Prefigurative epistemologies and precarious ontologies: a study of two movements

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This paper discusses the issue of knowledge produced in social movements through direct and non-direct participation in them. Specifically it discusses movements from below and it poses that they should be approached both from the point of view of politics of negation, but, crucially, also from the angle of politics of creation. It argues that political organisation in the global neoliberal phase of capitalism is defined by two competing forces: the force of traditional politics and the force of the politics of prefiguration. This interplay between these two forces is at the heart of the dialectic of prefiguration and it involves multiple transformations that range from the realm of aesthetics to that of consciousness and materiality. This set of dynamics is explored through different epistemological dimensions that range from Santos' (2003) 'sociology of emergences' to Ranciere's (2004) notion of the 'distribution of the sensible'.
The paper approaches knowledge and learning from and within the movements as a premise of prefiguration and it explicates this through two different examples. The first comes from the student movement in Chile and the other from a social movement in Brazil. While the attendant analysis illustrates how the so-called epistemologies of the South can extend our epistemic horizons, the paper takes a critical look at the western foundations of the discussion around epistemology and ontology that tend to lurk in social movement theorising and social science research in general.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 21 Mar 2016
Event21st International Conference on Alternative Futures and Popular Protest - Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, United Kingdom
Duration: 21 Mar 2016 → …


Conference21st International Conference on Alternative Futures and Popular Protest
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Period21/03/16 → …


  • Social movements
  • epistemology
  • pedagogy

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