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Transforming ourselves, Transforming the World: An open conspiracy for social change – Second Edition
This is a new edition of the book originally published by Zed Books in 1999. The book includes an Introduction written by David Austin and an Afterword from the author, Brian Murphy.
This book is for all those – community workers, adult educators, social activists of every kind – who want to overcome pessimism and play a part in changing society in the direction of peace, justice and dignity for all human beings. As author Brian Murphy— the independent analyst, organizer, educator and writer, and former staff member of the social justice organization, Inter Pares—points out, many of us are pessimistic about our ability to change the world when confronted by destructive political and corporative forces and the destruction they wreak. Murphy reveals the social and personal dilemmas which hold people back from social engagement, and argues that the various constraints we face can be overcome.
In this new edition, David Austin explains in his Introduction why this book, first published in 1999, is perhaps more relevant to our times than ever, offering insights from his own experiences of engaging critically with the book and with others. (David Austin is author of Dread Poetry and Freedom: Linton Kwesi Johnson and the Unfinished Revolution, Fear of a Black Nation: Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal and the editor of Moving Against the System, The 1968 Congress of Black Writers and the Making of Global Consciousness.)
And in his new afterword, Brian Murphy reflects on the continued relevance of the original text, emphasizing how our humanity is being corroded and commodified. To reclaim our humanity, he argues, we must transform ourselves to transform the world.
Brian Murphy’s immensely inspiring book,Transforming Ourselves, Transforming the World, deeply challenges us to think and rethink everything we knew and thought we knew.—Nnimmo Bassey, Executive Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation & Right Livelihood Award Laureate in 2010
We need more conversations like the one in this book, which are rooted in hope while honestly working through a foundational way of seeing and understanding ourselves in the bigger picture.— Christina Warner, Co-Executive Director and Director of Campaigns and Organising, Council of Canadians.
This is one of the coolest, enjoyable and important books I have read in recent years. Written from the heart as well as the head, it is a breathtakingly visionary, unique and insightful take on the life of the ultimate activist.—Hope Chigudu, Feminist activist
The republication of Transforming Ourselves, Transforming the World is a gift for our troubled times. All of us who share the drive to change our society will find encouragement and nourishment. This book offers a break from an all-too-common type of “activism” that demands harmful suppression of our individual creativity, freedom and health. What we have here is a celebration — and an entirely convincing validation — of a way of changing the world that is always nurturing and open-ended; a process of possibility and becoming, as we build on humanness to realise greater humanness. As Murphy puts it: “‘I will act, because it is sane, and healthy, and human to do so. We will act together, because it is sane, and healthy, and human, and more effective to do so. … This is how we can begin to develop an open conspiracy’”. I’m energised to sign up to this “open conspiracy”, and I’m sure many more readers will be too. — Mark Butler, co-author with Church Land Programme (South Africa) of in, against, beyond, corona
Table of Contents
Introduction to Second Edition: David Austin
Preface and Acknowledgements
1 The Courage to Be
2 The Dilemma of Action and the Psychology of Inertia
3 Confronting the Dilemmas: Beyond Inertia
Possibilities in Process
4 The Missing Link
5 The Individual, the Visionary
6 Challenging the Established Rationality
7 Imperatives for Modern Education
The Open Conspiracy
8 The Open Conspiracy: Allies for Health and Action
9 Theatres and Strategies: Embracing the Future
10 Education and the Open Conspiracy
Eclectic Notes on Knowledge and Action
Afterword to the Second Edition – Brian Murphy
There was nothing but darkness in the spring of 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic raged and shut down the economy. But as right-wing protesters demanded an end to the lockdown, a much bigger social conflict was brewing under the surface. A rebellion exploded in Minneapolis in response to the brutal police murder of George Floyd in late May, during which a police station was overtaken and burned down. The uprising quickly spread across the United States as protesters looted downtown urban centers, set fire to cop cars, vandalized government buildings, and fought the police. The Black proletariat led the charge, but white, Latinx, Asian, and Indigenous proletarians also joined the fight, demonstrating new possibilities for building alliances. While anti-police rebellions continued throughout the summer and fall, the uprising receded with the start of the winter. But this conflict is far from over.
In an effort to think through the experience of the uprising and prepare for the great struggles that are coming, The Revolutionary Meaning of the George Floyd Uprising provides an in-depth analysis of what exactly happened during the 2020 uprising, its potentials, internal limits, and strategic implications.
People Resisting Xenophobic Violence: Understanding popular political responses to the South African identitarian crisis
The book is concerned with popular responses to the crisis of xenophobic violence in South Africa. It argues, that xenophobia itself is not primarily a reaction to poverty, inequality, or any other set of social conditions. Rather, xenophobia must be considered to be a collective political discourse which has arisen in post-apartheid South Africa from an exclusionary conception of state nationalism. Where this work may be distinguished from the majority of research on xenophobia in South Africa is in the fact that its particular focus is on instances where ‘ordinary’ South Africans have challenged and resisted xenophobic violence in their communities through collective political mobilisation. I suggest that these sites of resistance deserve careful consideration in their own right. I argue that they may demonstrate a subjective break with the oppressive politics of state nationalism through the affirmation of alternative political conceptions. Drawing on the political theory of Sylvain Lazarus, and his principal thesis that people are capable of thinking politics in ways which can subjectively think beyond the social and the extant (underscored by his political and methodological axiom, people think), the book will argue that these sites of resistance show that people – and especially those who are considered to be marginalised from the domain of legitimate politics – can and do think politically, and it is in the thought of people that new and potentially emancipatory visions of politics may emerge.
The first chapter of the book sets out empirically the rise of xenophobia in post-apartheid South Africa, with a focus on the ways in which state politics and practices have produced a hegemonic xenophobic discourse in the country. Chapter Two situates this discussion within a review of the academic literature, arguing that sociological explanations are by themselves unable to account for the phenomenon.
Chapter Three discusses three sites in which xenophobia has been effectively contested through collective political mobilisation: by Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) in Kwa-Zulu Natal, the Merafong Demarcation Forum (MDF) in Guateng in 2008, and in the Unemployed people’s Movement (UPM) in Grahamstown (now Makhanda) in 2015 (where I conducted fieldwork over a year). It is argued that the presence of collective political organisation before the outbreak of xenophobic violence provided the conditions for an effective challenge to xenophobic politics to occur.
Chapter Four is largely theoretical, drawing primarily on the work of Sylvain Lazarus, as well as Alain Badiou and Jacques Rancière. The chapter argues that it is essential to insist on politics as subjective, as it is only in the thought of people that emancipatory modes of politics which exceed socially located interests may emerge and be constituted through collective mobilisation into political praxis.
Chapter Five sets out the methodological approach to my own research with members of the Unemployed People’s Movement in Grahamstown. The aim of the approach is to aid in the investigation of what Sylvain Lazarus has called ‘subjective singularities’, or specific forms of thinking which characterize a political sequence. Put simply, the approach endeavours to try to understand people’s thinking on its own terms, through the categories and idioms which are specific to that subjective singularity, and which cannot be sociologically reduced to external explanatory referents such as class, race, power, or identity. The aim is to be able to identify and elucidate the specific prescriptive thought which may emerge as people think and articulate their own struggles.
Chapter Six sets out my discussions with 18 UPM activists. Based on the methodological approach indicated above, the purpose of this empirical chapter was not to provide any form of ethnography or sociology of the movement, but to try and elucidate, through the activists’ own categories, the subjective singularity which underpinned the movement’s anti-xenophobic politics during a particular sequence. The aim is not to extrapolate from the activists’ statements concepts, cases or types which might have broader application for the study of xenophobia generally, but only to try to understand and elucidate the forms of thinking which characterised this particular sequence in its subjective singularity. These forms of thinking, I argue, are notable and important in their own right.
[Note: Additional material from the interviews with the UPM members, which I was not able to include in the MA thesis, will be incorporated into the book manuscript to extend and develop the investigation into the political thinking of UPM members and to delineate the character of the political sequence].
The book explores the challenges Palestinian filmmakers confront to develop a cinema that gives expression to the national narrative. It is based on collaborative research involving Film Lab Palestine, Sheffield Palestine Cultural Exchange and Sheffield Hallam University. We explore the political, economic and cultural contexts that impact on Palestinian film production and some of the barriers encountered in profiling and screening Palestinian films, to shed light on the complex terrain that is traversed to sustain and develop a film industry and film culture in historic Palestine and beyond.
Table of contents
The struggle to develop a national cinema
The experience of Filmlab Palestine
Visualising the Palestinian past
Roadblocks, borders and hostile environments
The screening and reception of Palestinian films
The Palestinian short film
Appendix 1: Cinema of the Palestinian Revolution
Appendix 2: 70 Years of Nakba: Audience response
Appendix 3: Love and Desire in Palestine: Audience response
Appendix 4: Selection of leaflets from film screenings
About the authors
Praise for Struggling to be seen
To so nimbly and elegantly traverse Palestinian time and space is itself a defiance of the occupation’s brutally enforced barriers. The authors’ unstintingly political examination of Palestinian cinema has much to offer both those in the know and readers new to this extraordinary body of work. — Kay Dickinson, Professor, Film Studies, Concordia University
Working extensively through primary sources, conducting research and interviews across generations of Palestinian filmmakers, the authors offer the reader an ambitious and wide-ranging essay which charts the development of a national Palestinian cinema, from an historical and critical perspective. By exploring the constellation of political, social and aesthetic concerns that shape this cinema, this authors challenge us to rethink the stakes behind the contemporary development of a Palestinian cinema industry, its audience reception, in historic Palestine and beyond.— Samia Labidi, cultural programmer & artistic curator
Illuminating and compelling, Struggling to be Seen lays bare the historical, enduring but also emerging (colonial and neocolonial) obstacles to the development of a film industry and film culture within the West Bank and Gaza. Though familiarly sobering (in its re-confirmation of the scale of injustice facing Palestinians), the book provides up-to-the-moment and an interdisciplinary account that provides rich, fresh terrain that reveals new and exciting progressions within Palestinian film culture. —Michele Aaron, Reader in Film and Television, University of Warwick, author of Death and the Moving Image: Ideology, Iconography and I (Edinburgh Univer- sity Press, 2014) Director, Screening Rights Film Festival.
Struggling to be Seen is a must read for those who are interested in under- standing the multilayered challenges that face Palestinian cinematography from its production phase to its screening phase. The book is a short read which takes the readers through the different stages which shaped the Palestinian film making enterprise. Struggling to be Seen shows the restrictions that Palestinian filmmakers face from the initial stages to funding and screening. The authors tell a story of a people whose sense of self-reflection is suppressed by the Israeli oppressive machine which con- stantly works at erasing the Palestinian peoplehood, detaching it from its past.— Nahed Habiballah, Assistant Professor and member of the Board of Directors of Policy and Conflict Resolution Studies Center, Arab American University, Ramallah, Palestine
We inhabit extraordinary times: times in which we are acutely aware of the intensity of what revolutionary thinker Frantz Fanon called “the glare of history’s floodlights.” The velocity and scale at which the revolt against police murder that began in Minnesota after the death of George Floyd on May 25th and moved throughout the US, and then other parts of the world, was astonishing. It was impossible to predict, but then, in retrospect, it is George Floyd’s death becomes a nodal point: calling for action as well as rethinking and self-clarification. Thinking about this moment with the world revolutionary Frantz Fanon, we need to be aware of continuities and discontinuities — or, as he puts it, opacities — between the ages, his and ours. Fanon is always speaking to us, but often in ways we cannot hear. We have to work to listen to him and to understand the new contexts and meanings in relative opacity. It is this constant dialogue that helps illuminate the present and enable ongoing fidelity to Fanon’s call in the conclusion of The Wretched of the Earth the necessity to work out new concepts to confront one of Fanon’s greatest concerns, the betrayal of the revolutionary movement. In this pamphlet we consider how Fanon’s idea of liberation is connected with “the rationality of revolt.” The practice of engaging Fanon not only with revolt but with the reason or rationality of revolt connects with Fanon’s idea of how this liberated humanity is a product of a new consciousness of collectivity open to rethink everything.
Revolución Rinky-Dink: Yendo Más Allá del Capitalismo Negando Consentimiento, y Promoviendo Construcciones Creativas y Destrucciones Creativas
Este panfleto aborda la pregunta: ¿cómo podemos pasar de A a B, del capitalismo al poscapitalismo? La revolución de Rinky-dink involucra acciones e inacciones que son fáciles, seguras, mundanas, sin glamour y factibles dentro de la vida de cada persona.
Howard Waitzkin presenta una intervención clara y directa para el cambio revolucionario en el sistema económico capitalista global. Cubre mucho terreno, con sofisticación, mientras mantiene la discusión en tierra. Su enfoque en las formas de facilitar un desafío al capital y construir una mayor transformación revolucionaria es crucial en esta coyuntura histórica. Esta discusión sobre construcciones creativas y destrucciones creativas es particularmente útil.
— Brett Clark, profesor de sociología de la Universidad de Utah y autor De El Robo De La Naturaleza: Capitalismo Y Grieta Ecológica, The Robbery of Nature: Capitalism and Ecological Rift en inglés.
El fin del capitalismo es posible. Waitzkin nos lleva un paso más allá en el proceso creativo para esta transformación. A través de ejemplos específicos de grupos organizados dentro de los Estados Unidos y en el extranjero, este trabajo constituye una guía práctica para todos. Waitzkin alienta nuestra creatividad para actos organizados y seguros además de omisiones para trascender el capitalismo.
— Nylca J. Munoz Sosa, abogada, líder de salud pública y activista centrada en la justicia sanitaria y la descolonización en Puerto Rico.