Sean Chabot Talk: Nonviolent Resistance Beyond the Single Story
September 10, 2019
4:00 pm-6:30 pm
Integrated Sciences Building
UMass Amherst Campus
Resistance Studies Initiative Fall 2019 Speaker Series: Distinguished researchers and activists share critical reflections on resistance issues.
Refreshments will be served. Open to all.
Sean Chabot is professor of sociology at Eastern Washington University and book review editor of the Journal of Resistance Studies. His book, Transnational Roots of the Civil Rights Movement (2012), discusses the Gandhian repertoire's transnational journey from the Indian independence movement to the Black liberation movement in the United States. He has also published on the gay and lesbian movement, Brazilian landless movement (MST), Iran's Green Movement, the Egyptian uprising, and revolutionary love, among other subjects related to resistance. His current projects focus on decolonizing resistance (with Stellan Vinthagen) and counter-stories of nonviolent resistance beyond the strategic paradigm
ABSTRACT: The field of nonviolent resistance studies is facing the danger of what novelist Chimamanda Adichie calls a "single story." Single stories normalize dominant ways of knowing, while limiting the imagination and possibilities of people in marginalized communities. I argue that the strategic repertoire of nonviolent resistance is grounded in such a single story. This dominant narrative is popular and persuasive, but also relies on one-dimensional concepts of violence and nonviolence, and Western forms of capitalist liberal democracy as ideal.
Michel Foucault’s concepts of “regime of truth” (established knowledge produced by power struggles) and “subjugated knowledges” (knowledges buried or disqualified by the regime of truth) enable further insights into the danger of the single story on nonviolent resistance. After briefly describing the strategic repertoire, I shift attention to two subjugated knowledges: the glorified yet distorted Gandhian repertoire and the emerging commoning repertoire for communal self-rule and post-capitalist ways of life. Examples of commoning movements include the Zapatistas in Mexico, Abahlali shackdwellers in South Africa, and prison abolitionists in the United States.
To highlight what makes the Gandhian and the commoning repertoire different, I add a third dimension to Stellan Vinthagen’s concept of nonviolence as against and without violence: beyond violence. Gandhian and commoning communities realize that violence and nonviolence are always entangled, and that no form of nonviolent resistance can ever fully escape the continuum of violence. But they also recognize that the potential for less violent and more humanizing interactions is endless. For Gandhian and commoning activists, therefore, nonviolent resistance implies resistance against-without-and-beyond violence as a holistic way of life.