AAG 2019 CFP On the blockade: geographies of circulation and struggle
Kai Bosworth, Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, Brown University
Charmaine Chua, Department of Politics, Oberlin College
Alongside the riot and the occupation, perhaps the most widespread tactic under use is once again the blockade. Attempts by workers and activists to prevent ecological destruction, fossil fuel infrastructure, global supply chains, and the everyday circulation of capital pepper the news around the world. Over twenty years ago, Nicholas Blomley began his formative analysis of First Nations blockades in Canada by suggesting that the “very frequency and predictability” might explain “why blockades have not received much scholarly attention as a political phenomenon” (Blomley 1996, 5). Today, we suspect a rich intellectual environment currently exists for reopening empirical and theoretical questions concerning political blockades. This includes a range of scholarship in infrastructure studies (Kallianos 2018), logistics and counterlogistics (Bernes 2013, Chua, Danyluk et al, 2018), urban geography (Maharawal 2017, Vizcarra and Araiza Kokinis 2014), contemporary environmentalism (Klein 2014) and spaces of contentious politics (Leitner et. al. 2008, Routledge 2017, Wainwright and Robertson 2003).
Analyses focused on blockades have frequently (and sometimes romantically) examined their role as moments of negation or disruption that mount a challenge to the circulation of contemporary capitalism (Clover 2016). In efforts to complicate this narrative, some have rightly pointed out that disruption can at times benefit the price-setting of corporations and the logic of capitalism more generally (Mitchell 2013). On the other hand, others caution that as the blockade has become a critical tool to assert collective power through the sovereignty of the people or indigenous jurisdiction, the state has securitized flows of commodities through an increasing emphasis on critical infrastructure (Pasternak and Dafnos 2018), perhaps suggesting greater attention to the forms of state violence and repression. Yet, even if blockades are sometimes less effective than we might hope, they remain fertile sites for expressing a richness of social subjectivities, forms of contestation, spaces of social reproduction, and deterritorializations and reterritorializations of capital and state space. As Deborah Cowen puts it, “It is perhaps on the blockade [where] alternative relations of care and provision – alternative logistics – anchored in relations of reciprocity and solidarity can emerge” (Cowen 2017). At stake in analyses of the blockade might thus be efforts to foreground “shared capacities to survive immiserating processes and to fight back against violent infrastructures” (Armstrong-Price 2015, 191).
This session will present a rich reading of contemporary or historical blockades as protest tactics, spaces of disruption, and social (re)productions of subjects and worlds, seeking to theorize their situation within a broader and complex global political economy riven by power geometries of state and capital, while at the same time keeping alive their potential to affirm worlds otherwise. What can we learn about space, politics, and capital from blockades? How do they alert us to arenas of struggle for lives and livelihoods absent from traditional analyses of capitalism, social protest, or infrastructural flow? If global supply chains and logistics management has reshaped the spatialities of capitalism, are new points of vulnerability - chokepoints - created which might be pressured for political justice?
Please email 250 word abstracts to Kai_Bosworth@brown.edu and Charmaine.Chua@oberlin.edu by October 20.
We would be particularly interested in scholars working on topics such as:
Black lives matter and freeway blockades
Immobilizing Google busses and high-tech cities
Pipeline, refinery, and tanker blockades
Indigenous struggles for decolonization and/or exercising sovereignty
Theorizing surplus populations and circulation struggles
Transportation and mobility struggles such as ZAD, NoTAV, Sanrizuka
Port shutdowns and ocean space
Social reproduction of/at the blockade
Blockades and police/security/military
Logistics and counter-logistical movements
Crowd theory and collective affect and subjectivity
Territorialities of state, capital, and private property
Research methods and epistemologies for blockading
Blockading the blockade: against border violence, fortress Europe, the Gaza seige
Armstrong-Price, Amanda. 2015. “Infrastructures of Injury” LIES: A Journal of Materialist Feminism Vol 2.
Bernes, Jasper. 2013. “Logistics, Counterlogistics and the Communist Prospect.” Endnotes Vol 3.
Blomley, Nicholas. 1996. “‘Shut the Province Down’: First Nations Blockades in British Columbia, 1984-1995.” BC Studies: The British Columbian Quarterly, no. 111: 5–35.
Chua, Danyluk, Cowen and Khalili. 2018. “Turbulent Circulation: Building a Critical Engagement with Logistics.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 36 (4): 617-629.
Clover, Joshua. 2016. Riot. Strike. Riot: The New Era of Uprisings. London: Verso Books.
Cowen, Deborah. 2017. “The Special Power of Disruption in an Age of Logistical Warfare.” OpenDemocracy. https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/krystian-woznicki-deborah-cowen/acts-of-disruption.
Kallianos, Yannis. 2018. “Infrastructural Disorder: The Politics of Disruption, Contingency, and Normalcy in Waste Infrastructures in Athens.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 36 (4): 758–75.
Klein, Naomi. 2014. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Leitner, Helga, Eric Sheppard, and Kristin M. Sziarto. 2008. “The Spatialities of Contentious Politics.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 33 (2): 157–172.
Maharawal, Manissa. 2017. “San Francisco’s Tech-Led Gentrification: Public Space, Protest, and the Urban Commons.” In City Unsilenced: Urban Resistance and Public Space in the Age of Shrinking Democracy, edited by Jeffrey Hou and Sabine Knierbein. Taylor & Francis.
Pasternak, Shiri, and Tia Dafnos. 2018. “How Does a Settler State Secure the Circuitry of Capital?” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 36 (4): 739–57.
Routledge, Paul. 2017. Space Invaders: Radical Geographies of Protest. London: Pluto Press.
Vizcarra, Jael, and Troy Andreas Araiza Kokinis. 2014. “Freeway Takeovers: The Reemergence of the Collective through Urban Disruption.” Tropics of Meta (blog). December 5, 2014. https://tropicsofmeta.com/2014/12/05/freeway-takeovers-the-reemergence-of-the-collective-through-urban-disruption/.
Wainwright, Joel, and Morgan Robertson. 2003. “Territorialization, Science and the Colonial State: The Case of Highway 55 in Minnesota.” Cultural Geographies 10 (2): 196–217.