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Author: Jeffrey Arnold Shantz
Title: "Don't Go in the Pit" : Active Resistance and the Territories of Political Identity
Publication info: Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
Summer 1998

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Source: "Don't Go in the Pit" : Active Resistance and the Territories of Political Identity
Jeffrey Arnold Shantz

vol. 1, no. 2, Summer 1998
Article Type: Essay

"Don't Go in the Pit": Active Resistance and the Territories of Political Identity

Jeffrey Arnold Shantz

The modern spectacle, on the contrary, expresses what society can do, but in this expression the permitted is absolutely opposed to the possible. —Guy Debord
The visionary is the only true realist. —Fellini

During the final weeks of August 1996 a shady group of characters, social outcasts, and "ne'er-do-wells" descended upon the city of Chicago. The Democratic Party's National Convention did not go unchallenged, however. For outside the protected spaces of the United Centre (which served as the Convention site) a new cultural formation was rehearsing, about to take the stage for its first performance. This formation, designated "Active Resistance: A Counter Convention" by its participants, presented a unique convergence of movements.

The Active Resistance gathering was the largest anarchist conference since 1989 [1]. A ten day counter-convention, it attracted over 700 activists from North America and Europe. Activists mobilized against Democratic Party policies regarding criminal justice, corporate welfare, health care, homelessness, immigrant rights, and threats to affirmative action. Participants took part in ongoing workshops and discussions concerning some of the crucial issues facing contemporary anarchism: community organizing, alternative economics, and conceptions of "revolutionary" politics. Specific issues such as prison abolition, immigration, and impacts of neo-liberal policies were addressed. Perhaps more significantly the festival brought to the fore the paradoxical relationships of territory, community, and identity-formation in a global age.

A Territoreality of Social Movements

Philip McMichael suggests that market flows are becoming the dominant reality of a "New World Order." Financial capital becomes the organizing principle of the world economy while nation-states are subordinated to maintaining global circuits of capital. O Tuathail and Luke speak of dynamics of de-territorialization and re-territorialization marking the post-Cold War order in which previously stable territorial formations (nation-state, ideological blocs, and markets) are devolving into chaos while unstable territorial flows (communications and cultural codes) are evolving into "coherent cohesions."

McMichael concludes that the governance of flows generates countermovements to reassert popular governance which may create some uncertainties for capital circuits. Activists have come to recognize the importance of alliances to counter the apparent hegemony of transnational capital. Counter-movements must now attend to the difficult tasks of developing their strength among the disparate minorities which when taken together form a majority increasingly excluded by this "New World Order" of global markets, transnational corporate structures, and rapid financial and cultural "flows." Thus, we have anarchists running wild in the streets of Chicago. As O Tuathail and Luke so succinctly put it: "It is the 1990's and everything is changing" (381).

Well, perhaps not everything. Conventional analyses of social movements continue to overlook the emergence of unconventional cultural manifestations of resistance. Such vibrant manifestations are invisible in the social movements' literature. Analyses have been constrained by a rather myopic preoccupation either with organizational structures and resources which allow for access to the state [2] or with demographic characteristics by which activists might be categorized. [3] Where emergent movements have been addressed these same categories have been replicated, this time at a global scale. Thus we get a profusion of literature about "transnational social movement organizations" [4] or "global civil society" [5] focused upon attempts to access transnational decision-making bodies. In each case analyses are confined to specific movements conceptualized as "separates" or addressed by limiting attention to readily identifiable "goals" or "targets." Such theoretical approaches, while telling us more than we thought possible about Greenpeace, Amnesty International, or the variety of United Nations Conventions, are ill-suited to address more obscure attempts to rearticulate identity and community emerging out of the "New World (Dis)Order."

Left out of conventional theorizing are movements which want no part of world order, new or otherwise, which they view as authoritarian, hierarchical, and inevitably genocidal (or "eco-cidal"). What do they want? How do they mobilize?

I argue here that part of the problem for theorists may be related to the widespread, if unrecognized, attachment to the territorial metaphors employed to understand social movements. Conventional theories of identity, community, or politics attempt to contain political actors within specific sovereign territories. Sankaran Krishna discusses the linkage of territory and identity in conventional discourses—specifically the identity "citizen" founded upon relations of the subject to a sovereign nation-state. Such conceptions of (unitary and fixed) identity reject multiple or layered notions of identity (or sovereignty). As Simon Dalby notes, the language of territoriality, with its conjoining of identity and spatial location, has furnished powerful ontological categorizations for politics.

Territoriality, however, should not be understood solely in the literal sense of situating identities according to geopolitical categories such as region or nation-state. Rather, these categories extend metaphorically to include positionalities within social structures (e.g., class), to offer a firm grounding around "territories of identity" such as gender, ethnicity or race, or to define organizational parameters. Territorial metaphors serve in the situating, locating and grounding of community and identity as stable and fixed entities. If the state has been understood as a container, so too have community and identity. [6] Taken together these metaphoric containers have provided us with what we might term a "territoreality" of the political wherein anything which overflows the containers is considered to be outside of political reality.

John Ruggie identifies a tendency in mainstream political theorizing to conceptualize challenges to the system of states only in terms which suggest replacements for the state. Within social movement theories these categorizations have given rise to notions of the territory of movement activities. Part of this territorial ground has been the privileging of "legitimate" or "permitted" means via state-centered politics. For Warren Magnusson, politics as "creative popular activity" is obscured by the "reification of political community as the state and political theory as the theory of the state" (55). Territoreal theorizing cannot grasp the significance of recent transformations.

Thom Kuehls offers an attempt to problematize the sovereign territorial description of political space. He speaks of the inability of state sovereignty to contain political, economic and ecological flows, and the construction of the territory and populations of sovereign states through practices which exceed state sovereignty. Kuehls contends that the sovereign territorial description cannot begin to grasp the complexities of the spaces of politics.

Recent post-structuralist theorizing has attempted to move beyond "essentialist" notions of politics (identity or class) and privileged spaces for political action (the State). Peter Taylor suggests that we need to get beyond the "state as container" metaphor because it neglects the multiplicity of states, nations and territories, and their interrelationships. A similar point might be raised regarding "identity as container" metaphors which offer stable, fixed, disconnected, "essential" identities. Critical attention must be turned towards the other containers making up territoreality, and about processes of re-territorialization and de-territorialization.

"Don't Go in the Pit"

Active Resistance highlights Kevin Hetherington's assertions regarding the significance of the spatial dimension of conflict. According to Hetherington, the "use of space is fundamentally a conflict between control through surveillance and the establishment of new lifestyles in the public view" (96). In Chicago the spatial dimension of conflict was given unambiguous symbolic form. The Democratic National Committee attempted to contain protest by establishing large fenced-off spaces in areas well removed from entrances to the Convention which were the official "free speech zones" for demonstrations (Subways 11). These "protest pits," as they were called, gave a literal form to the politics of containment.

While other protesters agreed to protest within the official "protest pits" the Active Resistance participants refused, taking their demonstrations to the streets and "challenging the state's regulation of protest" (Subways 11). As part of their expression of cultural resistance, Active Resistance organized a march of over 1000 people. The march was spirited and included a rather elaborate desecration of consumerism involving a thirty-foot tall "tower of corporate greed" pulling strings attached to puppets of Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. In a rather significant wielding of cultural symbolism the tower was pulled by costumed characters wearing signs identifying them as "voters," "workers," "taxpayers" and "consumers." To enhance the message, bringing up the rear in chains were the present-day "casualties": "immigrants," "minorities," and "single moms." In a gleeful finale, toward the end of the march, the tower was stormed and destroyed by its victims, leaving a triumphant red fist and and pannels showing scenes from a new co-operative society. The march was surrounded by police, and over a dozen people were arrested.

Active Resistance was also largely responsible for the staging of a "Festival of the Oppressed." This expression of symbolic politics consisted of a mix of performance art and street protest in which several hundred people paraded through the streets bearing papier mâché and wooden puppet art. People wore police badges and pigs' head masks. There was also an enormous skeletal figure of the Pope. A mockery of the corporate advertisement figure "Joe Camel" appeared, mouth stuffed with cigarettes while "pushing smokes" on bystanders. As a statement of displeasure with the corporate media "reporters" were on the scene carrying cameras labelled "Empty TV" (MTV) and "See BS" (CBS).

De-Territorialization: Mythic Space

ANARCHY: A self-governed society in which people organize themselves from the bottom up on an egalitarian basis; decisions made by those affected by them; direct democratic control of our workplaces, schools, neighbourhoods, towns and bio-regions with coordination between differing groups as needed. A world where women and men are free and equal and all of us have power over our own lives, bodies and sexuality; where we cherish and live in balance with the earth and value diversity of cultures, races and sexual orientations; where we work and live together cooperatively
— From the Active Resistance pamphlet. [7]

How might the discourses of Active Resistance relate to the emergence of a new "idea/myth" which Taylor suggests would oppose territoriality? I propose that "Anarchy" appears in the movements of Active Resistance as a type of Sorelian social myth.

Georges Sorel was primarily interested in the myths by which agents actively organize to undermine a political status quo. "An important aspect of those social movements concerned with social change, Sorel noted, is the creation of myths which help members to make sense out of the present, justify their efforts at change, and point to a new future" (Neustadter 345). Any myth, for Sorel, consists of "a body of imprecise meanings couched in symbolic form" (Hughes 96). Included within myths are elements of "unreality" introduced by what Sorel terms "expressive supports." These expressive supports bridge the gaps in discourse. Marked by sentimentalism and laden with emotion, they provide part of the appeal of social movements.

In his discussion of mythic identity formation, Laclau argues that "[t]he 'work' of myth is to suture that dislocated space [of structural ground] through the constitution of a new space of representation" (61). From Laclau we derive a sense of myth as "the imaginary representation of a posssible unity and identity" which exerts influence over the social practices of movement participants (231). The myth provides simultaneously an image and a feeling of community. It serves as a unifying spirit, pervading relationships, which points beyond material grounding. Sorelian social myth, as the unifyng symbolism around which activists might mobilize for action, reveals a will to power engaged in situating objectives and communicating strategies over surfaces constituted through discursive struggles (Laclau 232). Any mythic fixing of identity emerges through antagonism and is inscribed by politics and relations of power.

A post-Sorelian conception of social myth, however, must deny the the primacy of any mono-myth, such as Sorel's famous General Strike, by which a centrist fixing of identity (a territo-real identity) might be established. Laclau suggests that "social myths are essentially incomplete: their content is constantly reconstituted and displaced" (63). This renovated notion of myth permits a realm of openness and play in which become possible those demands previously not allowed. Articulation from contingency is important in avoiding the modernist "idea of a mastery of the social, based on a single nodal point of privileged knowledge" (Laclau 206). Such an idea could only be the condition for an authoritarian expression, contradictory to anarchy. Thus liberated, community is radically displaced toward a medley of expressions from the cacophonous ensembles of movements around Active Resistance.

Community identity is mobilized symbolically. Anarchy as myth provides a context for communication across diverse movement terrain, and allows simultaneously for the (re)construction of activist understandings. The ambiguity, imprecision and broadness of the anarchy myth provides for an inclusiveness of subjectivities at the same time as it provides a rough boundary. Notably, the anarchy myth does not express a movement in the singular varieties of "movement identities": ecology, anti-racism, sexuality, combine. Identity is de-territorialized towards the mythic.

This de-territorialization includes a temporal dimension. Within the mythic space of Active Resistance, an assertion of connectedness with historic radical movements has much significance. In opposing the New World Order's "bridge to the Twenty-first Century," the anarchists forge their own bridge to the radical politics of the nineteenth century. Attempts are made to articulate Active Resistance as part of an anarchist cultural community with traditions and "pasts." Significantly, the cultural excavation project of Active Resistance drew upon illustrations from the local context of Chicago. Thus "History Bus Rides" were organized to visit the grave sites of the anarchist Haymarket Martyrs and Emma Goldman. [8] The histories of anarchist struggles become a part of Active Resistance in a cleverly constituted genealogy, as past, present and future are rendered contemporaneous in mythic time.

Re-Territorialization 1: Of Margins and Autonomy

The anarchists of Active Resistance identify themselves as "people who marginalize themselves voluntarily" (Subways 14). These "marginals" exist largely outside of the labor market and include students, the unemployed, the under-employed, and street persons. Activists support themselves in a variety of ways, such as performance, craft sales, music, or free-lance journalism. To these we might add the clandestine self-sustainers who support themselves through such creative and sometimes illegal activities as squatting or "dumpster-diving."

Such marginal groupings have long offered highly original, creative resistance to corporatist intrusions. Such creativity, largely ignored as modes or sites of consumption by sociologists, is expressed in Autonomous Zones (community centers based on anarchist principles), "rags" and "zines" (self-publishing efforts) and varieties of "do-it-yourself" experimentalism in music and art. The conservator lifestyles of these marginals are built around practices of mutual aid, re-using, and minimal purchase.

Hetherington suggests that the emergence of such groups relates to two specific processes: "the deregulation through modernization and individualization of the modern forms of solidarity and identity" and the "recomposition into 'tribal' identities and forms of sociation" (92). Transformations in capitalist economies encourage reflexive forms of individualism which do not easily refer back to such characteristics as class.

These non-ascriptive 'neo-Tribes' as Maffesoli calls them, are inherently unstable and not fixed by any of the established parameters of modern society; instead they are maintained through shared beliefs, styles of life, an expressive body-centredness, new moral beliefs and senses of injustice, and significantly through consumption practices. (Hetherington 93)

Hetherington suggests that the concept Bund, [9] expressing an intense form of solidarity which is highly unstable and which requires ongoing maintenance through symbolic interaction, better expresses the character of these forms of sociation than does community. The participants of Active Resistance were drawn from a variety of Bunde. These include, but are by no means limited to, the Trumbellplex/Trumbell Theatre from Detroit, the Love and Rage Federation, Anti-Racist Action, TheFifth Estate from Detroit, Coffeehouse 36, and many others [10]. Interestingly these groups are not all sympathetic. Some have relationships with one another which can only be described as antagonistic. [11] In addition, the transient character of many participants was frequently remarked upon [12].

Consumption practices are crucial to holding these Bunde groups together. Bodily adornments, especially piercings, tatoos, dyed hair, and "dreadlocks," offer notable means of creating lifestyle solidarity among Active Resistance. Clothing is also quite significant. One participant related to this author the strange feelings of being one of the only people around who was not dressed in black. Ragged, worn, tattered and dirty clothing was especially popular. Indeed, there is an entire subset of participants known as "crusties" ("doing the cool crusty thing") who are renowned for this particular quality of their clothing. Music is also very important with punk, ska, and hardcore representing popular styles. Many activists are involved with bands and "homemade" tapes were available for purchase at the main sites. Given the intellectual interests of many activists, books and pamphlets on topics of anarchist or revolutionary politics and theory are always popular and readily available. Notably the festivals provide the only opportunity to access certain publications, including remnants of the Wobbly (Industrial Workers of the World) catalogue and long out-of-print anarchist "classics." Such symbolic elements are especially important for solidarity given the fragile character of sociation marking Active Resistance.

The anarchist "tribes" sold their goods at the festival sites, the Spice Factory, the Ballroom, and the Autonomous Zone where the majority of "leisure" activities took place. These recontextualized spaces, occupied for the duration of Active Resistance, were also host to such galvanizing events as dances, meals, and police raids.

Graeme MacQueen suggests that social-movement activists distinguish themselves from given structures and come to identity with anti-structure through simultaneous processes of "marking" and "binding," respectively, for which symbolic actions are crucial. Kenneth Burke terms this a process of "identification" through which is constructed "congregation" where there had been "segregation." Through the present analysis, two critical aspects of identification are recognizable in the practices of Active Resistance: 1) examples of association or the building of common ground, largely through consumption practices; and 2) expressions of antithesis or the construction of an "external" common enemy in the face of whom "internal" unity is important. These practices foreground those spaces where the presence of an authoritarian other impedes movements towards self-determination.

The constitution of symbolic autonomy entails the employment of extreme discursive practices as in Active Resistance street theatre. Laclau and Mouffe suggest that subversion is manifest as "symbolization, metaphorization, paradox, which deform and question the character of every necessity" (114). Jonathan Lange discusses the use of paradox, irony, parody and contradiction as means to desecration. Desecration involves the production of controversial scripts against codified strictures governing acceptability or legitimacy.

Through the deployment of immoderate discursive practices, Active Resistance participants attempt to disrupt the efforts to circumscribe their activities and limit their critique of capitalist social relations. Autonomy exerts a moment of cleavage against the prevalence of accomodation. Active Resistance suggests a smashing and re-plotting of the frontiers of politics. These actions should be understood as counter-articulations, largely through desecration and recontextualization within a context in which activists have little material strength. Armed with little more than their senses of humor, the prankster guerillas set upon their enemy with a relentless fusillade of mockery.

Consumer culture is also disrupted or subverted in a number of ways: exposing commodity fetishism, resisting capitalist development, occupations of sites of consumption such as shopping malls, boycotts or "buy nothing days," do-it-yourself production and exchange outside of capitalist markets. Underground activities may also be deployed such as grafitti, billboard vandalism or sabotage.

Castells, Yazawa, and Kiselyova suggest that autonomy movements offer "alternative visions and projects of social transformation that reject the patterns of domination, exploitation and exclusion embedded in the current forms of globalization" (22). Following Leslie Sklair, I suggest that autonomist/anarchy movements exemplify a "disruption" model of social movements and resistances to capitalism (as opposed to an "organizational model"). Through their uncompromising rhetoric and immodest strategies they resist attempts to divert their disruptive force into normal politics.

Within the organizing practices of Active Resistance autonomy is understood as an ironic and satirical attempt at creating an "us/them" bifurcation under conditions of materiality disfavouring such a desired separation. Activists attempt to reject the entire context within which they can be either marginalized or assimilated; they occupy their own ground. This "autonomy" must be constantly constructed, reconstructed and defended, as the activists in Chicago quickly learned.

Re-Territorialization 2: The Return of the Local

As Laclau and Mouffe assert, "without the possibility of negating an order beyond the point where we are able to threaten it, there is no possibility at all of the constitution of a radical imaginary—whether democratic or of any other type" (190). However, if Active Resistance fails to offer visions toward a positivity of the social, i.e., proposals for positive social relations, it may remain unsuited to serve as a catalyst in the reconstitution of social relations. In other words, autonomy cannot provide a radical alternative by operating strictly as negativity, by asserting anti-systemic demands alone.

However, as the anarchist Bakunin stated in the last century: "The passion for destruction is a creative passion, too" (204). It is not surprising, then, that workshops were devoted to such concerns as alternative economics and community organizing. The participants of Active Resistance see their efforts as laying the groundwork to replace State and Capital with decentralized federations. Activists argue for the construction of "place" around the contours of ecological regions, in opposition to the boundaries of nation-states which show only contempt for ecological "boundaries" as marked by topography, climate, species distribution or drainage. Affinity with bioregionalist themes is recognized in appeals for a replacement of nation-states with bioregional communities. For autonomists, such communities might constitute social relations in an articulation with local ecological requirements rather than the bureaucratic, hierarchical interferences of distant corporate bodies. Local community becomes the constructed context of social/ecological identification. The "neighborhood" reappears as the context in which a particularist politics can be expected to thrive.

Anarchists encourage a cultivated "deepening" of knowledge as remedy to the anonymous, detached, knowledge broadening which they believe is endemic to conditions of postmodernity. This does not mean isolation or insularity, however. Rather, it speaks, as in the case of Active Resistance, to social relations, whether local or federated, organized in a decentralized, grassroots manner. Community reconstruction around interconnected regionalism is envisioned as non-hierarchical as no region can claim predominance over others on ecological grounds. [13]

This new radicalism lives outside of the state and is organized towards self-reliance. As Hetherington notes, Bunde are sites of re-skilling. Activists are encouraged to identify local problems, and to broaden and unite the individual "do-it-yourself" actions, such as saving a park or cleaning up an abandoned lot, in which they are already involved. People are urged to work to defend these areas through industrial and agricultural practices which are developed and adapted to specific ecological characteristics. It is anticipated among activists that some re-integration of production with consumption at local levels, such that members of a community contribute to upkeep, is necessary to prepare the coming break with the New World Order. The cultivation and sharing of skills contribute to the sense of self-sufficiency and personal control which allow for varying degress of autonomy from broader regimes of power.

Barry Carr suggests that a sense of identity, solidarity or "belonging" is not possible outside of the local level where shared experience, common interests and proximity intersect. Identity is understood as being constituted in social and cultural networks which are local in nature.

In attempting to understand autonomist/anarchist movements, we might mention Sklair's identification of movements against globalism as forms of opposition to what he identifies as the three supports of globalization: transnational corporations, the transnational capitalist class, and its local affiliates and the culture-ideology of consumerism. Autonomists identify their enemy as the global order and its agents (including agents of repression such as the police who monitor the lives of those in subordinate classes excluded from participation in the economic sphere). Sklair suggests that the hegemony of transnational corporations is contested through local campaigns of disruption and counter-information which attract publicity. (Active Resistance was just such a campaign.) To understand autonomy/anarchy movements as movements against the new global order we must look to how they disrupt the local agencies with which they come into direct contact in their daily lives, rather than the more global institutions whose interests these agencies are serving directly.

For his part, Chadwick F. Alger speaks of the preservation of local autonomy and culture or creating "alternative political space." We might well ask: "Do the sites of autonomist activity, primarily inner cities abandoned by capital, allow for a unique opportunity for the construction of alternative political spaces and the construction of local autonomy and culture?" Autonomy movements in abandoned or impoverished inner-city areas are movements involving individuals, social groups or territories excluded or made irrelevant by the "New World Order." This distinguishes them somewhat from institutional global social movements which seek increased participation by members who are not yet rendered irrelevant (and who thus have something with which to bargain).

A Rough Ride in Smooth Space

Castells, Yazawa, and Kiselyova identify the importance of symbolic politics for movements against global governance practices. Media skills are significant weapons in this age of mass, rapid communication. For Castells, Yazawa, and Kiselyova such actions are intended to impact the media, to bring people at large into the debate and to change the course of submission to the global order. It's in this respect that we might understand the significance of "Counter-Media" within Active Resistance and the repression exerted against their efforts at information dissemination.

Recognizing the limits of mainstream political channels from which they are, in any event, largely excluded activists turned to symbolic politics, sensational activism and extreme forms of rhetoric. Castells, Yazawa, and Kiselyova suggest that marginal movements are typically rendered invisible by corporate mass media until they "explode in the form of media events that call public attention, and reveal the existence of profound challenges to everyday normalcy" (22).

Some suggest that the emergence of "flows" such as satellite communications and the Internet, provide spaces for an enactment of politics outside of the bounded spaces of states. [14] These "smooth" spaces are said to offer great opportunities for activism beyond sovereign territories. Greenpeace is invoked as an example of a relatively succesful traversing of smooth space.

However, "smooth space" is also occupied by "those who would reject the idea that people should be free to follow their feelings and express themselves through newly created styles of living" (Hetherington 96). Overall, 16 participants were arrested. In addition activists report being beaten and gassed. [15] The present case allows one to understand better the relationship of the State to "neoliberal" processes of governance. The actions of police and Federal authorities serve as a reminder that direct domination is still an aspect of governance in the global age. Those who attempt to operate outside of the limited and circumscribed spheres of "legitimate" action or "normal" politics are subject to suppression and violence. That none of these actions against activists was reported in mainstream media raises questions regarding access to "worldwide multimedia communications networks"in this post-Gulf-War world of media manipulation. It gives cause to ask: "If an anarchist falls (and is beaten) in Chicago and the media do not report it, does anybody hear?" The struggles around Active Resistance call to mind Hetherington's insight that "the creation through processes of consumption of new lifestyles is often highly contested and not always the happy, ludic 'postmodern' game that is sometimes supposed" (96).


Following Castells, Yazawa, and Kiselyova, one might suggest that autonomy movements respond to the processes of social exclusion and cultural alienation currently associated with global processes of governance by challenging the global order and asserting (counter)identity. Attempts are made to (re)construct cultural meaning through specific patterns of experience in which participants create meaning against the logics of global intrusions which would render them meaningless. Radical social movement alliances are largely engaged in transforming the normative cultural and political codes of emerging global relations. The Active Resistance Counter-Convention confronts the "enemy" through the articulation of shared values and the ironic construction of identities.

Active Resistance encourages a critical reconcept-ualization of politics as currently constituted. It offers a glimpse of politics which refuse containment by any of the containers of territoreality, not just the state. Thus, it may further challenge the meanings of territory and sovereignty in the current context. Such manifestations may open spaces for a (re)constitution of politics by destabilizing tendencies towards enclosure of any totalizing discourse, be it one of state, class or identity. Just as global transformations de-stabilize "state-as-container" metaphors, reformulations of identity and community as in Active Resistance de-stabilize "identity-as-container" notions. Political spaces are created in defiance of political containers.

Distinct identity containers, "worker," "environmentalist," "woman," harden within conventional social movement discourses as poles for the fixing of activist subject-positions as separate or exclusive. The activities of Active Resistance demonstrate that identities are not mutually exclusive. Furthermore, Active Resistance suggests that the play of social relations allows for the construction of new identities. The affirmation of subjectivities is expressed through the imaginative, novel, and playful cultivation of cultural experiences in often unexpected directions, involving processes of de-territorialization and re-territorialization. Those who study social movements need to remember that identity does not exist outside of such processes. The emergence of Active Resistance is important in the possibilities it raises—there is always the chance that they will remain possibilities only. This uncertainty derives partly from activists' rejection of legitimizing mechanisms and externally imposed definitions. The visions offered within Active Resistance may appear unrealistic or impossible. It remains to be seen if these developments are suggestive of any durable breakout from established categories. The "pit" may well re-assert itself. However, this is not the place for such questions to be answered. (Their answers will probably be found on the streets.)

The motive for the present work is to develop a theoretical sensitivity to the specificity of social movement activism—beyond the containers of conventional politics. Theory requires a more sophisticated understanding of those struggles which allow for the (re)production of categories, which inhibit or encourage the forging of community, and which prevent alternatives from emerging. Conventional social theories have failed to recognize alternatives, in part due to their uncritical acceptance of dubious metaphors. Studies of social movements have undertheorized the significance of "unrealistic" aspects of movement behavior. The present work offers an attempt to understand such "unreal" discursive strategies, beyond condemnation (or rejection) as illegitimate or impractical. How does one ask a global (or national) body to grant the "subversion of the dominant paradigm" or the "liberation of desire"?

Marginal struggles open spaces for experimentation in lived experiences. Through the construction of "futures in the present" they nurture possibilities which cannot be contained within conventional territoreal notions of politics. The emergence of subterranean radicalisms, which receive scant attention even within critical works, open cracks in the ground of the political. "Interests and groups defined as marginal because they have become 'disturbances' in the system of social integration are precisely the struggles which may be the most significant from the point of view of historical emancipation from social hierarchy and domination [emphasis in original]" (Aronowitz 111). Active Resistance asks us why we should assume that a "global civil society" will be any better than the civil society that brought poverty, homelessness, racism, and ecological annihilation in the first place.


I would like to say a special thank you to Simon Dalby for enthusiastically encouraging and challenging my thinking about territoriality. Thanks are also due Margit Mayer for convincing me to pursue my interests in writing about anarchist movements. Words cannot adequately express the debt I owe to Myrna Shantz, my mom. This article is dedicated to her.

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1. This assessment comes from Rachel Rinaldo's account "Anarchy in the Windy City." The 1989 conference called "Without Borders" was held in San Francisco.

2. Examples include the works of Doug McAdam, Mario Diani and Russell J. Dalton, and Jackie Smith.

3. See Stephen Cotgrove and Andrew Duff, and Robyn Eckersley.

4. For examples of the "TSMO" literature see recent works by Jackie Smith, Ron Pagnucco and Winnie Romeril, and John McCarthy.

5. See Laura MacDonald or Martin Shaw.

6. For convenience my notion of "identity as container" includes community.

7. This definition was reproduced directly from the 1989 "Without Borders" conference.

8. Arriving at the site of the first "Wobbly" office to find that it had become a "yuppie" bistro the busload of anarchists mooned the confused patrons. The manner in which histories are understood as "stolen" raises interesting questions.

9. This notion of Bund is derived from the work of German sociologist Herman Schmalenbach.

10. Sponsoring groups included Earth First!, Network of Anarchist Collectives, Lumpen Media Group, Seeds of Peace, North American ALF Support Group, Wise Fool Puppet Intervention Theater, Cures Not Wars, Neither East Nor West, and C & D Printshop. Active Resistance was organized through The Autonomous Zone in Chicago.

11. The Detroit groups had no meetings with each other prior to Active Resistance and did not share rides to Chicago.

12. See the accounts by Rachel Rinaldo and Suzy Subways.

13. See Graham Purchase, Anarchism and Environmental Survival.

14. See especially Thom Kuehls, Beyond Sovereign Territory: The Space of Ecopolitics.

15. See Suzy Subways, Rachel Rinaldo, and David Solnit.