The world social forum : exploiting the ambivalence of 'open' spaces.

Biccum, April R. (2005) The world social forum : exploiting the ambivalence of 'open' spaces. Ephemera : Theory and Politics in Organization, 5 (2). pp. 116-133. ISSN 1473-2866

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In this paper I argue that it is a mistake to regard the new culture of politics and the ‘open space’ of the World Social Forum (WSF) as an immediate and euphoric redress coming out of this contemporary crisis moment. Using historical examples from colonial discourse analysis and recent ‘development’ processes, I argue that contemporary politics, as a direct trajectory of this history, is intrinsically paradoxical and ambivalent. Using the concept of ambivalence from the work of Homi Bhabha, and influenced by postcolonial theory in general, I suggest that, while this ambivalence is problematic for our times, it nevertheless is productive and exploitable for progressive social movements. Following this logic, I argue that the WSF, arising as it does out of a crisis moment, also is fraught with productive paradoxes and ambivalences and should not be presumed to exist as an a priori ‘openness’. I propose a strategy of resistance for this particular moment of crisis (in the meaning of neo-liberal globalization – of which the anti-globalization movement is part and parcel). I also affirm the value of a political praxis which openly, knowingly and purposefully exploits ambivalent moments in political, pedagogical, representational and ‘open’ spaces; so as to politicize people, engage in politicized activity and enable a broader range of people to become critically aware of the hegemonic narratives that naturalize the current world order and posit that ‘There Is No Alternative’. Clearly, a wide spectrum of people, both in the metropolis and in the ‘developing’ world, are critically aware and are engaged in the work of engendering critical awareness. This paper makes the case that the World Social Forum and its tangential activities also can provide a tool for exploiting ambivalent moments, so as to reach beyond the strata of the already ‘converted’.

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Journal Article
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Ephemera : Theory and Politics in Organization
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15 Oct 2008 13:11
Last Modified:
11 Sep 2023 12:23