Richard Cleminson and I are delighted to announce the upcoming release of our new book (details below). If you would like to order a copy either for yourself or for your library, please send me your postal address to request a discount flyer. To request a review copy, please email Alexandra [dot] Fryer [@t] tandf [dot] co [dot] uk
A book launch is provisionally scheduled for the evening of 20th May at Birkbeck, University of London. If you would like to attend, please let me know and I'll email you details when confirmed.
Please distribute to relevant networks.
Ethics, Relationships and Power
Jamie Heckert & Richard Cleminson, eds
Routledge, April 2011
Not so much a book as a nexus, into which flow some bubbling torrents: utopias, poetry and footnotes, post-theory, rationality, sexuality, Palestine, love, sado-masochism, Kropotkin and Nietzsche, lonely women in all-male meetings, riot grrrls, Queer parades, heteronormativity …and fishbowls. – Something to delight everyone, something to annoy everyone, something to make you think.
– Sharif Gemie, Professor in Modern and Contemporary History, University of Glamorgan
At long last: a set of serious, sustained engagements with the complex relationships between anarchism and the politics and practice of sexuality. Jamie Heckert and Richard Cleminson have gathered together a collection of passionate, provocative papers that incite the reader to recognize the relevance of anarchist ideas to queer and feminist sexual politics.
– Sasha Roseneil, author of Common Women, Uncommon Practices: the queer feminisms of Greenham, and Professor of Sociology and Social Theory at Birkbeck, University of London
Anarchism & Sexuality aims to bring the rich and diverse traditions of anarchist thought and practice into contact with contemporary questions about the politics and lived experience of sexuality. Both in style and in content, it is conceived as a book that aims to question, subvert and overflow authoritarian divisions between the personal and political; between sexual desires categorised as heterosexual or homosexual; between seemingly mutually exclusive activism and scholarship; between forms of expression such as poetry and prose; and between disciplinary categories of knowledge. Anarchism & Sexuality seeks to achieve this by suggesting connections between ethics, relationships and power, three themes that run throughout. The key objectives of the book are: to bring fresh anarchist perspectives to debates around sexuality; to make a queer and feminist intervention within the most recent wave of anarchist scholarship; and to make a queerly anarchist contribution to social justice literature, policy and practice. By mingling prose and poetry, theory and autobiography, it constitutes a gathering place to explore the interplay between sexual and social transformation.This book will be of use to those interested in anarchist movements, cultural studies, critical legal theory, gender studies, and queer and sexuality studies.
Preface: Sexual Anarchy, Anarchophobia, and Dangerous Desires
1. Ethics, Relationships & Power: An Introduction
Jamie Heckert & Richard Cleminson
2. Alexander Berkman: Sexual Dissidence in the First Wave Anarchist Movement and Its Subsequent Narratives
3. Nobody Knows What an Insurgent Body Can Do: Questions for Affective Resistance
Poetic Interlude I
4. Postanarchism and the Contrasexual Practices of the Cyborg in Dildotopia or ‘The War on the Phallus’
5. On Anarchism: An Interview with Judith Butler
Poetic Interlude II
6. Love and Revolution in Le Guin’s Four Ways to Forgiveness
7. Structures of Desire: Postanarchist Kink in the Speculative Fiction of Octavia Butler and Samuel Delany
8. Fantasies of an Anarchist Sex Educator
Poetic Interlude III
J. Fergus Evans & Helen Moore
9. Sexuality Issues in the Czech Anarchist Movement
10. Amateurism and Anarchism in the Creation of Autonomous Queer Spaces
Afterword: On the Phenomenology of Fishbowls
Kristina Nell Weaver
Jamie Heckert holds a PhD from the University of Edinburgh and is a founding member of the Anarchist Studies Network. His writings on ethics, erotics and ecology have appeared in a variety of activist and scholarly publications.
Richard Cleminson is Reader in the History of Sexuality at the University of Leeds and Associate Editor of Anarchist Studies. His research centres on the history of sexuality in Spain and he has published on anarchism and sexuality, the history of male homosexuality and hermaphroditism.
New! Improved! So the adverts say. Whites 10% more White with new detergent. Conservatives 10% more Green with new policies.
Of course. This is the steady march of progress, making all of our lives that bit better every year, rising like inflation. Bigger, better, faster, harder, more, more, more.
Perhaps I'm not progressive after all, for sometimes what I crave is smaller, slower, gentler, less, less, less. I love the ebb and the flow, the expansion and the contraction, the firm and the gentle. How can I say one is better, the other worse? An economic model of eternal growth is like always breathing in, never breathing out. Maybe that's why I us find myself holding my breath, forgetting to give the body oxygen, energy.
For sure, I feel an affinity with those who proclaim Another World is Possible and those who declare, We Carry a New World in our Hearts. For there is much in this world I find painful to witness and I know that we humans are capable of such kindness, such imagination. No. The world does not have to be as it is. Another world is possible.
How do I know? I can see it all around me, not just a fantasy of a possible future. Here. Now.
The transformation of the world is not a matter of a new government or a new washing powder. It comes from seeing the world through new eyes.
Abstract I wrote for upcoming Political Studies Association conference....
Recent developments in feminist debates around the ethics of care emphasise embodied mutuality and interdependence. These approaches are at times presented as new, in response to critique by disability activists and others concerning the capacity of control to masquerade as care. The argument of this paper is, simply speaking, that this "new" approach shows a clear affinity not only with Kropotkin's classic text Mutual Aid, but also with the long lines of anarchist theory and other practices which have followed since. The aim of the paper is not to undermine feminist arguments by questioning their originality, but to offer for a rich tradition of anarchist resources for the ongoing feminist project of practising caring social relations. The paper acknowledges both feminist wariness of macho versions of anarchism and historical and theoretical points of mutuality between the two traditions (e.g., Greenham Common, Emma Goldman and contemporary anarcha-feminisms). These historical and contemporary case studies resituate "new" approaches to feminist ethics of care emphasising embodied mutuality and interdependence as fitting neatly within anarcha-feminist thought and practice.
Ursula K. Le Guin
I made a note to myself a while ago: "Whenever they tell me children want this sort of book and children need this sort of writing, I am going to smile politely and shut my earlids. I am a writer, not a caterer. There are plenty of caterers. But what children most want and need is what we and they don't know they want and don't think they need, and only writers can offer it to them."
My fiction, especially for kids and young adults, is often reviewed as if it existed in order to deliver a useful little sermon ("Growing up is tough but you can make it," that sort of thing). Does it ever occur to such reviewers that the meaning of the story might lie in the language itself, in the movement of the story as read, in an inexpressible sense of discovery, rather than a tidy bit of advice?
Readers—kids and adults—ask me about the message of one story or another. I want to say to them, "Your question isn't in the right language."
As a fiction writer, I don't speak message. I speak story. Sure, my story means something, but if you want to know what it means, you have to ask the question in terms appropriate to storytelling. Terms such as message are appropriate to expository writing, didactic writing, and sermons—different languages from fiction.
The notion that a story has a message assumes that it can be reduced to a few abstract words, neatly summarized in a school or college examination paper or a brisk critical review.
If that were true, why would writers go to the trouble of making up characters and relationships and plots and scenery and all that? Why not just deliver the message? Is the story a box to hide an idea in, a fancy dress to make a naked idea look pretty, a candy coating to make a bitter idea easier to swallow? (Open your mouth, dear, it's good for you.) Is fiction decorative wordage concealing a rational thought, a message, which is its ultimate reality and reason for being?
A lot of teachers teach fiction, a lot of reviewers (particularly of children's books) review it, and so a lot of people read it, in that belief. The trouble is, it's wrong.
I'm not saying fiction is meaningless or useless. Far from it. I believe storytelling is one of the most useful tools we have for achieving meaning: it serves to keep our communities together by asking and saying who we are, and it's one of the best tools an individual has to find out who I am, what life may ask of me and how I can respond.
But that's not the same as having a message. The complex meanings of a serious story or novel can be understood only by participation in the language of the story itself. To translate them into a message or reduce them to a sermon distorts, betrays, and destroys them.
This is because a work of art is understood not by the mind only, but by the emotions and by the body itself.
It's easier to accept this about the other arts. A dance, a landscape painting—we're less likely to talk about its message than simply about the feelings it rouses in us. Or music: we know there's no way to say all a song may mean to us, because the meaning is not so much rational as deeply felt, felt by our emotions and our whole body, and the language of the intellect can't fully express those understandings.
In fact, art itself is our language for expressing the understandings of the heart, the body, and the spirit.
Any reduction of that language into intellectual messages is radically, destructively incomplete.
This is as true of literature as it is of dance or music or painting. But because fiction is an art made of words, we tend to think it can be translated into other words without losing anything. So people think a story is just a way of delivering a message.
And so kids ask me, in all good faith, "When you have your message, how do you make up a story to fit it?" All I can answer is, "It doesn't work that way! I'm not an answering machine—I don't have a message for you! What I have for you is a story."
What you get out of that story, in the way of understanding or perception or emotion, is partly up to me—because, of course, the story is passionately meaningful to me (even if I only find out what it's about after I've told it). But it's also up to you, the reader. Reading is a passionate act. If you read a story not just with your head, but also with your body and feelings and soul, the way you dance or listen to music, then it becomes your story. And it can mean infinitely more than any message. It can offer beauty. It can take you through pain. It can signify freedom. And it can mean something different every time you reread it.
I am grieved and affronted when reviewers treat my novels and other serious books for kids as candy-coated sermons. Of course there's a lot of moralistic and didactic stuff written for young people, which can be discussed as such without loss. But with genuine works of literature for children, with The Elephant's Child or The Hobbit, it is a grave error to teach or review them as mere vehicles for ideas, not seeing them as works of art. Art frees us; and the art of words can take us beyond anything we can say in words.
I wish our teaching, our reviews, our reading would celebrate that freedom, that liberation. I wish, instead of looking for a message when we read a story, we could think, "Here's a door opening on a new world: what will I find there?" •
"The yes which does not know how to say no (the yes of the ass) is a caricature of affirmation. This is precisely because it says yes to everything which is no, because it puts up with nihilism it continues to serve the power of denying - which is like a demon whose every burden it carries. The Dionysian yes on the contrary, knows how to say no: it is pure affirmation, it has conquered nihilism and divested negation of all autonomous power. But it has done this because it has placed the negative at the service of the powers of affirming. To affirm is to create, not to bear, put up with or accept"
- Gilles Deleuze, Nietzche and Philosophy
I don't know about you, but when I think of the coming summer my dreams are of soft fruit and sunlight on skin. My fantasies are of playing with friends at the beach or in the park, of reading novels and growing vegetables. If his recent press release is anything to go by, Police Superintendent David Hartshorn's fantasies are of a different order.
In his fantasy story (press release), the police are knights in shining armour (and riot gear is shiny...) protecting vulnerable citizens from being recruited by dastardly political extremists. Together they would threaten Britain with a "summer of rage". Even normally rational middle-class people are vulnerable to manipulation at the moment, police say, because of their anger during this time of economic insecurity. "Known activists," kind of like known terrorists or known murderers, are set to take advantage of this anger-induced susceptibility to recruit "footsoldiers" for their causes. (Nevermind any minor distinctions between neo-fascist groups like Combat 18 and grassroots movements like the London Coalition Against Poverty. This might confuse the story of good cops versus violent extremists.)
It is clear to me that in this police fantasy, order means a certain economic order and violence is anything interrupting the flow of profit. How else can the recent action of Greek farmers blocking roads out of desperation be understood as violence? Ah, but, police say, "History shows" (and who can dispute History?) that disputes like the miners strike caused tension in the community. (Nevermind the histories which suggest tensions came from Thatcher's neoliberal policies combined with that age-old strategies of divide and rule.) The police also fear that more people may join with environmentalists to express their rage at "oil companies [who are] seen to be turning over billions of pounds profit in issues that are seen to be against the environment" (my emphasis).
When blocking the destruction of their livelihoods, whether in the immediate sense of their jobs or in the ultimate sense of the ecosystems of which they are a part, ordinary people are recast, in these State fantasies, as the source of violence. Meanwhile, the violence of the State is always told as legitimate, as necessary for order.
Reading these police stories, I suspect that they are not afraid of extremists. What they are afraid of is that people like me, who do not hold the official faith in State and Market, are not extremists at all. In the face of ecological and social devastation, belief in these institutions of power is crumbling while their faithful promoters are suddenly the ones at risk of appearing to be the extremists.
This shows most clearly in a lack of compassion for "victims of the economic downturn." Does Superintendent Hartshorn have any empathy for the rage of those who have lost their jobs, their homes and their hopes for climate stability? If so, he doesn't show it in his press release. Perhaps to do so would be unprofessional. It would certainly question the supreme value of law and (profit-centred) order. It would show a question of faith. And those in positions of authority who publicly question their faith are ridiculed. Witness the media response seven years ago when PC Brian Paddick "confessed" that anarchism has always appealed to him.
The activists I know (are they the same ones that Hartshorn knows?) value order, but not the stuff of his fantasies. The difference is, for those of us who support and help organise Climate Camps, Transition Towns, social centres, feminist health networks, grassroots unions and the like, order comes out of cooperation and mutual care. And even those normally rational middle-class people who might have been expected to laugh at the utopian idealism of these projects might see their appeal as the financial structures they have come to depend on for security stop working for them.
That might be a frightening thought, indeed, for those who only imagine order coming from control.
I just watched this film made by http://www.edinchiapas.org.uk/ & http://www.camcorderguerillas.net/ and am feeling overwhelmed. The feature film on the dvd is pretty gentle and I learned more about the Zapatista struggles which I really appreciate -- how the uprising of 1994 was a response to the FTAA not as an abstract injustice but as a direct assault on their livelihoods as it 'legalised' privatising their lands so that multinational corporations could take 'resources' to make profit and maintain an economic system of continuous growth. If these people lose their land, they will die. Groups in Scotland are raising money to support autonomous communities efforts to build self-organised hospitals and schools, to promote health and learning. These people are rebels and receive only violence at the hands of the State facilities -- they cannot go to the equivalent of the A & E or emergency room. I felt moved to do more to support the struggles of the Zapatistas, particularly as they remind me that they offer their solidarity to those of us around the world who are attempting to practice alternatives to Economic/State violence. I was moved to remember that I am not alone, that people who have never met me support me.
I went on to watch another video on the dvd and witnessed powerful images of State violence in Atenco, 2006 -- both as police brutality & sexual humiliation (Abu Graib all over again?) and as slick propaganda whereby State authorities justify their actions to sympathetic journalists on television saying basically that 'these people were asking for it' and that they are a 'minority' not representing the people of Atenco. How like justifications of rape is the first (the rebels were wearing short skirts...), and like any dismissal of profoundly different ways of seeing the world the second? The State authorities also spoke of restoring peace and order by which they meant a particular form of order that depends on violence to be maintained. And now I'm crying. I think I'm going to have a bath, breathe and cry and let this settle out so that I can act with some clarity and maybe do some more writing later.
It's got me thinking in new ways about connections between State authority, sexuality, violence & autonomy.
Love & solidarity,
PS: for more on Atenco, you could start at
Starting to write about the subversion of active-ism (a condition of focusing on, prioritising or valuing activity over rest, motion over stillness, doing over being) for Fifth Estate, I subverted myself out of writing it. I have already committed to many things and also need time to rest, reflect and play.
Entering the room, participants were greeted by the sounds of John Coltrane's Love Supreme. Anthony welcomed everyone and invited each of us to take a few moments to bring our awareness to the room we were in and to the others we were sharing it with. After the third repetition of this invitation, as people continue to join us slowly filling every available space in the room, Anthony's ring tone offered comic relief and we continued.
Listen to yourself,
what you bring to the world.
Others may say,
"You're not good enough,
you're not doing it right."
They speak from
You need not hold
in your belly.
Let them go,
when you are ready.