On Incivility and Transnationality : Towards Alliances of Critical Hope - IBy: Jai Sen, CACIM , July 2005 on: Fri 02 of Mar, 2007 09:46 IST (9358 Reads)
A paper for a presentation to be made in Panel One, ‘The Long March of 50 Year People’s Movement : The Works of Muto Ichiyo’, on Day One of the 2005 IACS Conference ‘Emerging Inter-Asian? Subjectivities in Cultural Movements’, sponsored by Inter-Asian? Cultural Studies and hosted by the Korean National University of the Arts at the Ilmin Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea, July 22-24 2005.
On Incivility and Transnationality :
Towards Alliances of Critical Hope
Steps towards critically engaging with Muto Ichiyo’s concept of transborder participatory democracy
Part 1 | Part 2
A paper for a presentation to be made in Panel One, ‘The Long March of 50 Year People’s Movement : The Works of Muto Ichiyo’, on Day One of the 2005 IACS Conference ‘Emerging Inter-Asian? Subjectivities in Cultural Movements’, sponsored by Inter-Asian? Cultural Studies and hosted by the Korean National University of the Arts at the Ilmin Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea, July 22-24 2005[i]
Jai Sen, independent researcher and member CACIM, New Delhi, India – July 2005
Even if this panel, and so this paper, is in his honour, I had not planned to start my paper by eulogising Muto Ichiyo (henceforth Muto san). But when I re-read his work over even just the past decade and a half, and only that part of his work that relates to civil alliance – and he of course has a much longer and wider career behind him – I was so strongly reminded of his enormous contribution to helping so many of us glimpse the larger picture, and to not get lost in the details. To read the text of history, and not get lost in the footnotes. His remarkably integrated and holistic vision, his wonderfully positive and hopeful vision, his persistence is looking also at the horizon, his insistence on looking for and articulating alternatives – and crucially, his insistence that life as it is being lived out by movements is itself the seed of other societies, other futures, and therefore of the role that movement plays in our lives. His extraordinary control over language, his ability to nuance what he says and yet remain forceful and direct. And finally, I was of course reminded of how powerfully he had read history, perceiving and articulating by as early as 1989 the possible emergence of a global people’s alternative to the emerging global state, and where he first posited not just this but how this could be brought about, through his concept of transborder participatory democracy, and later, through an Alliance of Hope. As someone who moved from civil activism during the 70s and 80s to becoming, in the 90s, a student of popular movement and the emergence of transnational civil alliance, and of the language and culture of alliance, I am deeply indebted to him.
Towards building an alliance of critical hope with Muto san and others at this conference, and with the aim of pushing forward the ground opened up by him in the exploration of new worlds through the Alliance of Hope he has proposed[ii], I propose in this paper to attempt to critically engage with and explore what I see as some of the key issues contained in his concept of ‘transborder participatory democracy’ : Questions of what I term transnationality and incivility, and – drawing from the work of John Brown Childs – also of communality and transcommunality[iii].
I also do this in the belief that to critically engage with his thoughts might perhaps be the finest way to honour a great thinker.
One of the strengths of Muto san’s work is that it transports us. As is the case, perhaps, with any great thinker, his use of language – including the new terms he coins and deploys – challenges us and makes it really seem as if the other worlds he is referring to are, in Arundhati Roy’s wonderful phrase, already breathing[iv]. By doing this, he gives new meaning to our lives, and implicitly, he also argues that the emerging movement towards transborder participatory democracy carries and embodies certain values and meanings, resonant of other worlds.
This may be true – indeed, I personally believe that it is true – but if so, then all the more, I think it becomes vital for us not to just accept these terms but to critically and deeply comprehend them. In his work and in the vision he has given us, Muto san uses many terms that need this care. ‘Peopleness’, ‘inter-people autonomy’, ‘interactions’, and even just the terms ‘people’ and an ‘alliance of hope’ are some of these.
Finally, by engaging with these terms and concepts, I am led to also engage to some extent with his more general concept of an Alliance of Hope, and in particular his proposals for how social transformation can come about.
In order to cover this ground, I will first revisit and discuss some of what I feel are Muto san’s essential propositions, but in terms of complementary concepts I put forward : The dialectic of transborderism and nationality; The dialectic of civil and incivil; and Communality and transcommunality. I then, as much to illustrate my arguments as to substantiate them, look in a little detail at the surprising way in which two of the better known civil internationalists in history, Marx and Engels, negotiated the issue of nationality and transnationality, and also draw lessons from the experience of a major movement in Asia, around the Narmada dams project in India, as well as of a ground-breaking civil campaign around two related projects in Latin America, the Polonoroeste and BR-364 Extension projects in Brazil. All this is preceded by the immediately following section, which can hopefully serve both as a prologue to this undertaking and also as something of a summary.