Challenges of Militant Research in the Study of Autonomous Movements

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:36
Location: Hörsaal 21 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Katia VALENZUELA FUENTES, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom
The last two decades have seen an increase of newest expressions of anti-capitalist activism and collective action, both in Latin America and in the rest of the globe, characterized by the development of a radical and autonomous politics which challenges the grammars of capitalism and representative democracy along with the traditional forms of social change. Accordingly, exploring empirically the field of autonomous collectives from the standpoint of an activist-scholar demands to think carefully in the epistemology and methodology underpinning the research and in the particular methods to be applied. As Khasnabish and Haiven (2012) perceptively state, the methodological performance of the traditional studies of social movements, namely Resource Mobilization, Political Opportunities, New Social Movements, among others is “largely insufficient for the study of contemporary radical tendencies whose ambition and practice is a direct challenge to the very form of the sociopolitical itself…” (p. 412). Consequently, and in response to the difficulties presented by conventional methodologies “to see and make sense of radical challenges to the status quo [which] attempts [to cultivate] alternatives to it…” (Khasnabish and Haiven, 2012, p.412), this presentation will suggest an alternative path, drawing on the presenter's doctoral research experience with autonomous collectives in Chile and Mexico through the development of militant ethnography, understood as a politically committed and collaborative form of research carried out from within rather than outside grassroots movements (Juris, 2007). The presentation will be structured as follows: a) main assumptions of militant research and militant ethnography; b) gaining access to case studies; c) discussion of the field methods undertaken; d) ethical and methodological challenges; e) final reflextions: to what extent does militant research contribute to a collective and politically-engaged production of knowledge in the field of social movements’ studies?