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Saturday, 8 September 2012

Notes from Loughborough: Conference of the Anarchist Studies Network

There is an anarchist studies network. It is a fairly recent thing, which wasn't really around 10 years ago when I was doing my own 'academic' research into anarchism. But it attracted over 150 people to Loughborough University in the first week of September, and the kinds of things they talked about were mindboggling!

Some strands were a bit confusing to me: the anarchism & religion guys, for example, seem to take their subject entirely seriously, and as if religion is a valid domain for careful questioning. This takes a bit of a leap of faith for those of us with a limited understanding of why the big churches and religious orders haven't disappeared yet. Anarchism and disability, love, different national contexts, autonomism, artistic practice and postanarchism (bit of a dodgy label that, really: it relates to the meetingplaces of post-structuralist philosophy and postmodern shitmongering with anarchist ideas, as opposed to being 'post-' as in 'after-' anarchism in the way that 'post-'feminism is sometimes an 'after-'feminism reaction, or indeed the opposite to actual feminism).


I went to sessions, papers and workshops in as many of the strands as I could, my intention being to re-broaden my mind, to get a bit more up to date in the academic scene, and to seek to understand what people are finding interesting, and possible, to research. Here are some of my notes.

I drew pictures of a couple of sessions (painted, actually, with a really bad kids' paintbrush and a bottle of ink, my first attempt at that kind of drawing). One was of the really tight, really interesting 3-paper talk on Max Stirner: one of those sessions where you actually feel the insides of yourself learning, getting cleverer. The other was the goodbye plenary where, as in a quaker meeting, people were encouraged to be silent and open, and to speak if and only if they felt the urge. 

I also used this conference to launch the first introductory video'd presentation/performance of the anarchist pilgrimage project, and despite the relative lack of visuals (no audio- visual facilities in the room), I got some really positive responses and began dialogues with some new folk who may be interested in collaboration and touring. More on that when I edit the video (and that may take a while as I have other things I must prioritise first).

So all in all, a slightly unreal, very free and very eclectic and enquiring 3 days. I met & was looked after by some lovely people, missed a train but got away without having to pay extra, and opened my mind a bit to the kinds of enquiries that are not only permitted right now, but getting institutional, academic sanction. What a good country to be based in right now, and what a contrast to the fascistic turn that is taking place in Russia & Belarus. Where I hope to return next year. On a journey you are invited to share.