Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Strategies and Cultures of Movement

SOME PRELIMINARY THOUGHTS, FOR DISCUSSION

Jai Sen, for first CACIM Consultation. First draft, November 9 2005, revised November 13 2005

Some propositions :

  • Movement, motion, is a fundamental facet, fact, of life; of all life processes. Indeed, in some ways it is life itself. It is the most fundamental characteristic of change.
  • Movement intrinsically involves the expenditure of energy; of power in the sense of shakti.
  • Movement links points, in space and in time. Power radiates.
  • In a sense therefore, all movement is about energy – about energy harnessed, energy expressed, energy experienced, energy directed – and therefore about power, understood in a generic sense.
  • There is more directed energy / power / movement, and also more open-ended energy / power / movement.

CACIM’s work in movement has grown out of the involvement of its members in social and political movement, as activists, as researchers, and as theorists. This work includes research and writing on the history, dynamics, and cultures of particular movements (such as movements in India for a place to live, or movements in North-east India); the involvement of its members in a range of movements, at local, national, and transnational levels; involvement also with the organisation of the WSF (World Social Forum) and then the coordination of critical reflection on the Forum through the publication of books in this area and the organisation of seminars and workshops.

More recently, our work in this area has involved the exploration of the political-cultural concept of ‘open space’. This has included the preparation of a volume of the International Social Science Journal on this subject, the organisation of workshops before and during the World Social Forum in 2005, the co-founding of an international network of scholar-activists in this field (EIOS – Explorations in/of Open Space), and the preparation of a proposal to organise a major international conference and related meetings on this subject in India in mid-late 2006.

CACIM proposes to continue this work, but now also to progressively create spaces for fundamental research and critical reflection, exploration, and action in the field of movement, in order to permit and encourage learning across disciplines and across cultures.

Given how fundamental movement is to all life process, it should be of no surprise that the term and the concept of ‘movement’ exists in a wide range of human endeavour and knowledge : In architecture, art, biology, cosmology, cybernetics, dance, film, mathematics, music, physics, poetry, rehabilitation therapy, and theatre, among others, as well as in the social and political sciences – as also in life and politics in general, which so many of these fields seek to explore and to understand and/or are expressions of. (See also the box at the end of this note : ‘Movement, from the Wikipedia’.)

For the same reason, it should easily be of no surprise that the term is seen, and used, in many different ways in different fields of life. Equally, in the Japanese language – I am told – there are many words for movement in the sense of ‘travel’, or ‘journey’ (from the actual action of travel to the act of resting during travel; of motionlessness, but where the act of resting is pregnant with motion). This is comparable to the cosmological conception of Tao, literally meaning merely ‘the road’ or ‘the way’, as distinct from the western or Christian conception of (organised, institutional) ‘religion’.

So the question arises : Are there any concepts that arc across these different dimensions and manifestations of movement – these different meanings, understandings ? Do the propositions given at the outset of this note help in any ways to do this ?

One of the areas that we hope to work in is the question of determinate vs indeterminate, open-ended cultures of movement, drawing and learning from many other fields and cultures of thinking and action. Conventionally, the social and political sciences have tended to look at (social and political) movement in terms of causal relations. There are different schools of thought within this, such as ‘identity-oriented theories’ and the ‘resource mobilisation approach’, but in general enquiry is founded on an assumption of relatively determinate, relatively linear, causal processes. But as some authors have shown, there is now much research in other fields – biology, mathematics – that suggests that biological action and behaviour is extensively shaped by open-ended, non-linear exchange and transfer, such as through processes such as morphic resonance and the exchange of pheromones.

Flowing from this, new fields of exploration are opening up, looking at the roles of networks, swarms, and multitudes in human behaviour and power relations, and of power where energy flows in ways that are very different from what has so far been understood – and where power itself may therefore be expressed in very other ways.

In a similar vein, CACIM proposed to press ahead with its explorations of the meaning and utility of ‘open space’ as a political-cultural concept. Along with others members of the EIOS Collective, and drawing from the proposal that we have prepared for EIOS3, the major set of meetings proposed for mid-late 2006,

… for our purposes ‘open space’ refers to the form of organisation and structure claimed by many organisers and participants in the World Social Forum to be a ‘new form of politics’. The main idea is that a ‘space’, rather than a party or movement, allows for more and different forms of relations among political actors, while remaining open-ended with respect to outcomes. It is ‘open’ in that encounters among multiple subjects with diverse objectives can have transformative political effects that traditional forms of coalition and campaigns, with uniform themes and goals, exclude. We however are asking whether and how effectively the notion of open space addresses the question of more democratic ways of conducting and understanding politics and organisation within movements, and to what extent it can also operate within more institutional political processes.

Similarly, there are deep other traditions we propose to draw on – in, for instance, the exploration of the relationship of art, dance, and cosmology; of art, nature, and form; of music and architecture; and of art, music, and power.

We believe that exchange between these fields – where questions of motion and of ‘movement’, interpreted and understood in different ways, is fundamental to all – can yield rich insights, for each of the fields and certainly for the understanding and practice of social and political movement.

This is a first, very crude and incomplete draft only ! Among other things, the whole question of emerging cultures of networking, both in real space and in virtual, is missing. Comments and suggestions very welcome.
For comments : jai.sen@cacim.net