Academic journal article The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology

Spaces of Justice: The Social Divine of Global Anti-Capital Activists' Sites of Resistance *

Academic journal article The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology

Spaces of Justice: The Social Divine of Global Anti-Capital Activists' Sites of Resistance *

Article excerpt

IMAGES OF ACTIVISTS PROTESTING outside the sites of summits of the global political and business elite have become commonplace in the mainstream media over the last five years. As activists dance and chant, march and shout outside such meetings, states respond with increasingly heavy force--armed police barricade buildings, temporary physical walls are erected, and boundaries of zones of exclusion are drawn to shut out opposition. Yet, rather than be discouraged and dispersed, thousands of global anti-capital activists continue to gather outside of these summits of the world's political and business elites. The activists outside these walled summits, gathered before police and security forces, are doing more than enacting a simple response to the assemblies of power brokers. Global anti-capital activists are creating spaces of inclusion, in complete opposition to the injustices they contend are exacerbated and sometimes generated by the bodies, such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, the Group of 8, and the World Bank, that meet at these summits. Activists create spaces of juxtaposition, in which diversity and inclusion are fostered, both at the sites of the meetings of neo-liberal globalization and in their own meeting spaces, like the World Social Forums (WSFs). These spaces are spaces of justice; they are temporary expressions of what global anti-capital activists are striving towards. Furthermore, these spaces are expressions of the social divine, a sense of being together in a self-directed and -shaped environment.

The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, and trade and eco-political blocs like the North American Free Trade Association, the European Union and the Group of Eight can all be viewed as the institutional instruments of contemporary neo-liberal globalization (see, for example, Gandhi, 2003). They operate at the transnational level and have enormous, uneven implications on the day-to-day lives of all people. An account of these implications is, however, beyond the scope of this paper. What is of specific interest here is the lack of access to these institutions had by the majority of people affected by the decisions made by their members, individually and at the corporate and nation-state levels. The operations of these institutions carry a facade of openness--documents detailing policies, for example, of the International Monetary Fund can be found through the organization's own publications and on the Internet. However, the meetings of these institutions are held behind walls and zones of exclusion. This exclusion and the security measures employed to ensure it are physical manifestations of the wider injustices wrought by the practices of these institutions of global neo-liberalism, which privilege the interests of capital, uphold injustices in the form of on-going sexism, racism, inequality and violence, and exclude debate and alternatives. Outside the guarded and walled summits, however, alternatives are voiced. Global anti-capital activists gathered outside walled summits are demonstrating their dissent to this exclusion and to the decisions made by these institutions. One means of dissent is to create positive spaces of inclusion, such as at the World Social Forum, in opposition to these summits. In this way, the voices excluded from the formal spaces of neo-liberal politics are asserted (Dobrowolsky, 2001).

This paper explores the physical sites of resistance that develop to counter these exclusive meetings and the dominance of neo-liberal capitalism. Examination of the protest sites reveals that they are places of lived experiments and experiences of justice, the very opposite of the processes practised by the instruments and institutions of neo-liberal globalization. I broadly utilize Iris Marion Young's concept of justice as inclusion to simultaneously depict the meetings and, more broadly, the operations of the institutions of neo-liberal globalization as unjust, and global anti-capital activists' protest spaces as spaces that attempt to foster justice. …

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