Category Archives: europe

Countermapping QMary in Lateral

An interview with the Q Mary Countermappers came out in Lateral a few months ago: http://www.culturalstudiesassociation.org/lateral/issue1/countermapping.html

There’s also a nice online version of the map and the game!

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3Cs occupies…

3Cs not only drifts through the global knowledge machine, but occupies parts of it as well:

NYC

Durham

Boston

Zaragoza

Buenos Aires

See the Guardian’s map of Occupies & the map of Oct. 15 events around the world.

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Filed under argentina, drifts, europe

Part 2: what is acampada sol?

1. an encampment in the Puerta Sol

consisting of: tables for the different working groups and committees; 3 food stations; 2 infirmaries; a library (with a comfy couch and lots of books); a  children’s space (with matted floors, toys and books); an art space (where people make signs and other artworks for the encampment); a tent offering free massages and “psychological help”; numerous sleeping areas and tents; and a lot of other stuff i’m forgetting. basically, everything one needs to live here (except for showers).

(this is the most recent map i could find, but as it’s a few days old,
it’s no longer exactly accurate)

food comes from donations and the 3 kitchens cook and distribute it

2. “the democracy we want”: decisions in the encampment are made through consensus in the assemblies. all major decisions must be approved in the general assembly. when asked what “real democracy” is, the encampment is the answer. i’ll explain the concept more in the next part of this series, and critiques and problems in the final part.

3. a “meeting-place”, a place for dialogue and debate :

a friend explains to me: “we went to the march because we thought we would be alone, that nobody else would be there so we had to go, the same for the first days of the encampment. and then we saw we were not alone, that there were many other people that thought like us, and we kept going to the plaza so that we wouldn’t be alone”.

the first thing i notice is the strong desire to talk. talking to strangers, not only about why we are angry but what a better world would look like. talking for hours in assemblies with hundreds of people. nobody ever seems to get tired. it’s as if they’ve been silent their whole lives, and now they suddenly realize they can talk, and it’s wonderful. and listening, listening to each other instead of bullshit politicians. and realizing that actually we are just as good at coming up with solutions as the politicians and supposed “experts”.

Traficantes de Sueños organized a presentation of the book La crisis que viene (The Coming Crisis) and a discussion around the causes of the crisis and what we’re calling for (a guaranteed basic income!)

Also, read Marta’s piece: Sol, when the impossible becomes unstoppable

And a nice video about how there is space for everyone in Sol.

4. committees and working groups: one of the constant criticisms from the press and the institutional left is that the 15-M movement is too diverse, there is no one unifying demand or problem, people are interested in too many different single issues. walking around the encampment or looking at the daily schedule, it is easy to see where these critiques come from.

The working groups (charged with generating debate on their topic and developing proposals for discussion in the general assembly): education & the university; culture; environment; economy; social; politics; feminisms; migration & mobility; science and technology; inter-religious dialogue

The committees (dedicated to maintaining the space of the camp and coordinating the assembly process): extension; neighborhoods; infirmary; infrastructure; communication; legal; food; arts; respect; library; dinamization of the assemblies

Most of the working groups and committees where created in the first two days of the encampment in the general assembly. More groups were added as necessary (after approval in the general assembly): neighborhoods after the assembly decided to organize neighborhood assemblies; feminism after a debate about hanging a feminist banner, etc. As they began developing proposals, most of the groups created additional subcommittees (in Spanish).

Sharing the space of the plaza has been one of the major forces holding these groups together – seeing each other, talking to each other and having to collectively live in and govern a common space. Environment organizes recycling; Feminism ensures that gender-neutral language is used & generally intervenes in cases of overly machista behavior; Migration works to make immigrants feel welcome and comfortable in the encampment; etc. Of course this is not enough to create a common project, but it has been a start. And, of course, this space does not have to be a physical space and in the upcoming weeks and months, how we are able to use and share virtual spaces will become increasingly important.

While their physical presence is largely what makes up the encampment, the working groups go well beyond the encampment. They will continue meeting after the tents are taken down and the plaza returns to “normal”.

5. changing: one of the most impressive aspects of the encampment is that it is constantly changing. you’re there in the early afternoon, you leave for class, you come back and there are new structures, new pathways, new posters. in one sense this is super confusing because it makes it hard to find things, but it’s largely exciting (especially when the changes make the space more livable).

for example, the nursery: Originally the encampment had no designated area for children, then a small space was cordoned off in the middle (this was during the days when the camp was super packed and the pathways were narrow so it was almost impossible to reach, especially with small children). Parents were not impressed so they organized a march, bringing their kids and pushing strollers, to the encampment from a nearby plaza. now the nursery is one of the nicest places of the encampment, easily accessible, with cardboard on the floor to make it safer, plenty of toys, a library of children’s books, and lots of arts and crafts activities.

6. #acampadasol: the encampment also exists in a very real way on the internet. the website, the tv station, the radio, the twitter, the facebook page. not only does this allow people far away to see and learn about the camp, but it also means that campers are always in the encampment even when they’re not physically there. You follow the tweets about it when you’re in class, watch the live broadcast when you’re at home. In this way, the camp spreads, takes over the space of the city and our daily lives. This explains it better.

I remember one of the first days of the occupation of the plaza (before it had really consolidated into the encampment), people started chanting: “we’re not on facebook, we’re in the plaza”. I look over at the kid next to me, one of the loudest chanters, uploading a picture to facebook while chanting. This isn’t as much of a contradiction as it might appear to be. Of course, we’re in the plaza, and we’re also in facebook, and the plaza is on facebook and we’re in the facebook plaza. Our power lies in that we can go from facebook to the plaza and back again whenever we want. Our power comes from not needing a political party or a trade union to tell us when to go, from not having to rely on the corporate-controlled media to get our story out. Of course they can block and censor things on the internet, but we already know how to get around that.

7. and much much more.

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Cartographies of a “#revolution” (1)

(The first in a series about the protests in Spain. Disclaimer: I’m in Madrid, therefore my posts are from the perspective of Madrid. There are marches, camps and assemblies in cities and towns across Spain – I would love to hear reports from more of them. Also, the pictures are not mine but have borrowed from other sources.)

I had the good luck to arrive in Spain on May 14, the day before the “#spanishrevolution” was to begin. Of course, it wasn’t entirely luck, I had been inundated with tweets and FB posts about May 15 for months, mostly by friends from Barcelona. That was enough to get me to pay the $40 extra and very quickly move out of my apartment to get to Madrid by the 15th. (point 1 about social media: if it got me to go to Madrid from the US, think how many people were encouraged by social media to travel much shorter distances.)

The May 15 March was largely organized by a diffuse internet-based coalition Democracy Real Ya (Real Democracy, Now), supported by Juventud Sin Futuro, mostly made up of university students, and other groups. You can read the DRY manifesto in English. Of course, it also comes out of a long history of organizing in Spain – elements of the global justice movement, the anti-war movement, autonomous organizations working around migration and precarity, etc.). This conceptual map gives a good overview of the earlier organizing 15-M builds on and the relationships between 15-M and other movements. Also, a piece from Madrilonia examining the genealogy of the movement.

The call was simple: “real democracy now,” “we are not commodities in the hands of bankers and politicians”. A call against a government that insisted in going along with austerity measures, drastically cutting social services, while bankers and finance capitalists continued getting rich and corrupt politicians continued to go free. It was a march as much against the governing socialist party as the opposing conservative party (a common chant was that the 2 parties are the same piece of shit). The comment sentiment that led people to the streets was a sense of anger at this state of affairs, not only at having to bare the brunt of a crisis they did not cause, the massive level of unemployment, the cuts to pensions and health care, but also that all of this was happening under a “socialist” government many of them had at one time voted for or at least not totally despised.

The march in Madrid was march larger than most of us had expected and coincided with large marches in cities and towns across the country. (The event’s facebook page lists most of the participating cities) While most of us slowly left the Puerta del Sol where the march had ended, a few people stayed around, leading to clashes with the police and arrests.

A call was made for a concentration in Sol the following evening in support of the people arrested the night before. I was with a friend who got the call via text message (point 2 about social media: it does not preclude, but in fact works wonderfully with other forms of communication, including face to face communication). We hurried to the plaza to find a small but growing crowd and the first assembly of the Acampada Sol. That night we made the first committees, based on different issues and needs of the movement.

I headed home around 2am, with the plaza still occupied by a small group of people planning to spend the night. A few hours later, there was another confrontation with police and the campers were kicked out of the plaza. As a number of plazas around the world show, once people have decided to occupy a square, they won’t easily give it up: a march to retake the plaza was called for the following evening.  This time, we had more than twice as many people as the night before and, despite our worries, entered the plaza without any trouble from the police. We had no idea at the time, but from that moment on the plaza would be known as the Acampada Sol.

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3Cs meets Carrotworkers

When in London recently, Liz met with the Carrotworkers’ Collective – a collective of ex-interns in the cultural sector, working largely around issues of free labor. Their work counters some of the myths surrounding free labor in the cultural sector, which are very similar to some of those that we’ve encountered in graduate school – it’s a rite of initiation (you have to suffer as a grad student to eventually make it into the ranks of tenured faculty), we do this work out of love (therefore we don’t need to get paid a living wage), etc.

We talked about different forms of militant research, including mapping and graphing, and ways of doing both quantitative and qualitative research. They emphasized the importance of having at least some quantitative data on the cultural sector, as well as documenting the subjective experiences of interns. One technique they’ve used is to have folks graph how they spend their time in terms of unpaid vs. paid labor and the trends and transformations over time and how people would ideally spend their time.
They are currently working on a Counter Internship Guide

We’re planning on doing a collaboration with the Carrotworkers and students at Queen Mary University in April and May of this year, more coming soon…

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3Cs in Bologna

Liz recently got back from a visit to Bologna…

My first night in Bologna I gave a talk at Bartleby – an occupied space at the university and spoke about university struggles in the US and the edu-factory project. The talk was part of a week of events leading up to the strike on Friday that included other talks, meetings, music and parties. Some themes that came up in the discussion during my talk were:

– the relationship between autonomous movements and major trade unions
– the effects of student debt (universities in Italy are now beginning to charge tuition fees, forcing students to go into debt in order to study – like the US!)
– the effects of the Bologna Process and other efforts at standardization of university curriculum

The next day, I participated in the autonomous student & precarious workers’ march during the general strike, as part of the Yes We Cash campaign for a guaranteed minimum income.


Back in NC, our discussions focused on the importance and the pragmatics of having a space – in Bologna, as many other places around the world, taking over a space, not only as a temporary tactic, but to create a more permanent presence, an alternative space. These spaces are used for talks and discussions like the one I participated in, and also  more generally as meeting places, spaces to enact the kind of university we want. Could we do this? It seems much harder to permanently occupy spaces within our university campus. For one, there is much less unused space to occupy and secondly, the administration is much less willing to negotiate with students for the control of a space. Yet this shouldn’t serve as discouragement, but rather open up new lines of inquiry and action. In Italy and other places, it is the strong base of student power that forces the administration to negotiate with students – building this power from below must be one of our starting points. Some questions that might merit further research – how are spaces used and controlled on our campus? What would we like that to look like? How might we begin to go about occupying university spaces differently? What about creating alternative spaces of knowledge production outside of the university?

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the wave cannot be arrested

The Anomalous Wave cannot be arrested! Let’s support the students against the repression of the italian governement!
Please sign and circulate the call in solidarity with the students arrested (add also your affiliation): http://www.PetitionOnline.com/wave/petition.html

At dawn this morning, in the framework of an investigation ordered by Torino’s Public Prosecutor office, Italian police made dozens of unwarranted house searches against students and activists. 21 of them are under arrest: 15 in prison, 6 under house-arrest.

This is the unjust response of the government and the Public Prosecutor Giancarlo Caselli to the mass demonstrations in Torino on 18-19 May against the G8. This is a clear suspension of any form of democratic right: the charges don’t justify remands after two months. Therefore, we are facing a direct attempt of intimidation against the Wave just a few days before the G8 in L’Aquila, a forum which clearly no longer has any democratic legitimacy now.

The answer of the Wave is instant. Immediately, students from all Italian cities have organized demonstrations, occupations, city blockades and meetings against the police’s heavy-handed operation. The slogan is one: freedom for all now! In the Wave there are no good or bad students: it’s one huge movement that expresses the main form of social opposition in this country in the last months.

We demand an immediate, clear and unequivocal statement by the university institutions against these arrests. Otherwise, deans and their offices will be under remand by the Wave. For this reason we have begun to occupy the dean’s offices of our universities and we’ll not stop until the last student is released.

Let’s generalize the Wave, generalize freedom! Freedom for all now!

Anomalous Wave

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