Routledge, Paul, Andrew Cumbers, and Corinne Nativel. “Grassrooting Network Imaginaries: Relationality, Power, and Mutual Solidarity in Global Justice Networks.” Environment and Planning A 39 11 (2007): 2575-92. Print.

  • This piece looks at the Latourian notion of “translation” to see how connections are created and sustained within a network of global justice – People’s Global Action Asia.  In so doing, this piece discusses how ANT is political and introduces the notion of “grassrooting vectors” to demonstrate how power relations work in global justice networks.  The authors hope that this work will inform how social movements can form and cohere through mutual solidarity more successfully
  • “Antiglobalisationism” is actually a collection of movements striated across geographical space.  As such “antiglobalisationsim” is a misnomer because the antiglobalisation movement itself is global.
  • Instead of “antiglobalisation” movements, the authors hope to use the term “global justice networks” to describe the multiple intersecting and layered movements that demand social, economic, and environmental justice in the face of neoliberalism.
  • GJNs are fractured along “political, operational and geographical faultlines” that include ideological differences (Marxist, feminist, anarchist, socialist) and postideological (autonomist) positionalities.
  • The authors characterise GJNs as either verticalist (hierarchical, Modernist organization) networks that are interested in garnering large amounts of power to determine how we should best live.  In this sense they are “macrosocial.”
  • There are also horizontalist GJNs that are about nonhierchical networks of organization, rhizomatic relations, multidimensionalities and varying intensities of affiliation.  These are usually direct-action groups instead of groups that rely on elected representatives.
  • The authors defien “translation” as the “processes of negotioation, representation, and displacement which establish relations between actors, entities, and places, and how actors and organisations mobilise, juxtapose, and hold together heterogeneous association so they can act” (2577).
  • In characterizing PGA-Asia, the authors note that certain “free radicals  and key contacts” act as the “imagineers” of the network  who hold the entire network together so that it might continue to fight neoliberal capitalist developments in specific countries.  These imagineers work to effect the moments of “translation” :  in other words, they problmatise network functions so that the network might function more effeciently.  They also designate networked roles for actors, enroll other movements and materials into the networka nd they work to mobilise all the enlisted entities.  In other words, they are the actants (2578-9).
  • Because PGA-A works on a nonhierarchical, decentralized model, the authors define their work as “transnational counterpublics (Olesen 2005, pg. 94 – LOOK THIS UP FOR ADAMs PAPER).  Defined:  open spaces for self-organized production and circulation of oppositional identities, discourses and practices.
  • The PGA-A utilizes a couple of different strategies to achieve network “translation”:
    • International and regional conferences – material space-times where folks can exchange information, coordiante actions and mobilise collective resources.  As the authors note, “Actor networks, when embodied in collective experiences such as the Dhaka conference, enable connections and exchanges between activists to be made, ans such interrelations can shape political identities and imaginaries:  a recognition of common opponents and common problems and the creation of common political strategies” (2582).
    • PGA-A, despite its horizontal organization, is not a completely equal-power organization.  Because of the power of the “imagineers”, some actors have far more capacity to direct the course of relations than others, which stems partly from their ability to condense ‘power’ within networks.
    • The authors term this ablity to condense power “network agency.”
    • Power – in terms of the network – becomes one’s ability to enroll others on terms which allow key actors to “represent” others (2485).
    • Grassrooting vectors are the agents that work to further the act of communication, information sharing and interaction within grassroots communities (2587).
    • These vectors, through “relational dynamics” can enlarge the geographical imagination and practical political knowledge of remote, poor populations.
    • PGA-A is a great example of Latour’s contention that all networks are both local and global (2588-9).
    • Instead of “protest” the participants in the PGA-A often recourse to a need to more fully develop “critical consciousness” a la Friere to be able to more sustainably support acts of empowerment and resistance in the face of neoliberalisation.
    • The PGA ‘process” (worked out via actor-networks) helps “constitute alternative counterpublics, which form the communicational basis for transnational social movements, understood as highly complex and contradictory spaces of convergence rather than unified collective actors” (2591).
    • Networks, in all reality, embody both horizontal and vertical organization.  What’s important is that sustainable forms of “material resistance” must be developed so that the peformative events of the network – conferences, actions, etc. – are not merely “memories” of grassroots communities but are central to their sustainability and agency.

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