Ten years ago, Alex Khansnabish and I were putting the finishing touches on a book that would, in 2014, but published by the venerable Zed Books as The Radical Imagination: Social Movement Research in the Age of Austerity.
It was based on four years of ethnographic research with social movements “dwelling between success and failure” in Halifax, Canada and put forward what was then a few key original arguments.
First, that the radical imaginations was not something that individuals possess, but something that people do together, and that sparks in the darkness as they struggle against the powers that be.
Second, that beyond simply reporting on social movements or lending them their time, militant researchers working in alignment with social movements can play the unique role of “convoking” the radical imagination: helping to foster the conditions where it can spark and ignite.
Excerpts from the book:
- “Why social movements need the radical imagination” in Open Democracy
- “Fomenting the radical imagination with movements” in ROAR Magazine
Over the last decade, we’ve been extremely gratified to hear from and learn of many movement researchers who have found the book helpful and it continues to be widely cited, although often with a frustrating lack of attention to its actual arguments. Unfortunately, the radical imagination has also become a bit of an academic buzzword and often, frankly, an alibi for researchers not to take a stand. Too many writers who are just gesture to the radical imagination in a vague way as the thing that’s supposed to save us. But the book makes clear: we need to be more rigorous in our concepts and dedicated in our struggles.
In any case, as we approached the decade mark, Alex and I were pleased to collaborate with Cited Media and their flagship podcast, Darts and Letters, to produce a set of pieces to reflect backwards and forwards on the radical imagination. We were supported by the Social Sciences a Humanities Research Council of Canada.
We can begin with this 1h extended interview Gordon Katic of Darts and Letters conducted with Alex and I reflecting on The Radical Imagination a decade on, with particular attention to if we can say the reactionary right also exhibits some kind of “radical imagination.” That interview is hosted by the New Books Network.
Alex and I also supported Gordon and his team to produce a three-episode mini-series of Darts and Letters on the radical imagination now.
The first episode focused on the crisis of masculinity and the success of the far right in recruiting disaffected young men. It featured Annie Kelly of the podcast QAnon Anonymous and its mini-series MANCLAN; streaming sensation VAush, and journalism professor Nicholas Lemann.
The second episode focused on the strange story of how the conspiracist right appropriated anti-corporate rhetoric from the radical left. This episode featured interviews with author and activist Raj Patel; filmmaker and law professor Joel Bakan, director of The Corporation and its recent sequel; and several Swiss organizers against the World Economic Forum.
The final episode explores anti-authoritarian, autonomist and anarchist perspectives in a moment when we are increasingly told only the state can solve our problems. It features conversations with Elif Genc about the influence of anarchist thinker Murray Bookchin’s ideas on the Kurdish feminist struggle; with documentary filmmaker Marc Appolonio about mutual aid struggles accross Turtle Island; and with Alex and I on The Radical Imagination.
And there is even more content, including extended interviews with various guests, on the Darts and Letters YouTube page.