be organized around the manipulations orchestrated byelites and vanguards as in the trust it has often placed in bureaucracies andthe political party. In its zeal, the Left has been all too comfortable withformations more common to political and social conservatism such as inthe case of the cult and apparatuses peculiar to the state. Neglectful, theLeft has under theorized the collective subject even though it has beenfaithfully by its side for some time.

The collective subject poses a number of problems and opportunitiesfor a politics of emancipation. First, as I suggest above, the collective subjecthas not entirely been exclusive to emancipatory or oppositional projects."The modern state," Gustavo Esteva warns us, "is the ideal collective capitalist." (Esteva, 2009: 46) Second, in a manner similar to conviviality,there is the preeminent danger of treating the collective subject only as anabstract category rather than a concrete social body of real people situatedin a specific context and organized for a particular purpose.25 The collective subject I have in mind is not static, one-dimensional, nor homogenous, butrather a composition of diverse subjects that respond to the challenges athand without being over determined by any overarching, discipliningdiscourse. Third, a collective subject is by definition a convivial subjectand, therefore, requires a rebel pedagogy. Collective subjects are not hatchedor produced fully formed. Rather, a collective subject acts on a shared desire.

Fourth, in order for a collective subject to exist as a convivial subject itmust be democratic. A collective subject that is able to "balance ends withmeans" does so through locally rooted horizontal spaces of dialogue thatcan manage difference through a collectively determined set of interculturalprocesses. This process requires tools. Although some groups are believedto have a special connection or insight to convivial processes while othersare dismissed as having been to submissive to industrial tools, we mustaccept that all people are fundamentally and at all times capable of engagingor reconstructing conviviality.

A collective subject emerges through the active claims of "dignity."(Holloway, 1998: 159-198) It is when assertions of dignity are unmediatedby, for example, industrial tools that it can be the driving force of aconviviality -a space where all dignities flourish. When we approach dignityas a strategic category of struggle that also implies a political objective anda political praxis, we affirm that the space of dignity is a space of learning. Thus, we must learn how to celebrate the dignity of others and to constructspaces for that mutual recognition to flourish. A collective subject thatembodies an unmediated conviviality is by definition in balance with itstools. Collectively invented tools for the purpose of community regenerationmust be invented, tested, and agreed upon in order to successfully addresslocal issues and access locally rooted wisdoms.26 A critical dimension of an emerging collective subject forged in convivial reconstruction isepistemological. Convivial tools are produced through a shared process of(re)discovery, agreement, and regeneration.

The proliferation of "convergence spaces" (and projects) within thealter-globalization movement and advances in digital technologies has madesubaltern knowledge production more widely known and increasinglyaccessible. More importantly, it has demonstrated the growing importanceof knowledge production for social justice projects and spaces. Theintersection between tactical advances in social movements and the creative re-appropriation associated with insurgent cultural spaces has placedknowledge production at the forefront of community regeneration. Illich’snotion of conviviality can assist in exposing how insurgent learningflourishes in the "dislocated" spaces and "spontaneous" moments of anemerging struggle in opposition to capitalist and state apparatuses that havereached their limits as overwrought industrial tools.

Insurgent Learning and Collective Pedagogies

I want to continue my examination of the intersection of convivialitywith a collective subject by briefly introducing an insurgent learning spacecurrently underway in Northern and Southern California, namely the Universidad de la Tierra Califas.27 My motivation in presenting Uni-TierraCalifas is twofold. I want to avoid the trap of putting forward abstractcategories by grounding my earlier discussion of conviviality and a collectivesubject in an autonomous praxis I hope can be easily observed in Uni-Tierra Califas as a space of encounter that serves as a strategy, political objective,and a political space. Additionally, I explore both the possibilities andobligations that accrue to conviviality as a strategic effort.

Before taking up Uni-Tierra Califas it is worth interrogating collectivepedagogies that re-center local practices of knowledge production awayfrom institutions that privatize and monopolize knowledge practices.Mainstream institutional sites most often fail as vibrant sites of learning."Education" is, as Illich warned, the paradigmatic industrial tool. There areat least two ways of approaching pedagogies that insist "education" cantake place outside of the formal school system and beyond the university.The two approaches of collective pedagogy I mention here are an exampleof "networked pedagogies" and those processes of collective learning basedin comunalidad. The first disrupts the dominance of institutional, formalsites of privatized knowledge while the second fully decolonizes education.

Transductores, an excellent example of a successful networkedpedagogy reclaims the task of education by recognizing theinterconnectedness of multiple agents, alternative media, and variety ofinstitutions. Transductores decentralizes knowledge production byconnecting a variety of agents, projects, and sites as well as links culturalprocesses with pedagogical ones. Refusing to limit learning to single"pedagogical events" typical of transmission strategies, network pedagogycelebrates learning in "the spaces of social networks, where individualsinteract, desire, and configure ourselves every day." Thus, according toJavier Rodrigo Montero, a collective pedagogy is necessarily unpredictable,unstable, and irregular. (Montero, 2009: 242)

Comunalidad, a somewhat different approach to collective pedagogy,shifts the focus from education as the domain to prepare individuals withinthe discursive formations of progress and development to an emphasis oncommunity regeneration that stresses the value of reciprocity and rootedness.A collective pedagogy that results from a more complex process ofcommunity renewal claims a variety of cultural and social resourcescommitted to community renewal. Comunalidad, according to Luna, is "theepistemological notion that sustains an ancestral, yet still new and unique,civilizing process, one which holds back the drecipit individualization ofknowledge, power, and culture." Although it emerges out of a historicalcontext of resistance to colonialism, internal colonialism, and neocolonialism, comunalidad, as Martínez explains, is a pedagogy thatpromotes harmony between individuals and the community and thecommunity with the environment.28 "Comunalidad is a way of understandinglife as being permeated with spirituality, symbolism, and a greater integrationwith nature. It is one way of understanding that human beings are not thecenter, but simply a part of this great natural world." (Martínez Luna, 2012:86; 93-94) Thus, comunalidad creates a context for knowledge sharing thatis integral and dialogic. (Ferrer, 2003: 29-32)

Taking seriously Jorge Gonzalez’s admonishment that "the way we organize ourselves to produce knowledge will determine the knowledge weproduce," we recognize the challenge in pursuing a collective pedagogythat anticipates the relation between strategies of knowledge productionand social relations, underscoring that a collective pedagogy is alwayscontingent and emergent. (González, 2003) If we only focus our efforts ondisrupting formal education as an industrial tool we lose sight of otherknowledge practices and spaces of learning that could potentially undermineand eventually go beyond the authority of the subject/object relationship,the celebration of the individual, and imposition of capitalist labor discipline. More importantly, in a social setting dominated by industrial tools,convivial knowledge practices in service of community regeneration mustbe, in many instances, re-learned in order to be reclaimed.

UT Califas is not modeled after nor does it attempt to replicate orcompete in any way with a traditional institutional educational environmentsorganized around the classroom, seminar, lecture hall, or institutional archive. UT Califas subverts transmission pedagogies typical of traditionalteaching and research institutions by refusing to organize organizers, teachteachers, or train trainers who bestow knowledge to "the community."

Universidad de la Tierra Califas works as a collective pedagogy in anumber of interconnected ways. As an unfinished effort, it has been imaginedin relation to other emergent projects and situated sites of autonomouslearning. It attempts to braid together a number of interconnected spaces ofco-learning and skill sharing as part of a larger effort to "re-weave the social fabric" of a community. As a relation, UT Califas celebrates knowledgeproduction animated by the itineraries of deprofessionalized intellectuals,community-based researchers, and insurgent learners. UT Califasincorporates established movement and capacity building projects, populareducation spaces, and participatory action research efforts in order to recirculate the grassroots "technologies" and situated knowledges that addressimmediate, local struggles. Committed to social difference, political justice,and economic equity, UT Califas converts diversity trainings into dialogues, employment hierarchies into shared, collective work projects, andservice learning into networked community spaces that collectively addresslocal struggles related to California’s changing demographic.

UT Califas poses as a set of questions, how do we learn from theprojects mostly associated with "dislocated spaces" and autonomous projectsincluding and most especially those "societies in movement" associatedwith indigenous autonomy. UT Califas is a cautious effort to engage theconvivial praxis of the Indigenous Autonomous movement especially itsarticulation at the Universidad de la Tierra "campuses" in Oaxaca, Chiapas,and, most recently, Puebla. UT Califas is committed to learning about howlearning works especially drawing wisdom from communities of struggleorganized around community regeneration, reciprocity, and balance.However, the effort implies a commitment to explore the challenges andopportunities that emanate from intercultural dialogues that are tenuousand not easily undertaken, especially in a context of a "democratic despotism" not yet fully dismantled. Our hope is to pursue a collectivepedagogy in urban, landless contexts with few cultural resources but thatcan still cultivate a studied reciprocity and sacred connection to place. Thus,UT Califas in the South Bay imagines a decentralized and diffused horizontal learning project as a cargo, or collectively entrusted obligation forcommunity renewal that pursues research and learning projects organizedas community determined tequios de investigación. The goal of a combinedinsurgent learning and convivial research approach is to engage theepistemicide common to Western notions of progress, development, andcivilization. (de Sousa Santos, 2008)

UT Califas is not confined to any buildings nor does a cumbersomebureaucracy constrict it. Its "architecture" does not occupy a physical spaceor shelter a bureaucratic structure. Rather, it should be understood much in the same way as the Aymara have deployed the "barracks" in their strugglefor local autonomy which, according to Zibechi, "are social relationships:organizational forms based on collective decision-making and the obligatoryrotation of duty, but in a militarized state or, in other words, adapted tocope with violent assault." (Zibechi, 2010: 53-55) The proposed architectureincludes a Center for Appropriat(ed) Technologies,29 Language and LiteracyInstitute,30 Theses Clinic,31 Study Travel Jornadas,32 and a DemocracyAteneo.33 Each pillar only functions as long as insurgent learners andconvivial researchers claim specific spaces. By insurgent learning we referto a praxis that imagines the sharing of knowledge as a critical element ofradical democratic practice. On a practical level, insurgent learningundermines low intensity education through explicit, horizontal practicesthat reclaim the everyday spaces of learning. It also introduces complexprocess of communal regeneration. Most importantly, it mobilizes learningas an essential part of an on-going effort to insure that the entire communityis sufficiently informed and prepared to engage community decision-making.

"Pedagogy" in service of communal processes can be observed inthe Zapatistas’ political project. The Zapatistas have been successful makinginsurgent learning and convivial research a fundamental part of a "new wayof doing politics." Throughout their public presence they have consistentlyreiterated their commitment to learning and research as part of their effortto remain informed and engage alternatives. Their emphasis on knowledgeproduction has been especially apparent in their military preparation,encounter with civil society, and exploration of autonomy. Learning runsthroughout the two periods of Zapatismo: Fire and the Word. In the firstperiod, the preparations for war were marked by analysis of the militarypolitical situation; use of arms, managing security; military drill andformation; and mastery of the Spanish language. During the strategicencounter with civil society in the second period, the Zapatistas discoveredas much about new ways of presenting themselves as they learned aboutcivil society’s struggle against neoliberalism. A unique process of co-learningunfolded through the variety of encounters, mobilizations, and consultationsthat the Zapatistas strategically convened as a part of their research aboutneoliberalism, the political class’ crises, and the success of civil society’s prior efforts of opposition. No doubt, the EZLN and the complex solidaritycommunity they activated shared a great deal together in the space ofencounter created by the series of encuentros, consultas, and marchas. A shared commitment to a new way of doing politics requires learning a newway to learn.

The current phase of Zapatismo is noteworthy for the Zapatistas’commitment to a politics of autonomy. The Zapatistas have engagedautonomy by working through the practice and sharing the theory afterwards.Zapatista commitment to learning has meant that they have established acontext for knowledge to be affirmed and shared as they manage strategiesto make available new and reclaimed knowledges in the areas of land, health,education, and governance. The Zapatistas’ introduction of the caracole and juntas de buen gobierno, for example, not only construct a space ofencounter, but also makes possible a civic pedagogy. The caracoles authorizes "minor" or situated knowledges while the JBGs enable communitymembers to participate politically, making it possible for everyone to master the arts of governance. (Gonza´lez Casanova, 2005)

Publically negotiating the tension between elite and subjugatedknowledge production, the Zapatistas have played a much more complicatedrole than simply inspiring serial protests, cleverly managing their mediaimage, or astutely making use of the internet. The Zapatistas’ politics ofencounter, a consistent strategy of facilitating broad, inclusive politicalspaces for dialogue without directing the outcomes encourage activeparticipation that facilitates the emergence of a self-active, autonomouscollective subject.

The most observable effort to combine a network pedagogy with aninvestment in comunalidad as part of a larger attempt at a Zapatismo beyondChiapas is UT Califas’ Temporary Autonomous Zones of KnowledgeProduction (TAZKP). In an effort to transcend the limits of bureaucraticstructures, institutional sites, and professional identities, UT Califas’strategically engages interconnected, diffused, and decolonized spaces. Aseveryday spaces of collective pedagogy, TAZKP refuse to impose apreordained or established structure for learning.34 TAZKP are open spacesthat extend "the classroom" and celebrate collective strategies of knowledgeproduction and invite insurgent learners to engage multiple sites of locallygenerated knowledges as part of an effort to regenerate community.

TAZKP reclaim public spaces as sites of situated and poeticknowledges in service of community regeneration taking advantage of howknowledge overflows formal and informal sites and projects. TAZKP canbe very deliberate, strategically networked sites or simply spontaneousspaces. Once reclaimed, TAZKP regenerate a social infrastructure ofcommunity. As on-going spaces of encounter for research, reflection, andaction, TAZKP make possible a variety of political and intellectual itinerariesby facilitating the convergence of different groups, projects, and networks.(Rodrigo Montero, 2009: 242) In short, the TAZKP is and encourages "relays." (Deleuze and Guattari, 2005; Foucault, 1977)

TAZKP politicizes "traditional" cultural practices and spaces byconverting them into active deliberate spaces of knowledge production. Inthe case of UT Califas four cultural practices, including tertulia, ateneo, mitote, and coyuntura have been reclaimed/reinvented as part of a largerautonomous praxis. Although each reclaimed cultural practice is subject toshifting meanings given the variety of class, gender, and race tensions peculiar to specific gatherings as well as the contexts in which each is convened,together these cultural practices function as an open space of encounterorganized for the purpose of grassroots knowledge production appropriatefor the specific context or network of projects and spaces that it articulates.In keeping with a convivial itinerary, each cultural practice reclaims andpoliticizes the code that narrates it by redeploying it for political uses. Themost public and less formal, the tertulia politicizes regular local gatheringsoften common to barrios as sites to generate and archive local histories ofstruggle.35 Often criminalized in the popular consciousness, the mitote works as a reclaimed public space of celebration convened to generate poeticknowledges that privilege arts, dance, and embodied research.36 We deploy the ateneo not as a space typical of the academy such as an advanced seminar,conference, workshop, plenary, or research cluster but to insist on it as anopen, diffuse space that can facilitate locally generated investigations.37 As a space that allows us to gather as a diverse situated community, it potentiallytranscends bureaucratic structures and professional identities to promotereflection and action. The coyuntura draws from the popular educationpractices inspired by the work of Paulo Friere and Ivan Illich, encouragingparticipants to generate new tools for analysis as they collectively engage aseries of activities organized around reflection and action.38 As spaces thatreclaim commons, regenerate community, and facilitate intercultural andintergenerational dialogues, tertulias, mitotes, ateneos, and coyunturasconstruct a complex "grassroots think tank" while also generating the social infrastructure of community.

Increasingly, researchers such as Arjun Appadurai recognize how"social exclusion is ever more tied to epistemological exclusion."(Appadurai, 2000: 18) In opposition to dominant knowledge practices,Appadurai argues that the research imagination associated with Westerndiscourses must embrace the knowledge production increasingly generatedas part of "grassroots globalization." Appadurai proposes "researchers"engage a variety of knowledge producers fundamental to broader morecomplex grassroots globalization.39 Specifically, Appadurai’s reformedWestern research imaginary demands that taken for granted conventions ofknowledge production allow for greater reflexivity and transparency. Sucha challenge, according to Appadurai, invites Western academics to participatein a global knowledge production that promotes a dialogue betweenacademics, public intellectuals, activists, and policy-makers. This new "newarchitecture" promises "a new pedagogy that closes the gap and helps todemocratize the flow of knowledge about globalization itself." Unfortunately,Appadurai does not fully account for the wide variety of community-based knowledge producers including those who do not associate with NGOs orpublish in mainstream academic or public media outlets. (Appadurai, 2000:18) Moreover, dialogues are not possible until there is a recognition of an"ecology of knowledges," or the epistemological diversity that parallelscultural diversity. According to de Soussa Santos, "both the proposals forradicalizing democracy –which points towards post-capitalist horizons—and the proposals for decolonizing knowledge and power –which pointstowards post-colonial horizons—will be feasible only if the dominantepistemology is subject to a critique allowing for the emergence ofepistemological options that give credibility to the forms of knowledge thatunderlie those proposals." (de Soussa Santos, 2007: xviiii-xxi) The ecologyof knowledges framework not only argues that Western knowledge systemsmust expose how subaltern knowledge systems are marginalized, but alsoinvites a different kind of engagement with the multiple, diverse "situatedknowledges" that refuse to be erased by dominant epistemological structuresof the West.40

It is important to note that all of the interconnected spaces comprisea social infrastructure that works as a de-compression chamber, an inbetween space that links "the community" with the non-profit and educationalindustrial complexes without being subsumed by bureaucratic exigenciesor institutional agendas. TAZKP decolonizes and deterritorializes formal,dominant institutional spaces by gathering public intellectuals, scholaractivists, community-based researchers, and local culture bearers for thepurpose of pursuing local questions. The decompression chamberconstructed by the community architecture of interconnected spaces is anexperimental space that explores various efforts at deprofessionalizationand cultural regeneration. Thus, TAZKP nurture a variety of oppositionalknowledges through convivial processes that make it possible to shareinformation, provide support, build networks, strategize for direct action,and coordinate resources between a wide variety of constituencies. Moreimportantly, the TAZKP can work as incubators for practices beyond capital and the state –a fragile learning space that actively encourages the reconversion of nouns back into verbs. (Illich, 1990: 39)41

I have spent some time arguing for a more thorough theorization ofa collective subject. I have relied in large part on Illich’s "methodology" ofconvivial reconstruction as a guide. I have highlighted the importance of"learning" and collective research along with some of the epistemologicaldimensions of the current re-composition of struggle. Illich’s notion ofconviviality can assist in observing how learning is essential to the many"dislocated spaces" and "spontaneous" moments of struggle. My genealogyof conviviality not only interrogates the politics of a collective subject inthe current conjuncture but insists that knowledge production is a criticalelement of a horizontal praxis and in the long run a collective subjectivity.As part of a larger project of democratic renewal, our extension of democracyshould be, as Daniel Bensaïd reminds us, "scandalous right to the veryend."42



1 An earlier version of this paper was delivered at the Coloquio Internacional: Hacia La Construcción De Un NuevoParadigma Social Marzo 5-7, 2012 at the Unidad Xochimilco, de la Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, en la Ciudad de México. My thanks to David Barkin and Gustavo Esteva as well as the other thoughtful participants for advancing my thinking.

2 I am aware that the Autonomous Indigenous movement of the Global South is a diverse political formation composed of a variety of approaches and definitions of autonomy.

3 Midnight Notes Collective offers an important caution about analyzing "crisis." They distinguish between crisis as disequilibrium, "part of the normal dynamic of the ordinary run of things periodically meant to discipline the working class," and a real epochal crisis, the kind "that puts the ‘social stability’ and even the survival of the system into question." The task is to determine at what point a real epochal crisis actually becomes a "revolutionary rupture." Midnight Notes, "Promissory Notes: From Crisis to Commons," (2009): 2.

4 For recent discussion of the Zapatistas’ democratic project, see Reyes and Mara Kaufman, "Sovereignty, Indigeneity, Territory: Zapatista Autonomy and the New Practices of Decolonization," South Atlantic Quarterly 110:2 (Spring 2011): 505-525.

5 Probably one of the most well known of the occupations, Occupy Oakland has escalated from occupying and renaming Frank Ogawa plaza to Oscar Grant plaza, mobilizing a general strike, and initiating a long overdue social center. The mobilizations that animate the current Oakland Commune have been punctuated by pitched street battles between formations of multiple law enforcement agents notorious for police excess against a community with a long history of autonomous mobilization and resistance to state violence.

6 For a discussion of the asamblea popular in Oaxaca in 2006, see Gustavo Esteva, "The Oaxaca Commune and Mexico’s Coming Insurrection," Antipode 42:4 (2010).

7 There have been a number of exclusions evident in the GA and formation of OSJ. One of the most notable "takeovers" has been through a brazen exercise of the privileges of patriarchy leading to the marginalization of youth, women, houseless folks, and the queer community. I am indebted to compañer@s in the 50.50 Collective, South Bay Unity Group, and Acción Zapatista South Bay for amplifying my understanding of the OSJ dynamics.

8 Greater Mexico, according to Américo Paredes, "refers to all the areas inhabited by people of Mexican culture –not only within the present limits of the Republic of Mexico but in the United States as well—in a cultural rather than a political sense." Américo Paredes, A Texas-Mexican Cancionero: Folksongs of the Lower Border (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1976): xiv.

9 Addressing a paradox central to globalization, Sandro Messadra and Brett Neilson interrogate how the world that has been increasingly more open "to flows of capital and commodities" remains constricted when it comes to the movements of different human bodies. They argue for a revised conception of the international division of labor by taking up the category of the "multiplication of labor" which they insist escapes "the stable configurations such as the three worlds model or those elaborated around binaries such as center/periphery or North/south." Messadra and Neilson conclude that the border, and especially the emergence of an internal border critical to capitalism’s geographic scales is not designed to prevent migrant flow but to construct a differentiated laboring subject. "It tends itself to function," explain Messadra and Neilsen, "through a continuous multiplication of control devices that correspond to a multiplication of labor regimes and the subjectivities implied by them within each single space constructed as separate within models of the international division of labor. Corollary to this is the presence of particular kinds of labor regimes across different global and local spaces." Thus, treating the border as method is an effort to reveal the "technologies of differential inclusion." Sandro Mezzadra and Brett Neilson, "Border as Method, or, the Multiplication of Labor," Transversal "Borders, Nations, Translations" accessed at <> accessed on March, 2009.

10 I am indebted to James Braggs at Project South for advancing my thinking in regards questions of abandonment as part of the violence of specific racial regimes.

11 By "enemies of the state" I mean those criminalized subjects produced by intersecting projects through the media, state policy, and institutions of knowledge production.

12 For an critical discussion of Du Bois and the psychological wage, see David Roediger, Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (London: Verso, 2007).

13 Du Bois’ theorization of the bargain between capital and labor is necessarily raced and therefore arguably more fundamental to capital as a social relation than the Autonomist Marxist privileging of the Keynesian bargain. We might also consider a number of lesser bargains such as the FHA, GI Bill, etc., as George Lipsitz has argued regarding America’s "possessive investment in whiteness." It is useful to note the distinction between certain rights made possible through political citizenship against those privileges that accrue through cultural citizenship.

14 I elaborate on the role of violence in organizing national belonging in "Mexican Border Troubles: Social War, Settler Colonialism, and the Production of Frontier Discourses, 18481880," Ph. D. diss. University of Texas, Austin, 2003. For a discussion of imagined communities, see Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1991).

15 See, for example, Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2001).

16 See Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).

17 The Zapatistas’ discussion of the Fourth World War is particularly relevant here. See, for example, El Kilombo Intergalactico, Beyond Resistance: Everything, An Interview with Subcomandante Marcos (Durham: PaperBoat Press, 2007).

18 Elsewhere I argue the U.S.-Mexico Border functions as a dispositif or apparatus that constructs the migrant as a criminal and disposable body.

19 Henry Giroux argues persuasively that the "crisis" of the Katrina disaster revealed a domestic necropolitics, "a new kind of politics, one in which entire populations are now considered disposable, an unnecessary burden on state coffers, and consigned to fend for themselves." Henry Giroux, "Reading Hurricane Katrina: Race, Class, & Biopolitics of Disposability," College Literature 33:3 (2006): 174.

20 Of course, conviviality’s most notable and distinguished advocates are Ivan Illich and Gustavo Esteva.

21 "As far as the distinction between the political and politics is concerned, Mouffe must be credited with giving a clear-cut definition: ‘by "the political," I mean the dimension of antagonism which I take to be constitutive of human societies, while by "politics" I mean the set of practices and institutions through which order is created, organizing human coexistence in the context of conflictuality provided by the political." Sandro Mezzadra, "Beyond the State, beyond the Desert," South Atlantic Quarterly 110:4 (Fall 2001): 994.

22 Elsewhere I argue that dignity as an analytical category, political practice, and strategic objective makes it possible to manage "difference." See, Manuel Callahan, "Why Not Share a Dream," Humboldt Journal of Social Relations 29:1 (2005): 6-38.

23 Jaime Martínez Luna makes this point for comunalidad. See, for example, Martinez Luna, Jaime. "Comunalidad y Desarrollo," CONACULTA, Dirección General de Culturas Populares e Indígenas. Centro de Apoyo al Movimiento Popular Oaxaqueño, (México 2003): 27-81.

24 It is worth noting that in the current "crisis" corporate personhood has increasingly come under attack, a critique underscored by the widespread disapproval of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the legal issues surrounding Citizens United.

25 I am indebted to Gustavo Esteva to contributing significantly to my thinking regarding the dangers of abstraction on this and the earlier conceptualization of conviviality.

26 Wendell Berry defines community as a deliberate effort to reclaim commons that is locally placed or rooted and defined both by arrangements and constraints. "Since there obviously can be no cultural relationship that is uniform between a nation and a continent, ‘community’ must mean a people locally placed and a people, moreover, not too numerous to have a common knowledge of themselves and their place." Berry stresses that communities share situated knowledge of what works locally between generations to fulfill collectively determined obligations to one another. Wendell Berry, Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community (New York: Pantheon Books, 1993): 120, 168.

27 For more information about Universidad de la Tierra Califas see <>. The Universidad de la Tierra Califas is also linked to Universidad de la Tierra Oaxaca <>.

28 According to Jaime Martínez Luna and others, the resistance that defines original peoples is one that has at times incorporated key elements of dominating forces reinventing and mitigating their most corrosive effects.

29 The Center for Appropriate(d) Technologies promotes the generating and sharing of a wide variety of strategic, community-oriented technologies, or convivial tools. Given the commitment to autonomous strategies of community regeneration, "technology" is understood very broadly. Any technology necessarily results from collective invention that responds to shared struggle oriented to community regeneration.

30 The Language and Literacies Institute treats language very broadly, making sure not to privilege dominant forms of communication mostly associated with Western imperial languages. Convivial language and literacy projects provide critical opportunities to further the analysis of local issues through communication skills and a wide-variety of "reading" tools used to decode different literatures, shifting conjunctures, and emerging socio-political formations. Each tool is designed to assist in making autonomous praxis more legible.

31 The Theses Clinic supports compañer@s who are strategically producing formal research products, such as theses or dissertations, for official programs. The «clinic» provides a horizontal, collective space that encourages researchers to treat the afflictions of empiricism and positivism. Long-term participants as well as «drop-ins» at the «clinic» can access a variety of tools that can "inoculate" researchers and prevent the potential spread of elite claims to professionalized authority and practices that objectify communities of struggle. Various collaborations and collective research projects will help decontaminate more formal university projects by making available locally situated convivial community-based knowledge production "technologies."

32 The study-travel jornadas facilitate an extended, "networked" community through strategic exchanges of compañer@s whose local community involvement and intellectual itineraries benefit from travel and research between the Bay Area and other sites, including the Universidad de la Tierra "campuses" in Oaxaca, Puebla, and Chiapas.

33 The Democracy Ateneo is an open space for reflection and action that interrogates the vexed and incomplete project of democratic promise. The learning space is animated by four critical themes: a) projects that attempt to democratize mainstream liberal institutions in the areas of learning, community wellness, food, and community safety; b) autonomous alternatives to traditional, representative democracy such as the Zapatista struggle and their critique of the party-state system, the analysis of the Fourth World War, and their experimentation with a politics of encounter, c) projects that have undermined democratic promise historically and politically including, for example, slavery, democratic despotism, development, neoliberalism, militarized policing, low intensity war, and (global) prison industrial complex; d) the strategies, practices, and diverse formations that promote the production of collective subjects.

34 Following Hakim Bey, the one most associated with the term "temporary autonomous zone," I am hesitant to define the full concept suggested here agreeing with Bey that, "in the end the TAZ is almost self-explanatory." However, the TAZ, warns Bey, is not an exclusive end in itself, replacing all other forms of organization, tactics, and goals." The TAZ is like an uprising which does not engage directly with the State, a guerrilla operation which liberates an area (of land, of time, of imagination) then dissolves itself to re-form elsewhere/ elsewhen, before the state can crush it. Because the State is concerned primarily with Simulation rather than substance, the TAZ can ‘occupy’ these areas clandestinely and carry on its festal purposes for a quite a while in relative peace." According to Bey, "we recommend it because it can provide the quality of enhancement associated with the uprising without necessarily leading to violence and martyrdom. Hakim Bey, T.A.Z. The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism (New York: Autonomedia, 1991): 98-101.

35 A tertulia refers to neighbors who gather at an accessible public space, such as a pub or coffee house, to share news and information that affect the community. Tertulias that achieve a more political focus, as we are suggesting here, can operate as Virtual Centers, meaning they can parallel the research efforts of more sophisticated elite «Research Centers» or «Think Tanks» without the costs or infrastructure. Thus, a consistent and accessible tertulia is a site of knowledge production where community members can develop projects, coordinate activities, facilitate networks, share resources, and promote research.

36 Mitote is a signifier originally used by the Spanish during the "age of discovery" of the Americas to criminalize Indigenous resistance. Initially the term signified what were perceived to be sinister gatherings of debauchery and excess assumed to be the result of the free use of intoxicants. The celebration and declarations, to the Spanish, must have confirmed their worst fears of an Indigenous disposition to subversion and the constant worry of revolt. In this instance, the term has been re-appropriated as a category of analysis, strategic practice, and a political objective. In this sense the term refers to a "clandestine" gathering marked by ritualized celebration and sharing of knowledge between generations for community renewal. As strategic sites of insurgent learning, mitotes operate as spaces of encounter in service of complex, emergent strategies of rebellion and autonomous political formation.

37 The deployment of an ateneo as a strategy of oppositional learning and research has a long history especially associated with the Spanish anarchist community of the late 19th century. The rise of the alterglobalization struggle, or "movement of movements," has witnessed a resurgence of "worker" organized research projects and learning spaces. Many of these new uses of the ateneo have drawn from the success of the horizontal autonomous practices associated with the social centers and the okupas active across Spain since the 1980s.

38 Throughout we rely on coyuntura, or conjunctural analysis, as a foundation to co-generate strategic knowledges and develop plans of action. We approach coyuntura as a category of analysis, a space for epistemological rupture, and as a space to actively produce new knowledges. Inspired by the intersections of critical pedagogy and liberation theology in Latin America during the 70s and 80s, coyuntura links research, analysis, reflection, action, and community empowerment by encouraging participants to name, define, narrate and act on the struggle that impacts them in the current conjuncture, or what Gustavo Castro calls the "amplified present." Thus, coyuntura as a collective, horizontal practice of knowledge production exposes the competing strategies of opposing forces composed of key agents, projects, networks, and alliances. Not surprisingly, as an approach to analysis, coyuntura draws heavily on the major theoretical advances of various "marxisms" and "post-marxisms" to illuminate the intersections between structural and cultural forces operating in economic, political, social, and cultural contexts over time. Coyuntura can also refer to a gathering convened for the purpose of producing new knowledges by first generating an epistemological rupture -exposing the views, attitudes, values, and concepts that are taken for granted and prevent a group from arriving at an agreed plan of action. Making a collective’s diverse, complex, and situated resources available often requires not only exposing the «common sense» but also revealing the sedimented technological expertise or those taken-for-granted concepts that can prevent a group from listening to one another, arriving at a shared analysis, and constructing new tools to solve local, immediate problems. For the most thorough treatment of coyuntura as a praxis, see Gustavo Castro Soto y Enrique Valencia Lomelí, Metodologia de Analisis de Coyuntura vols. 1-10 (México: Servicio Jesuita a Refugiados-México y Servicio Informativos Procesados, A.C., 1995).

39 For critiques of the popular attitudes and discourses underlying "globalization," see, for example, the discussion of "global thinking" in Gustavo Esteva and Madhu Prakash, Grassroots Post-Modernism: Remaking the Soil of Cultures (London: Zed Books, 1998). See also Leslie Sklar, "Social Movements and Global Capitalism," in Fredric Jameson and Masao Miyoshi, eds., The Cultures of Globalization (Durham: Duke University Press, 1998).

40 This theme has also been taken up by the coloniality of power group.

41 See also, Raúl Sánchez Cedillo, "Towards New Political Creations: Movements, Institutions, New Militancy," Translated by Maribel Casas-Cortés and Sebastian Cobarrubias. Accessed from <> on August 24, 2009. Universidad Nómada, "Mental Prototypes And Monster Institutions: Some Notes by Way of an Introduction," Translated by Nuria Rodríguez. Accessed from <> on August 2009.

42 Daniel Bensaïd, "Permanent Scandal," in Democracy in What State? (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011): 43.



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Recibido: 15.10.2012 Aceptado: 07.11.2012

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