Thursday, September 30, 2004

Blog: Postcolonial Feminists Meet Internet Research

Call for Papers: Cultural Studies, Qualitative Research

The second conference on Text, Interaction and Communities
Qualitative Approaches to Society and Social Action
May 25.-26. 2005, University of Tampere, Finland

Qualitative research is increasingly characterised by a diversity of approaches. The aim of this conference is to encourage dialogue among thesedifferent perspectives. The specific theme "Text, Interaction andCommunities" was chosen to explore how society and communities are perceived in different research methods and practices.

What is the policyof qualitative research?
What specific insight can different qualitative methodologies offer to the study of social action?

Dialogue on these themes will be carried out both in the keynote lectures, discussant comments as well as in workshops.

Keynote speakers of the conference are:
• Dr. Vivien Burr
• Prof. Paul Drew
• Prof. Christine Sylvester

Deadline for abstracts: January 28, 2005.

May 23.-24 2005
Tampere Postgraduate Centre for Social Sciences (TAMCESS)
University of Tampere

Three doctoral courses will be arranged before the conference. The courses are lead by Dr. Vivien Burr and Professors Paul Drew and Christine Sylvester in cooperation with their Finnish colleagues. Each course is based on the overall theme of the conference with special emphasis on a particular qualitative research orientation. These courses are designed to support doctoral students and scholars using a qualitative approach in their work.

Conversation analysis:
The active patient (Prof. Paul Drew)
Qualitative research as participation and communication (Prof. ChristineSylvester)
Social constructionism and discourse analysis (Dr. Vivien Burr)

ORGANIZERS:The Qualitative Social Research Unit (LYHTY) in collaboration with TheDepartment of Social Policy and Social Work, The Research Institute for Social Sciences, and Tampere Graduate Centre for Social Sciences (TAMCESS), The University of Tampere.

More information is available at:

Article: Howard Zinn, The Optimism of Uncertainty

The Optimism of Uncertainty
by Howard Zinn
[posted online on September 2, 2004 at The Nation]

In this awful world where the efforts of caring people often pale in comparison to what is done by those who have power, how do I manage to stay involved and seemingly happy?

I am totally confident not that the world will get better, but that we should not give up the game before all the cards have been played. The metaphor is deliberate; life is a gamble. Not to play is to foreclose any chance of winning. To play, to act, is to create at least a possibility of changing the world.

There is a tendency to think that what we see in the present moment will continue. We forget how often we have been astonished by the sudden crumbling of institutions, by extraordinary changes in people's thoughts, by unexpected eruptions of rebellion against tyrannies, by the quick collapse of systems of power that seemed invincible.

What leaps out from the history of the past hundred years is its utter unpredictability. A revolution to overthrow the czar of Russia, in that most sluggish of semi-feudal empires, not only startled the most advanced imperial powers but took Lenin himself by surprise and sent him rushing by train to Petrograd. Who would have predicted the bizarre shifts of World War II--the Nazi-Soviet pact (those embarrassing photos of von Ribbentrop and Molotov shaking hands), and the German Army rolling through Russia, apparently invincible, causing colossal casualties, being turned back at the gates of Leningrad, on the western edge of Moscow, in the streets of Stalingrad, followed by the defeat of the German army, with Hitler huddled in his Berlin bunker, waiting to die?

And then the postwar world, taking a shape no one could have drawn in advance: The Chinese Communist revolution, the tumultuous and violent Cultural Revolution, and then another turnabout, with post-Mao China renouncing its most fervently held ideas and institutions, making overtures to the West, cuddling up to capitalist enterprise, perplexing everyone.
No one foresaw the disintegration of the old Western empires happening so quickly after the war, or the odd array of societies that would be created in the newly independent nations, from the benign village socialism of Nyerere's Tanzania to the madness of Idi Amin's adjacent Uganda. Spain became an astonishment. I recall a veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade telling me that he could not imagine Spanish Fascism being overthrown without another bloody war. But after Franco was gone, a parliamentary democracy came into being, open to Socialists, Communists, anarchists, everyone.

The end of World War II left two superpowers with their respective spheres of influence and control, vying for military and political power. Yet they were unable to control events, even in those parts of the world considered to be their respective spheres of influence. The failure of the Soviet Union to have its way in Afghanistan, its decision to withdraw after almost a decade of ugly intervention, was the most striking evidence that even the possession of thermonuclear weapons does not guarantee domination over a determined population. The United States has faced the same reality. It waged a full-scale war in lndochina, conducting the most brutal bombardment of a tiny peninsula in world history, and yet was forced to withdraw. In the headlines every day we see other instances of the failure of the presumably powerful over the presumably powerless, as in Brazil, where a grassroots movement of workers and the poor elected a new president pledged to fight destructive corporate power.

Looking at this catalogue of huge surprises, it's clear that the struggle for justice should never be abandoned because of the apparent overwhelming power of those who have the guns and the money and who seem invincible in their determination to hold on to it. That apparent power has, again and again, proved vulnerable to human qualities less measurable than bombs and dollars: moral fervor, determination, unity, organization, sacrifice, wit, ingenuity, courage, patience--whether by blacks in Alabama and South Africa, peasants in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Vietnam, or workers and intellectuals in Poland, Hungary and the Soviet Union itself. No cold calculation of the balance of power need deter people who are persuaded that their cause is just.
I have tried hard to match my friends in their pessimism about the world (is it just my friends?), but I keep encountering people who, in spite of all the evidence of terrible things happening everywhere, give me hope. Especially young people, in whom the future rests. Wherever I go, I find such people. And beyond the handful of activists there seem to be hundreds, thousands, more who are open to unorthodox ideas. But they tend not to know of one another's existence, and so, while they persist, they do so with the desperate patience of Sisyphus endlessly pushing that boulder up the mountain. I try to tell each group that it is not alone, and that the very people who are disheartened by the absence of a national movement are themselves proof of the potential for such a movement.

Revolutionary change does not come as one cataclysmic moment (beware of such moments!) but as an endless succession of surprises, moving zigzag toward a more decent society. We don't have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. Even when we don't "win," there is fun and fulfillment in the fact that we have been involved, with other good people, in something worthwhile. We need hope.

An optimist isn't necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places--and there are so many--where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Book review (2003): Barbed Wire: A Political History

Barbed Wire: A Political History
by Olivier Razac; translated by Jonathan Kneight(New York: New Press, 2002;132 pp.)

Review by Christopher Capozzola

When barbed wire was first introduced in 1876, no one believed that it would work, so a young promoter named John Gates organized a demonstration at the Military Plaza in San Antonio. Gates invited local cattlemen to test their wildest longhorns against his new fencing material, crafted of nothing more than thin wire and metal barbs. The dubious ranchers released their steers, who stumbled backward in confusion after they ran head first into the fences. When they did so, philosopher Olivier Razac would suggest, they ran up against the dawn of the 20th century.Barbed wire’s simplicity masks its ruthless efficiency. Its purpose is not merely to enclose the property of farmers and ranchers for economic gain. Marking off boundaries is also a political act. After barbed wire, some are inside and some are outside; those outside can be—and have been—dehumanized, reduced like the cattle in San Antonio’s city square.

Razac begins by tracing the emergence of barbed wire in the 19th century American West. In the vast and treeless reaches of the prairie, stone walls and picket fences were hopelessly impractical. After several attempts, inventors developed the barbed wire that we know today. But the wire that farmers used to domesticate the dry western landscape quickly became a tool for the subjugation of Native American tribes. It put an end to what Razac calls “fundamentally Indian values: open space, nomadism, and egalitarianism.” This then “created the conditions for the physical and cultural disappearance of the Indian.” If the reservations were not literally barbed-wire prisons, that was only because barbed wire had already accomplished its task. Razac then turns from the American West to the Western Front, where the entrenched armies of World War I hunkered down along a 600-mile border strewn with barbed wire. As the opposing forces faced off across No Man’s Land, barbed wire helped them turn a strikingly short physical gap into a profound political distance. French and German soldiers despised each other as beasts, a development Razac chalks up to the divisive effect of barbed wire. At the outset of the war, this “artificial bramble” was impassable for attacking forces; only the emergence of the tank—World War I’s most dehumanizing machine—made military breakthrough possible.

This process of dehumanization through boundary-marking reached what Razac considers its logical conclusion in the Nazi concentration camps of World War II. The barbed wire surrounding the camps demarcated human and inhuman, an important step in making genocide not only practically possible but intellectually imaginable. The theoretical implications of barbed wire are not insignificant. Razac shows that barbed wire is not merely an object, but a whole way of seeing the world, “a sublime, even monstrous modern technology run amok.”All this history is true enough, and there is much to justify Razac’s bleak interpretation of the 20th century. But Barbed Wire slights those who have resisted it, either as an object or as a political idea. Barbed wire is easy to construct, but it is also easy to destroy. In the Range Cutting Wars in Texas in 1883, farmers and cowboys who felt their livelihoods threatened by the enclosure of land began surreptitiously cutting the cattlemen’s wires. The radical Greenback Party entered the fray, denouncing barbed wire as a symbol of monopoly, and an all-out war against the rise of corporate agriculture was on. By year’s end, more than half the counties of Texas had reported incidents of wire cutting. Physical and cultural resistance took place on the other side of the fence as well: Razac suggests that “when the Indians could retreat no farther, they died.” But generations of Native Americans have persevered and maintained cultural traditions under hostile conditions. Razac might never be caught dead gambling at Foxwoods, but ever since the 18th century enlightenment, Native Americans have stubbornly refused to succumb to French philosophers’ romantic visions of the “vanishing” Indian.Likewise, in World War I, barbed wire did not always succeed as a tool for the dehumanization of the enemy. Historian Eric Leed has shown that ordinary soldiers in the trenches—who knew what war could do to the citizens of any nation—actively sought to avoid combat whenever possible. He even recounts the tale of a German sergeant who realized in a dream that French soldiers also had wives and children and ordered his men to cease fire. Finally, although it was more rare, there was resistance and escape in the Nazi concentration camps, as Razac relates.

Unfortunately, Razac’s bleak interpretation may prove correct in the long run. The final section of Barbed Wire details the complex new technologies of surveillance and political control that have begun to shape the 21st century. Barbed wire will find little use in the future, argues Razac, in part because it is an outdated technology, but mostly because it has taken on the connotations of “an almost universal symbol of oppression.” (Think of your Amnesty International bumper sticker here.) Video surveillance, electronic identity cards, and gated communities are the future that is already here, but just as the reader is ready to write Razac off as a conspiracy theorist, he brings his historical analysis to bear on the present. Residents of gated communities want the latest security technologies, but they won’t buy properties protected with barbed wire. “So it seems,” writes Razac, “that the violence of power is unacceptable only when we see it in action.” Barbed wire will disappear, but what will endure is the mindset of the political boundary, ever more invisible, but ever more powerful. Fifty years ago, the disbelieving interrogator of a gulag survivor asked “if people moved around in [the gulag] as they pleased, how could it have been a camp?” Razac leaves us to wonder whether we are on the inside or the outside of these new invisible boundaries. How would we know?

State authorities found it nearly impossible to catch the rebels in the Texas fence wars of the 1880s. All it took to cut the wire was a pair of wire clippers, but the shears were a necessary tool found in the pockets of every cowboy who rode the range. The people of the 21st century will have to be like the cowboys of the 19th, and dig deep into our pockets and our imaginations to figure out how the tools that maintain political power can also be used to transform it.

New Publication: Securing Land and Resource Rights in Africa: Pan-African Perspectives

Securing Land and Resource Rights in Africa: Pan-African Perspectives has just come out in print. It is published by the Pan-African Program on Land and Resource Rights (PAPLRR).

The collaborative partners of PAPLRR are: the Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS -, School of Government at the University of the Western Cape; African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS -; Social Research Centre (SRC - at the American University in Cairo, and Community Conservation and Development Initiative (CCDI Nigeria -

The publication is a consolidated and shared effort that identifies and discusses some of the challenges faced by Africa's rural poor people in securing their livelihood. The report forms part of the PAPLRR network's efforts to disseminate an African voice on land and resource rights matters. The majority of Africa's people are rural-bound, poor and dependent on land and other natural resources for survival and yet their access and resource rights are severely constrained by numerous factors militating against them. Inappropriate laws and policies, marginalisation, unfavourable structural socio-economic relations, weak grassroots institutions, globalisation and actions of powerful local elites - often in association with external elites, multinationals and so-called 'market forces' are some of the challenges the rural poor have to contend with in their struggle.The PAPLRR network brings together a core group of African researchers, activists and practictioners to develop a common understanding and strategies for securing land and resource rights for the rural poor.

They hope that the publication will be of interest and use to you and will share insights and enhance your understanding of the complex issues around land and resource rights in Africa, at least from a pan-African perspective. They will happily entertain any comments and enquiries you may have in respect of the report.

For further details about the PAPLRR network please visit the website at

The members of the PAPLRR hope you will engage in this important debate and let them know what you are doing in your efforts to secure land and resource rights for the poor. In the mean time the report can be purchased from PLAAS for R120.00 (US$18.00) and will be available with the other PAPLRR partners in a few weeks' time. For those interested in securing a copy please contact PLAAS at with your full postal and requisite details.

News: Resistance Within WIPO

It is interesting to me that the following resistance is emerging within WIPO, but it still leaves the most fundamental issues untouched - belief in intellectual property thinking as valid for making sense of human relationship, belief in economic incentive as the primary way to make sense of human motivation and creativity, and the existence of WIPO at all as an organization dedicated to the evangelization of the doctrines of intellectual property. (BTC, AMcC)

[Forwarded from the CNI-Copyright list, submitted by Jamie Love]

A battle has erupted within the World Intellectual Property Organization(WIPO) over the most fundamental questions of its mission. A number of developing countries, lead by Argentina and Brazil, have tabled a proposal for a "development agenda," which involves stopping work on new treaties that hike intellectual property protections, and redirecting the agency to a range of initiatives more responsive to development and concerns of WIPO critics. Officially, this is debated on September 30,2004.

Below is a copy of a Declaration on the Future of WIPO, which discusses the problems with WIPO, the proposal for a development agenda, and other reforms at WIPO. We are seeking additional signatures forthis Declaration. To sign, send an email note to:

You can read about the debate in WIPO on the development agenda, see the signatures of persons who have already signed the Declaration, and review relevant WIPO documents here:

The following is the text of the English version of the Declaration.

Geneva Declaration on the Future of the World Intellectual PropertyOrganizationHumanity faces a global crisis in the governance of knowledge,technology and culture. The crisis is manifest in many ways.
* Without access to essential medicines, millions suffer and die;
* Morally repugnant inequality of access to education, knowledge and technology undermines development and social cohesion;
* Anticompetitive practices in the knowledge economy impose enormous costs on consumers and retard innovation;
* Authors, artists and inventors face mounting barriers to follow-on innovation;
* Concentrated ownership and control of knowledge, technology, biological resources and culture harm development, diversity and democratic institutions;
* Technological measures designed to enforce intellectual property rights in digital environments threaten core exceptions in copyright laws for disabled persons, libraries, educators, authors and consumers, and undermine privacy and freedom;
* Key mechanisms to compensate and support creative individuals and communities are unfair to both creative persons and consumers;
* Private interests misappropriate social and public goods, and lock up the public domain. At the same time, there are astoundingly promising innovations in information, medical and other essential technologies, as well as in social movements and business models.

We are witnessing highly successful campaigns for access to drugs for AIDS, scientific journals, genomic information and other databases, and hundreds of innovative collaborative efforts to create public goods, including the Internet, the World Wide Web, Wikipedia, the Creative Commons, GNU Linux and other free and open software projects, as well as distance education tools and medical research tools. Technologies such as Google now provide tens ofmillions with powerful tools to find information. Alternative compensation systems have been proposed to expand access and interest incultural works, while providing both artists and consumers withefficient and fair systems for compensation. There is renewed interest in compensatory liability rules, innovation prizes, or competitive intermediators, as models for economic incentives for science andtechnology that can facilitate sequential follow-on innovation and avoid monopolist abuses. In 2001, the World Trade Organization (WTO) declared that member countries should "promote access to medicines for all."

Humanity stands at a crossroads - a fork in our moral code and a test ofour ability to adapt and grow. Will we evaluate, learn and profit from the best of these new ideas and opportunities, or will we respond to the most unimaginative pleas to suppress all of this in favor of intellectually weak, ideologically rigid, and sometimes brutally unfair and inefficient policies? Much will depend upon the future direction ofthe World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a global body setting standards that regulate the production, distribution and use of knowledge.

A 1967 Convention sought to encourage creative activity by establishing WIPO to promote the protection of intellectual property. The mission was expanded in 1974, when WIPO became part of the United Nations, under an agreement that asked WIPO to take "appropriate action to promote creative intellectual activity," and facilitate the transfer of technology to developing countries, "in order to accelerate economic,social and cultural development."As an intergovernmental organization, however, WIPO embraced a culture of creating and expanding monopoly privileges, often without regard to consequences. The continuous expansion of these privileges and their enforcement mechanisms has led to grave social and economic costs, and has hampered and threatened other important systems of creativity and innovation. WIPO needs to enable its members to understand the real economic and social consequences of excessive intellectual property protections, and the importance of striking a balance between the public domain and competition on the one hand, and the realm of property rights on the other. The mantras that "more is better" or "that less is never good" are disingenuous and dangerous -- and have greatly compromised the standing of WIPO, especially among experts in intellectual property policy. WIPO must change. We do not ask that WIPO abandon efforts to promote the appropriate protection of intellectual property, or abandon all efforts to harmonize or improve these laws. But we insist that WIPO to work from the broader framework described in the 1974 agreement with the UN, and to take a more balanced and realistic view of the social benefits and costs of intellectual property rights as a tool, but not the only tool, for supporting creativity intellectual activity.

WIPO must also express a more balanced view of the relative benefits ofharmonization and diversity, and seek to impose global conformity onlywhen it truly benefits all of humanity. A "one size fits all" approach that embraces the highest levels of intellectual property protection foreveryone leads to unjust and burdensome outcomes for countries that are struggling to meet the most basic needs of their citizens.The WIPO General Assembly has now been asked to establish a development agenda. The initial proposal, first put forth by the governments ofArgentina and Brazil, would profoundly refashion the WIPO agenda towarddevelopment and new approaches to support innovation and creativity.This is a long overdue and much needed first step toward a new WIPOmission and work program. It is not perfect. The WIPO Convention should formally recognize the need to take into account the "developmentneeds of its Member States, particularly developing countries andleast-developed countries," as has been proposed, but this does not go far enough. Some have argued that the WIPO should only "promote the protection of intellectual property," and not consider, any policies that roll back intellectual property claims or protect and enhance the public domain. This limiting view stifles critical thinking.

Better expressions of the mission can be found, including the requirement inthe 1974 UN/WIPO agreement that WIPO "promote creative intellectual activity and facilitate the transfer of technology related to industrial property." The functions of WIPO should not only be to promote"efficient protection" and "harmonization" of intellectual property laws, but to formally embrace the notions of balance, appropriateness and the stimulation of both competitive and collaborative models ofcreative activity within national, regional and transnational systems ofinnovation.

The proposal for a development agenda has created the first real opportunity to debate the future of WIPO. It is not only an agenda for developing countries. It is an agenda for everyone, North and South. It must move forward. All nations and people must join and expand the debate on the future of WIPO. There must be a moratorium on new treaties and harmonization of standards that expand and strengthen monopolies and further restrict access to knowledge. For generations WIPO has responded primarily tothe narrow concerns of powerful publishers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, plant breeders and other commercial interests. Recently,WIPO has become more open to civil society and public interest groups, and this openness is welcome. But WIPO must now address the substantive concerns of these groups, such as the protection of consumer rights andhuman rights. Long-neglected concerns of the poor, the sick, the visually impaired and others must be given priority.The proposed development agenda points in the right direction. By stopping efforts to adopt new treaties on substantive patent law, broadcasters rights and databases, WIPO will create space to address farmore urgent needs.

The proposals for the creation of standing committees and working groupson technology transfer and development are welcome. WIPO should also consider the creation of one or more bodies to systematically address the control of anticompetitive practices and the protection of consumer rights.We support the call for a Treaty on Access to Knowledge and Technology. The Standing Committee on Patents and the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights should solicit views from member countries and the public on elements of such a treaty. The WIPO technical assistance programs must be fundamentally reformed. Developing countries must have the tools to implement the WTO Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health, and "use, to the full" the flexibilities in the TRIPS to "promote access to medicines for all." WIPO must help developing countries address the limitations andexceptions in patent and copyright laws that are essential for fairness, development and innovation.

If the WIPO Secretariat cannot understandthe concerns and represent the interests of the poor, the entire technical assistance program should be moved to an independent body that is accountable to developing countries. Enormous differences in bargaining power lead to unfair outcomes between creative individuals and communities (both modern and traditional) and the commercial entities that sell culture and knowledge goods. WIPO must honor and support creative individuals and communities by investigating the nature of relevant unfair business practices, and promote best practice models and reforms that protect creative individuals and communities in these situations, consistent with norms of the relevant communities. Delegations representing the WIPO member states and the WIPO Secretariat have been asked to choose a future. We want a change of direction, new priorities, and better outcomes for humanity. We cannot wait for another generation. It is time to seize the moment and move forward.

New Book: Copyright, Law, History.

Ronan Deazley, a Lecturer in Law at the University of Durham, has published his long-awaited first book, On the Origin of the Right to Copy: Charting the Movement of Copyright Law in Eighteenth Century Britain (1695-1775).

Hart Publishing Ltd., Salters Boatyard, Folly Bridge, Abingdon Road, Oxford OX1 4LBUK
Tel: +44 1865 245533Fax: +44 1865 794882

Taking as its point of departure the lapse of the Licensing Act 1662 in 1695, this book examines the lead up to the passage of the Statute of Anne 1709 and charts the movement of copyright law throughout the eighteenth century, culminating in the House of Lords decision in Donaldson v Becket (1774). The established reading of copyright's development throughout this period, from the 1709 Act to the pronouncement in Donaldson, is that it was transformed from a publisher's right to an author's right; that is, legislation initially designed to regulate the marketplace of the bookseller and publisher evolved into an instrument that functioned to recognise the proprietary inevitability of an author's intellectual labours. The historical narrative which unfolds within this book presents a challenge to that accepted orthodoxy. The traditional analysis of the development of copyright in eighteenth-century Britain is revealed as exhibiting the character of long-standing myth, and the centrality of the modern proprietary author as the raison d'être of the copyright regime is displaced.
July 04 234 x 156mm 320pp Hardback 1-84113-375-2 £45 / €67.50

Call for Autonomous Spaces During the European Social Forum in London, 14-17th October 2004.

Autonomous Spaces are a loose network of individuals, groups, organisations and grass roots communities and who act, think and struggle for another world beyond capitalism.

They are calling to those in the UK, the rest of Europe and those further afield to participate in building alternative autonomous spaces around the European Social Forum, which will be held in London during October (14-17th) 2004.

What they are trying to do is to create open spaces for networking, exchanges, celebration, thinking, and action. They believe their ways of organising and acting should reflect their political visions, and as such are united in standing for grassroots self-organisation, horizontality, for diversity and inclusion, for direct democracy, collective decision making based upon consensus, and against the false consensus in which power is used to silence others.

They do not have, nor represent, one single unified position on the ESF. They are however, asserting that the ESF UK organising process is un-transparent, non-participatory, and exclusionary. It is their position that the UK ESF organising process has been controlled by the Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Action, and through the central involvement of Mayor Ken Livingstone's Greater London Authority, in ways which are both hierarchical and authoritarian. Because the organising process and methodology both in the UK and at the European level has not reflected the values and charters which the ESF aspires to, the ESF process is therefore, they claim, politically bankrupt. However, they wish to state clearly that they recognise, value and support the energy, diversity, and experiences of those attending the ESF.

"It is also important to say that some of us have tried to work inside the ESF process, fighting to "democritise" the ESF, and as such, much of our criticism is borne from experience and cannot be dismissed. Some of us believe that it is possible to rebuild the ESF to make it closer to the ideals it claims, and to build a truly participative process, others - after their experiences - believe this is simply not possible. Some of us wish to go further and say that the entire basis of the ESF is fundamentally illegitimate, that it only represents a space for the co-option of struggles, and that as such, it should be opposed. While others are aware of the problems within the ESF process but don't wish to be defined by them and are simply interested in working with organisational processes that are more authentic under the statement "another world is possible". We all however are united in our diversity and in our desire to act together in ways that respect these differences."

Autonomous Spaces issues an invitation ...

Following an international autonomous spaces meeting in Berlin in June, where 70 individuals from 45 groups and networks came together, discussions and planning has continued in London. There are now several self organised and autonomous spaces under construction - they range from legally hired venues to squatted social centres. An alternative programme of events will cover areas such as precarious work(ers), asylum and migrant issues, community organising, anti-war campaigns, environment, gender issues, alternative media, and technologies of control - from copyright to biometric ID cards, the the G8 - which comes to the UK next year in 2005, and more... There will be film screenings, alternative media centres, street theatre, parties, creative actions and protests ... We invite you to participate in the autonomous spaces, to help shape them, to organise workshops, discussions, creative interventions, and practical alternatives.

To get involved contact:

Background Links: Unofficial "open" esf website:
(see "Parallel Projects" Official ESF website:

Background to the call a Call for Autonomous Spaces During the ESF in London, 14-17th October 2004.

"We write this background note to all the networks and communities in struggle in the UK, Europe and beyond so as to clarify who, the authors of this call, are and what we stand for. Among us there are many positions, many visions, many different political languages and backgrounds that often seem odd to each other. We sat together for several hours and it became clear to us that it was difficult to draw together a document summarising our "position" or "line" on the ESF, or indeed, on how to change the world.
"Among us, we discovered there were at least three different approaches to the ESF. There are those for whom "another ESF is possible". These are those who in the last few months have fought inside the ESF process and for whom the often documented power games of the "verticals" (Socialist Worker Party, Socialist Action, several trade unions officials and the representatives of London's government, the GLA) represents the hijacking of the democratic and participatory principles of the Social Forum. There are those who instead stand in opposition to the ESF because they believe it only represents a space of cooperation of struggles, a space that does not promote the overcoming of capitalism but only its preservation with perhaps a "human face". There are finally those who prefer to define themselves by what they do, and are not interested in identifying themselves in relation to ESF.
"Hierarchical organisations would have hidden these differences for the sake of their public appearance, and would have manoeuvred minorities and find ways to force them to accept a common line. We are different, because we embrace diversity, we celebrate it, and we regard it as the source of our strength and creativity. Therefore, we are not afraid to be transparent. We have discovered that our common ground is not a "line", is not a means to silence the other. Our common ground is a mode of relating to each other, a mode of producing, of making decisions, and making things happen, that is grounded on the dignity and respect for all. However odd our political outlook seemed to each other, however "strange" the language we used, however "right" or "wrong" the arguments used among us appeared, we came to realise that in our practices we are all for grassroots self-organisation and not for top-down management, we are for horizontality and inclusion, not for hierarchy and exclusion, we are for collective decision making based on consensus that build on all our diverse powers, and not for voting or the false consensus in which power is used to silence others. Unlike the verticals within the ESF, we all think that another world beyond capitalism is possible only to the extent we practise what we preach, and the end of our struggles must correspond to the organisational means we choose to bring it about."

Interview: An Educator’s Reflections on the Crisis in Education and Democracy in the US

Dissident Voice has republished an interview with radical/critical pedagogist Henri A. Giroux.

By Michael Alexander Pozo
September 25, 2004
First Published in Axis of Logic

According to Henry Giroux, critical pedagogy asks, “whose future, story and interests does the school represent? Critical pedagogy argues that school practices need to be informed by a public philosophy that addresses how to construct ideological and institutional conditions in which the lived experience of empowerment for the vast majority of students becomes the defining feature of schooling.”

In May of 2004 Henry Giroux reluctantly left Penn State University after 12 years as a distinguished Professor in the Education Department. Over the years Henry Giroux has been one of the leading advocates for young people, democracy and education in the United States and has arguably been responsible for creating the field of Critical Pedagogy itself. He is considered one of the world’s leading intellectuals and according to Fifty Modern Thinkers in Education and was recently named one of the top thinkers in Education of the 20th century. He is author of over 40 books covering education, cultural studies, political theory and media studies. Much of Giroux’s most stunning and revealing writings have dealt with his tireless work on the dangerous influence of Corporations in schools as well as higher education. In The Abandoned Generation he warned that, “No longer a space for relating the self to the obligations of public life, and social responsibility to the demands of critical and engaged citizenship, schools are viewed as an all encompassing horizon for producing market identities, values, and those privatizing pedagogies that inflate the importance of individual competition”(80). In Take Back Higher Education, co-authored with his wife Susan Searls Giroux, he presents an extensive critique of the corporatization of higher education. ...

The interview

News: Cancer center to focus its efforts on prevention

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette at

Tuesday, September 21, 2004
By Michelle K. Massie, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute has established one of the first centers in the country to examine how to protect individuals and the community at large from environmental factors that can cause cancer.

"The center will provide people with information about the goods and the bads," said Devra Davis, an epidemiologist, environmental expert and author who will direct the Environmental Oncology Center.

"The good is what people can do to prevent the chance of getting cancer or having it recur. The bad is things to avoid in their lives that cause cancer."

Davis is the author of "When Smoke Ran Like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle Against Pollution," a National Book Award finalist that centered on the smog that killed 20 residents of her hometown, Donora, in 1948.

Davis said she began thinking about establishing such a center a year ago, when her mother died of cancer. Her father had previously died of cancer as well. She was impressed by the care her mother received at the Hillman Cancer Center and, though her mother's cancer was age-related, she wondered if more could be done to promote the reduction of risk factors related to cancer.
Davis hopes the center will empower individuals to take control of their health by offering preventive measures to fight cancer.

"We've done a really good job of telling people about their personal responsibilities to combat cancer -- don't smoke, don't drink a lot, exercise more, stop questionable sexual practices," she said.

"But we haven't done a good job of identifying the things that affect our environment and contribute to cancer -- air pollution, diesel exhaust, by-products of gas stations and dry cleaners."

The prevention-focused center will feature four major components: basic research, molecular epidemiology, environmental assessment and control, and community and professional education and public policy.

Through its research and outreach, the center will serve as a tool to educate and change the behaviors of individuals and institutions, and affect public policy. One of the first projects conducted by the center will study why African-American women under 40 develop breast cancer twice as frequently as white women.

The center will also collaborate on projects with the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, where Davis has been appointed professor of epidemiology.

Call for Papers: Sound Recording, Archiving, Library Studies, Music, Speech

From the Outreach Committee of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC).

ARSC is now accepting proposals for presentations to be given during its 39th Annual Conference, in Austin, Texas, March 30 to April 2, 2005. The deadline for proposal submissions is November 15, 2004. ARSC is dedicated to the preservation and study of sound recordings - in all genres of music and speech, in all formats and from all periods - and invites proposals for conference talks, papers, panels and demonstrations. Papers about music from Texas, including blues, classical, conjunto, country, cowboy, electric blues, honky-tonk, jazz, rock and roll, Tejano and western swing are especially sought. For more information or a proposal form, visit or contact Louise Spear, ARSC Program Committee Chair, at

Call for papers: Irish Music, Irish Studies, Politics

Department of History, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick
Songs Of Experience: Music and Irish Political Traditions

Final Call for Papers

A one-day interdisciplinary conference will be held in Mary Immaculate College, South Circular Road, Limerick, Ireland on Saturday the 4th December, 2004. Politics has provided rich subject material for musicians throughout Irish history, and music has been a valuable tool for different communities in supporting competing traditions, and as a display of cultural and local identities. This conference hopes to provide a forum for open debate concerning the role of music and political experience in Ireland. Papers should focus on the role of music and musical institutions in Irish political life. A wide variety of topics will be considered. However, the focus of all papers should be on the interplay between music, political life, and tradition. Abstracts should be no more than 300 words, for a 20 minute presentation. Abstracts should be emailed to the following addresses. The final date for submission of abstracts is the 15th October, 2004. or

This week I found out about a mailing list that is particularly relevant to my own interests, the commons-law list. The list covers the topics of law, culture, and technology, but, as you might imagine, this is a pretty broad remit. Anyone interested in intellectual property, public domain controversies, technology development, the information commons, common property studies, and associated legal issues would benefit from subscribing to this list. It averages about 50 messages a month.

Sorry for the absence of blog entries over the last while. My life has been in a pretty unsteady transition stage over the last number of months. I have made the move from sunny Santa Barbara in California to Sheffield, England, where I have a temporary contract as a lecturer in ethnomusicology. I will hopefully now have the time to devote to keeping this weblog fairly active, with news and information about the areas I'm interested in.

New Resource: Colonial India

The Digital Colonial Documents Project (India) is a new web resource intended to promote study of the rare seminal documents which were influential in the formation of notions of nation, state and culture during the colonial period in India. It includes full text versions of the Indian Census Reports for1871, 1881, 1891 and 1901, Murrays Guide to India for 1859, The Indian Education Report of 1882, Mill's History of British India and other documents.