lunedì 19 marzo 2012

Zapruder World / An appeal for a new journal and network on the history of social conflicts

Abraham Zapruder was the 58-year-old Russian migrant tailor who filmed the killing of John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dallas on 22 November 1963. Armed with a 8mm camera, he made history. From below. Since 2002 Zapruder is also a journal on the history of social conflict published in Italy and in Italian. The journal was founded by historians and social activists who took part in the protestmovement in Genoa (July 2001) and, along with the association Storie in movimento (SIM - Histories in movement), it is rooted in the experience of local social forums sprang out from the Seattle, Göteborg and Porto Alegre international demonstrations and meetings. Social activism has fed our research curiosities, broadened our intellectual interests, and pushed us to explore new methodological and theoretical perspectives. History - we felt during those months of continuous and inspiring mass actions and debates - was no longer (just) a series of words on a page, nor a sequence of institutional meetings and events. It was written in and acted by the bodies and the acts of protest, resistance and rebellion of ordinary people against hegemonic and oppressive structures of power anywhere, anytime. Since their inception, the journal and the association have mirrored these experiences. They have been meeting places for academic and non-academic scholars, spaces of inclusive and anti-authoritative cultural creation, laboratories based on egalitarian and democratic participation. For instance, the theme for each issue of Zapruder is chosen through public assemblies and the Editorial Board and the Coordination Committee are elected by the members of the association. Through a network of local groups and annual symposia, SIM´s members have developed critical perspectives, theoretical concepts, and methodological approaches standing clear of the conceptual straightjackets of liberal progressivism, epistemological Eurocentrism and methodological nationalism. as well as of the celebratory history of the institutional organizations of the labour movement. Sustained exploration of new topics in radical historiography has been coupled with the experimentation of research and communicative methods apt at dismantling monopolistic attitudes towards access to sources, the individualistic and solitary nature of historical work, and the tendency to limit research to the academic market and the hyper-fragmentation of knowledge. For all their originality, the experiences of SIM and Zapruder have not taken place in a vacuum. They have been rooted in the changing global geography and paradigms of historiography and related to the(re-)emergence of global movements. New associations of historians have appeared in the last ten-fifteen years and much research has been done, from Western and Eastern Europe to Brazil, from South Africa to the USA and Canada, from Turkey to South East Asia. Publishing mainly in English and French, these associations and related journals have addressed the interactions between different regions of the world throughout the modern era, provided new perspectives on global socio-economic history and suggested new ways of understanding social movements.Moreover, as new forms of workers´ protest, grassroots social movements and a growing collective consciousness regarding the diffusion of contemporary globalization have emerged all over the world, this new type of historiography has incorporated the histories of national and local insurgent movements and social conflicts in a global, comparative, entangled, and trans-local perspective. Similarities, mutual influences and linkages among populations in different nation-states and land-empires, as well as across seascapes have been explored. National boundaries have been transcended, networks within and beyond the national level have been investigated, and repertoires of collective action, forms of resistance, and insurgent movements have been researched in their interconnections and interdependency with political and social changes arising within other societies. It is high time that this wealth of interconnected and socialized knowledge found a way to circulate on the global scale afforded by contemporary digital technology, and help scholars of the Global South and Global North to build bridges of collaborations and mutual inspiration as has already happened on the squares of Cairo, New York and Rome. Our call for the creation of Zapruder World (ZW) is at one and the same time a call for bringing together researchers from around the world into a network of scholars and social activists aimed at exchanging and diffusing their knowledge and knowledge practices, and to realize together a digital tool for the construction and maintenance of this network: An International Journal for the History of Social Conflict. We imagine ZW to be a digital journal (initially written in English) and a network of historians and social activists spread through different places, countries and continents, that will explore the many forms of social conflict and reconsider the notion of social conflict itself. In so doing, our aim is simultaneously to transform the way we look at history, the way historical research is organized, and the way historical memory is transmitted from one generation to another. We understand "social conflicts" in the broadest sense of the word, without spatial or chronological limits. We target the movements of conflicts - rather than their resolutions - and compare forms of conflict across time and space in order to connect our knowledge with current transnational cycles of protests. We consider "social conflict" as a useful interpretative category to address the structural relations between classes, genders, cultures and racialization, technology, the formation of identities and nature. We explore conflicts by producers as well as consumers and stress the agency of the historical actors, their memories, discourses, believes and hopes. We seek to expand and redefine the meaning of insurgent practices beyond the privileged locus of the workplace, e.g. by looking at public ceremonies, celebrations, street theatre and bodily practices as ways to express complaints, demands and eventually deliberate rebellion. We look at wage and subsistence workers, men, women and children, slaves and serfs, unemployed and lumpenproletarians and aim to question the traditional separation between "free" and "unfree" labour. Social conflict is explored through an interdisciplinary perspective, addressed at any scale and looked at through a constant jeux d´échelles. We use concepts and methodologies - derived from history, social sciences, ethnography, economy, geography, anthropology and the humanities at large - that seek to explore the complex interaction between the "local" and the "global": comparative history, histoire croisée, micro-history, multi-sited ethnography, translocality, teleconnections, diaspora. We all practice "global history," but intentionally leave its actual definition, contents and methods open for discussion. As researchers, we realize that addressing all these issues is a huge challenge. We are also conscious that other networks and journals already exist that are trying to cope with this very task. Yet, as social activists, we know that this is still not enough and for this reason we are proposing this new project. Our research activities should be also located in the very historical context we act in. By focusing on social conflict, then, we consciously contrast the normalization and dominance of "liberal thought," which consistently downplays the tenor and causes of social conflict and is essentially impotent in contrasting the spread of the Neoconservative world view. We see history as, essentially, an arena of conflicts and overtly challenge liberal conciliatory descriptions of the Past. Besides answering old and new research questions and exploring new methodological perspective, we should also address the material conditions in which we perform our tasks. We know the present situation of the research only too well: national and international "reform" aiming at the marketization of research and education; cuts on State investments, growing role of private actors, daily difficulties for independent organizations; strengthening of authoritarian clientelism; project-centred approach in funding, mainly driven by short term, market-related goals. The outcomes of these trends are also visible: growing exclusion from research and education; sustained precariousness of contracts, of research and in the lives of the researchers; drastic limitations on independent research. In opposition to this situation, ZW intends to be a pluralistic, open forum for social activists, academic and independent scholars from all countries and all disciplines. Born within the wider project "Storie in Movimento," our initiative stems first of all from the desire to expand our own horizons beyond the national confines of Italian history. Yet, we do not intend to merely "internationalize" either SIM or Zapruder. Rather, within a completely new experience we seek to enhance key aspects of SIM´s experience, namely: its horizontal relationships, direct participation and self-funding principles; its provision of a network for exchanges of critical knowledge; its coupling of individual study and collective discussion. Here lies the most original aspects of the ZW project, what makes it different from any other network and journal on global history and conflict studies. ZW necessarily couples theoretical, methodological and interdisciplinary discussions with a characteristic collective and democratic process of exchange, decision and creation. For this reason, in what follows we ask your decisive commitment to find the most appropriate form for ZW. We are convinced that this project can reach its ambitious goals only insofar as it stays open and succeeds in creating its own mechanisms of permanent democracy. Clearly, this is an appeal for active participation. We do not merely ask you to express an interest in subscribing to a journal or an organization, but to create, shape and expand the project yourself. Therefore, by issuing this appeal to you we do not intend to establish once and for all the characteristics and goals of the project. Rather, we envision the creation of ZW in two organizational steps, both intended to guarantee the democratic process. The first step corresponds to the distribution of this appeal to scholars / activists like yourself whom we have identified as potentially interested in contributing to the creation of ZW. In turn, we ask you to do two things: a. To re-distribute this appeal through your networks with the specific goal to form `local´ groups corresponding to your own geographical location and/or to your favourite research themes and methodologies. Please, make sure that besides responding to you, your contacts will also respond to our email ... b. To fill-out and send-back to us by 30 April 2012 the questionnaire you find attached to this appeal. By so doing you will show us your willingness to take part in the creation of ZW and also be part of a local/thematic/methodological organizing group that will prepare the second organizational phase of our project. Moreover, the information you will send us by filling out the questionnaire will allow us to support the process of formation of the groups themselves by distributing it among all potential participants of a `local´ group. Please make sure that you specify the importance of filling out the questionnaire to anyone you will send this appeal to. In the second phase, by the last week of September 2012 the groups will come together, in the forms that you will find most appropriate (physical, digital, or possibly both) to discuss especially the following points:
a) What do you understand as the key elements (methodological, thematic, etc...) in a history of social conflict on a global scale?
b) What do you envision to be the necessary and/or most desirable organizational traits (i.e. peer-review system of evaluation; only English language submissions or all languages translated into English; thematic issues; single or local editorial boards etc...) in the creation of ZW?
c) Which topics would you and your group be interested in exploring and possibly organize into an issue of ZW?
We very much look forward to hearing from you, The project´s organizing committee:Stefano Agnoletto, Michele De Gregorio, Christian G. De Vito, Claudio Fogu, Marilisa Malizia, Sabrina Marchetti, Alfredo Mazzamauro, Elena Petricola, Giulia Strippoli.
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