Heteropolitics Project

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Alexandros Kioupkiolis:

"Heteropolitics seeks to contribute to the endeavour to imagine, elaborate and expand alternative forms of politics and collective self-organization fostering inclusion, participation, sustainability and a symmetrical distribution of power. We will inquire thus into heterogeneous commons (natural, social, digital etc.) which work out feasible processes of common self-organization and institution-building that cultivate virtues of reciprocity and fairness while providing effective solutions to critical problems in the management of collective resources (Benkler & Nissenbaum 2006; Ostrom 1990; Poteete, Janssen & Ostrom 2010; Mansbridge 2010; De Angelis 2005). By studying both the theory of the commons and particular contemporary examples of commoning activity, Heteropolitics will seek to spell out the concrete ways in which various practices of the ‘commons’ reconstruct communal ties, meet social needs, advance democratic participation and self-governance in the economy and other fields, and offer new ideas of social, collaborative production and self-management which help us to rethink and recast egalitarian and participatory politics.

In our investigation of commons’ thought and research, the aim will be to shed light on their divergent understandings of the commons, the different visions of alternative politics which arise out of these conceptions and the ‘lack of the political’ gaping in their midst. Existing studies of the commons have not yet adequately tackled political issues of inclusion/exclusion, complexity, scale, clashes of interest and ideology among larger groups. Consequently, they have not sufficiently dealt with the key challenges facing the construction of a broader sector of alternative formations of community, governance and economy: how to bring together and to coordinate dispersed, small-scale civic initiatives, how to relate to established social systems and power relations in the market and the state, etc.

Our approach to the commons as bearing promise for alternative forms of politics and social organization in various fields of social activity is informed by a particular understanding of the political. We follow several strands of contemporary political theory (see e.g. Rancière 1995, 2010; Connolly 1995, 2005; Butler 1990, 1993; Honig 2009; Heywood 2013; Ingram 2002), sociology (e.g. Giddens 1991; Beck 1992) and anthropology (e.g. Scott 1990; Gledhill 2000; Papataxiarchis 2014) which have decentered the political from the state and ‘big-bang’ politics, along three lines. They have lifted the emphasis on the political as ‘institution’. They have traced the political in every act and process which exerts itself over established social forms and structures, seeking to contest them, to transform or to uphold them. And they have blurred, thus, the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary politics, conventional and unconventional, visible and invisible.

These shifts gesture towards our idea of ‘heteropolitics’ as alternative and transformative politics outside the mainstream, that is, at a distance from the state, ‘grand politics’ and their particular logics of political action and organization. The political’ pertains to social activity which deliberately intervenes in actual social relations, structures and embedded subjectivities –i.e. conventional modes of thought, understanding, evaluation, motivation, feeling, action and interaction- by resisting, challenging, transfiguring, displacing, managing or striving to preserve them." (http://heteropolitics.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Conference-Proceedings-Heteropolitics-Sep-2017-Final-Version.pdf)


Alexandros Kioupkiolis:

"Against this broader conceptual background, we introduce the term ‘heteropolitics’ to highlight more specifically:

(i) that such political activity is not primarily and exclusively focused on the formal political system;

(ii) it is not confined to revolutionary events or ‘hegemonic acts of institution.’ ‘The political’ as deliberate collective action on social structures and subjectivities can be also part of ordinary, face-to-face interactions and attempts at ‘coping’ with everyday problems;

(iii) ‘the political’ can occur on any (small, middle or large) scale of social life, in more or less institutionalized and visible social spaces across any social field. Hence, it can equally take place in informal and often obscure movements, exchanges, performances and differences of everyday life (Papataxiarchis 2014: 18-31). Such ‘low’ politics and ‘micro’-political actions may have an impact only on certain social practices and relations, or they may coalesce with others to prepare and engender large-scale antagonisms and systemic ‘macro’-changes. Finally,

(iv) we also place power relations, struggles and difference at the heart of the ‘political’, but this features both strife and action in concert, both plurality and confluence, both antagonism and consensus-seeking, both disruptions of normality and the crafting of ‘alternative normalities’."