This CFP welcomes papers examining forms of knowledge production, collaborative research, and dynamics of power and domination that infuse the socio-ecological relations of capital. This knowledge/power nexus includes the entanglement of bodies, social relations, and natures. The interactive dynamics of knowledge and power are perhaps well-studied and understood; however, following the critique by Raewyn Connell (2007), academia all too often fails to incorporate voices (knowledge) from the periphery. Yet this exclusion of voices is only one dimension of the problem. Boaventura de Sousa Santos (2004) argues that capitalism has also legitimized the use of “modern science” as a means to justify ideology and policies pursued by global capital as “rational,” which has in fact contributed to the destruction of alternative forms of knowledge, referred to by Santos as “epistemicide.” Yet, there are also examples that confront this destruction, and that show how the academy can be a part of producing collaborative research that challenges capitalism and epistemicide.  For Santos (2004), one space where this occurs is in the “sociology of emergences” where contemporary social movements interact with each other, demonstrating alternatives to capitalist social relations.

 

Of course, the idea of collaboratory research is not new. Indeed, the Italian practice of conricerca or “coresearch” as articulated by Romano Alquati (and others) in the 1950s and ‘60s, sees that collaboration between workers and researchers can produce a new form of knowledge, build the dialectical unity of revolutionary theory and practice, and ultimately breakdown the distinction between scientific researcher and political militant (Wright 2002, Sacchetto, D. et al. 2013).   While there has been a recent interest in the perspective of class and social composition and the corresponding method of “workers’ inquiry” or “militant coresearch,” these tendencies have had relatively little to say regarding the entanglement of bodies, social relations, and natures, and there appear few examples of cross-pollination between this “anarcho-sociology” (Roggero 2014: 515) and the radical interdisciplinary approaches of political ecology (i.e. syntheses of and blurring lines between geography, anthropology, sociology, and environmental studies). Furthermore, this notion of coresearch is rarely discussed within academia in the United States, often excluded by the non-dialogic pedagogies that reign hegemonic (Freire 2000).

 

This points to a larger systemic problem posed by the capitalist university, which through neoliberal policies and practices has become what Giggi Rogero (2014) refers to as the “edu-factory.” The university is both a site for the extraction of surplus value, as well as disciplinary exclusion/integration based on class, race, gender, sexuality, geographic location, citizenship, and politics. Beyond/through/despite the “edu-factory” is the space of the “undercommons,” encompassing “networks of rebellious solidarity that interlace within, against and beyond dominant institutions and power structures” (The Undercommoning Collective 2016). We see that coresearch has the potential to be a part of this undercommons and to upset the order of the edu-factory, serving as a prospective site for the co-production and circulation of contested socio-technical-ecological knowledge(s)/power(s).  In the spirit of a “right to the city” as articulated by Henri Lefebvre (1968) and David Harvey (2013), we are interested in the processes and potentialities of a collective right to create alternative ways our organizing our world(s). Coresearch has the potential to reclaim the university as a commons for the co-production of knowledge.

 

Like political ecology, coresearch is as akin to Paul Robbins’ (2012) “hatchet and seed” approach — a collaborative process of simultaneously smashing the old while prefiguring and harvesting the new. This speaks to the core of political ecology, the need to jettison the nature/culture binary, and the politics immanent to so-called "apolitical ecology" (Robbins 2012, Moore 2015). A political ecological critique of more-than-human culture—with its political and economic constructs which (re)produce systems of knowledge, power, and value—is integral to the study of environment and ecology. The idea of an "apolitical natural" is itself inherently political because "it holds implications for the distribution and control of resources” (Robbins 2012:18). Here we seek to also build on and explore the work of feminist studies and ecofeminist approaches to questions of power and epistemology, and the interconnectedness of gender, science, technology, research, and ecology (Griffin 1978, Haraway 1991, Harding 2015). We thus seek to extend and explore these ideas to the realm of coresearch, arguing that the processes, methods, and techniques of research itself hold political, economic, and ecological consequences.

 

With both “hatchet and seed,” political ecology challenges reified conceptions of nature, the binaries of nature/culture, the domination of more-than-human life by capital, and has potential to inform political imaginaries of socio-ecological alternatives by both breaking and bridging disciplinary boundaries (Robbins 2012). Coresearch challenges the edu-factory through destroying binaries of “researcher” and “militant,” and striving to incorporate militant research perspectives and practices outside and against the Ivory Tower. However, while both coresearch and political ecology make complementary use of ethnographic methods and techniques, they are not synonymous. Indeed, ethnography can reinforce problematic hierarchies of power, as manifest in the histories of (neo)colonial ethnographic practice. Further, one can approach research through a political ecology lens, while not participating in coresearch; and those engaged in coresearch have not typically done so through a lens of political ecology. In this session, we seek to explore the symbiotic potential of these two approaches.

 

Possible themes for papers include but are not limited to:

 

  • Ethnographies of the Anthropocene (or Capitalocene).

  • Social (re)production and political ecology.

  • Activist or militant research, such as workers’ inquiry, coresearch, participatory action-research, and popular pedagogies.

  • Knowledge (co)production and power relations.

  • (De)coloniality of knowledge.

  • Empirical examples of coresearch.

  • Theoretical explorations of coresearch methods, techniques, and processes.

 

Please send your abstract (no longer than 300 words) to Caitlin Schroering (chs203@pitt.edu) and Patrick Korte (kortepe@vcu.edu) by 10 p.m. on December 28. You may also contact us with any questions.

 

References

 

Connell, R. (2007). "The Northern Theory of Globalization." Sociological Theory, 25(4), 368-85.

 

Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum.

 

Harvey, D. (2013). Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution. London: Verso.

 

Lefebvre, H. (1968) Le Droit à la ville. Paris: Anthropos.

 

Moore, J. W. (2015). Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital. London: Verso Books.

 

Notes from Below (2018) “The Workers’ Inquiry and Social Composition.” Notes from Below (#1). Available: https://notesfrombelow.org/article/workers-inquiry-and-social-composition

 

Robbins, P. (2012). Political Ecology: A Critical Introduction (2nd ed.). Malden, MA; Chichester, West Sussex: J. Wiley & Sons.

 

Roggero, G. (2014). “Notes on Framing and Re-inventing Co-research.” Ephemera: Theory & Politics in Organization, 14(3), 515-523. Available: http://www.ephemerajournal.org/contribution/notes-framing-and-re-inventing-co-research

 

Sacchetto, D. et al. (2013) “Coresearch and Counter-Research: Romano Alquati’s Itinerary Within and Beyond Italian Radical Political Thought.” Viewpoint Magazine. Available: https://www.viewpointmag.com/2013/09/27/coresearch-and-counter-research-romano-alquatis-itinerary-within-and-beyond-italian-radical-political-thought/

 

Santos, Boaventura de Sousa. (2004). "The World Social Forum as Epistemology of the South." The World Social Forum: A User's Manual, B. d. S. Santos (ed.), 13-34.

 

The Undercommoning Collective. (2016).  “Undercommoning within, against, and beyond the university-as-such.” ROAR Magazine. Available: https://roarmag.org/essays/undercommoning-collective-university-education/

 

Wright, S. (2002). Storming Heaven: Class Composition and Struggle in Italian Autonomist Marxism. London: Pluto Press.

 

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