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Making Global Civil Society: Grassroots Practice and Academic Theory of Globalisation from Below.

A weekend gathering for collective reflection amongst activists and academics. November 4, 5 & 6 - 2005.

Lancaster University, North West England.

SATURDAY 9:30 - 11:30


Reflections on Experiences

(incl. the radical theory forum, the bemgelada network, ephemera,

IFIwatch, encounters in open space ...)

Download the following proposal as a [.pdf file]

Collectively, we have been involved with organising and participating in several initiatives that attempt to speak across the theory:practice, academic:activist boundary. We would like to facilitate an open-ended discussion that introduces some of these initiatives, indicates some of the desires with which they have been infused, and outlines the ongoing resources and artefacts they have produced. Several of us have also submitted proposals for individual papers/presentations. Our intent here is for a 'sharing' of experiences in building networks, holding events and creating resources that attempt to cross the problematic (and politically/intellectually deadening) theory:practice and academia:activism divide. We will also consider what for us has worked in the sense of facilitating conversation, exchange and inspiration, and what has fallen short of these ideals. In doing so we hope for feedback, for building further connections and to stimulate discussion regarding possible ideas to unfold into the future. We welcome input from others at the meeting regarding their own experiences of organising and participating in similar initiatives, particularly from the Lancaster Knowledge Lab.

Our suggestion is for one of us (Sian) to open and facilitate this conversation, with others of us speaking more to particular initiatives with which we have been involved. The experiences that we might speak of include the following:

  • The Radical Theory Forum (Steffen, Sian).

This began as a desire to open a more theoretically nuanced, 'radical left' space linked initially to the European Social Forum. A workshop was registered with the 'formal Forum' in Paris in 2003(1). For the ESF in 2004 we held a day-long event as an autonomous space to coincide with Forum(2). More recently a seminar series and second 'RTF' were held at the Institute for Autonomy social centre in London(3). Resources: elist (radicaltheoryforum - at -; wiki website (

  • Bemgelada (Michal)

Bemgelada was born at the World Social Forum, 2005, in the Caracol-Intergalactika - an open meeting and workshop space opened in the Intercontinental Youth Camp of the WSF#5 in Porto Alegre. It is a network of "activist-researchers" or people who consider the intellectual work they do as part and parcel of developing the theories and politics of the alternative globalization movement-- globally and in the places where we all are. Currently it exists primarily as an elist for coordinating the creation of a web-portal and resource base, as well as a space to post relevant and politically incisive pieces of writing. The list is meant as a first attempt to connect European and North American activist-research networks of this sort with Latin American ones. As such, all messages and posts will be in both English and Spanish. Resources: e-list (bemgelada - at -

  • Ephemera (Steffen, Sian)

This is an open access online copyleft journal for the discussion of theoretical and political perspectives on all aspects of organization. Recent issues have focused on the 'politics and organisation of social forums'(4) and Hardt and Negri's 'multitude' (5). Resources: journal and website (

  • Encounters in Open Space (Emma, Michal, Rodrigo?).

Open Space Forum originated from a multidisciplinary encounter held around the WSF#5 among a dozen of activists/researchers from different parts of the world, most of which had been contributors to an International Social Science Journal special issue on Social Forums. The overarching themes of the encounter were the concepts of 'open space', 'openness' and 'horizontality', and their relations to the World Social Forum and other political processes. The project has gone on as an elist and a collaborative wiki-based webspace. Resources: Journal Issue ('Explorations in Open Space: Social Forums and Cultures of Politics'(6)); wiki website (; and elist.

Sian Sullivan, Rodrigo Nunes, Emma Dowling, Steffen Boehm, Alex Plows, Michal Osterweil, Tadzio Mueller, Zoe Young, Pennie Quinton

(1) (2) (3);; (4) (5) (6)