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Social Forums and their Margins:Networking Logics and the Cultural Politics of Autonomous Space


The World Social Forum (WSF) emerged in the wake of a global wave of protest against capitalism characterized, in part, by the expression of broader political ideals through network-based organizational forms. The WSF was thus conceived as an “open space” for exchanging ideas, resources, and information; promoting initiatives; and generating concrete alternatives. At the same time, many grassroots activists have criticized the forums for being organized in a top-down fashion, including political parties despite their formal prohibition, and favoring prominent intellectuals.

Radicals thus face a continual dilemma: participate in the forums as a way to reach a broader public, or remain outside given their political differences? Based on my participation as activist and ethnographer with the (-ex) Movement for Global Resistance (MRG) in Barcelona and Peoples Global Action (PGA), this article explores the cultural politics of autonomous space at the margins of the world and regional social forums on three levels. Empirically, it provides an ethno-genealogy of the emergence, diffusion, and proliferation of the concept of autonomous space. Theoretically, it argues that the cultural politics of autonomous space express the broader networking logics and politics increasingly inscribed into emerging organizational architectures. Politically, it suggests that the proliferation of autonomous spaces represents a promising model for rethinking the Forum as an innovative network-based organizational form. In ephemera: theory & politics in organization 5.2 (2005): 253-272,: theory & politics in organization 5.2 (2005): 253-272,

  tags politica,