ASN Conference, 2012: Can the revolution be analyzed?


During the 2012 conference of the Anarchist Studies Network (Loughborough, U.K.), George Sotiropoulos and me will organize an innovative workshop on the methodological and moral issues raised when conducting social research in contentious environments.

The conference will take place from 3-6 September, 2012. Our workshop will be part of the “Real Democracy and the Revolutions of our Time” session’s stream, chaired by Laurence Davis and Peter Snowdon.

TITLE: Can the revolution be analyzed? Methodological and moral issues when conducting social research in contentious environments.
ORGANIZERS: Markos Vogiatzoglou and George Sotiropoulos

In December, 2009, an international political science conference took place in Panteion University, Athens, Greece. Senior and junior scholars of the European social movements’ studies were invited to present their ideas, research and insights on the metropolitan revolts that had exploded during the previous years, in Paris, Athens, LA and elsewhere. The conference date was chosen to co-incide with the one year anniversary from the December 2008 riots that had shaken the Greek society.The anarchist student collective of Panteion University was not happy at all with the event. The students stormed the conference beginning ceremony, expressed their concern over the institutionalization of a social struggle they had participated in, engaged in lively debates with the participants and, finally, wrote an impressive slogan on the entrance wall. The slogan was: THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE ANALYZED! It remained there until the end of the conference, serving as a reminder to the contributors of the “thin red lines” one has to take into account when conducting research on contentious environments.Although we do not necessarily undersign the strong affirmative tone of the students, we share their problematization. This is unavoidable, as we bear the dual identity of simultaneously being scholars and activists. Is this dualism yet another instance of the ‘schizophrenic’ condition, identified by some radical currents of thought as the basic condition of the proletariat in late capitalism? Or is it possible to achieve a sufficiently productive reconciliation between the two? Expanding on the above rationale, we would wish to address the following issues/questions: under which conditions it is possible to successfully conduct research when the events around us go beyond every day’s normality, when the history’s continuum seems to be temporarily (or less temporarily) broken, and the pre-designed analytical categories we carry around make less sense than usual? What are the criteria of a potentially “successful” research? How do concepts such as ‘truth’ and ‘understanding’, which are immanent to an (academic) research project, relate to the political goal of emancipation?

The format we propose to address the above issues is that of an open workshop. We invite scholars, activists and anyone interested to participate and contribute. The workshop participants are expected to collectively formulate and finalize the thematics to be discussed; present and elaborate their thoughts on each one of them; contribute their personal experience from the field; express their agreement or disagreement with arguments made; synthesize the outcome in a final text, where conflicting and/or opposing views are welcome, the format and purpose of which shall be decided on the spot. In this way, we hope to overcome, or at least attempt to do so, the speaker/spectator dualism and turn the workshop into a collective experience that seeks to challenge in practice the hierarchical polarities that much of the current socio-political system, including the academia, produces and rests upon.