The Movements of Movements…

Towards doing something together about where we are today, and some thoughts about rethinking our dance

 By Jai Sen

Our world, today, is not only a world in profound crisis but also a world in profound movement, with major and sometimes dramatic movements erupting all over the world, and sometimes seeming to sweep history aside. In our times, increasingly large numbers of people are joining or forming movements precisely because of the crises we are facing: local, regional, national, transnational, and global, and perhaps in all parts of the world. Mother Earth herself seems to be swelling and heaving. Why and how is this happening? And what does this dramatically proliferating phenomenon mean?

Sometimes, we seem to be living through a time of the flowering of new politics and of fresh political paradigms. At the same time, it seems quite bewildering – even to seasoned activists, observers of movements, teachers and students. We can sense that something different is happening; that we are at a very special moment. What is happening in our times of course has a background, and a history. At least, in some part, the new waves of movements would seem to have grown out of the huge upsurge of ‘global’ actions which took place around different issues during the second half of the 1990s through to the first half of the 2000s, which explored dramatically new cultures of politics. Obviously, these actions and initiatives were influenced and propelled, in turn, by their own histories and lineages.

We also need to review and assess movements as they are evolving in relation to our present and emerging juncture in history. In particular, we need to understand the massive geopolitical changes that are also underway at regional and global levels, as well as the ‘spontaneous’, organic breakouts (and break ins) that masses of ordinary people are today already enacting, such as in the huge waves of movement of peoples from Africa and the Middle East into Europe today (but which are equally accompanied by less-publicised but very similar movements in Abya Yala (‘Latin America’), Turtle Island (North America), Africa, Asia, and Oceania).

Beyond this, and ahead of us – and in fact already with us, in many parts of the world, we also need to analyze movements as they are evolving in relation to the impacts of the looming non-linear onsets of climate change across the world. While that change is being manifested in the form of increasingly massive movements of peoples – ‘migrations’ -, but is also taking the shape of inter-community conflicts (and likely also inter-state wars in the future) because of the rising pressure on what are after all finite resources. Many of these physical movements are, like all such movements in history, also slowly manifesting themselves as powerful social and political movements, with enormous consequences for the emerging future.

As a response to the upheavals taking place around us and to explore the extraordinary drama of the flow of movement shaping the world in our times, we’ve embarked upon a book project, titled “The Movement of Movements”(MOM). The project is in the form of two volumes, “What Makes Us Move?” and “Rethinking Our Dance”. These volumes will bring together some 50 seminal essays on emerging world movement seen from the perspective of authors located in different parts of the world. They have been written by activists from within movements and by students, researchers, poets, philosophers, and teachers of movement, from the South and the North, and – significantly – both by those located at the structural margins of societies and those closer to the centre. The books are being co-published by OpenWord, based in India and PM Press in the United States. All the material that has been prepared for the two books (even if in pre-final form) is already accessible to activists and to students on a freely-available, online, read-only basis, at We’re in touch with partners and colleagues in different parts of the world to organize meetings and study circles around the material in the two books, and other related issues. While initially the books will be in English we’re exploring the possibility of having them translated in other languages.

The ultimate goal of the MOM Book Project is to deepen a critical, democratic discussion and comprehension of movement and of the role of movement in life and in the growing worldwide struggle for peace and justice, and to deepen and widen critical engagement as movement practice. At the same time, it is no less than to bring greater unity and community to our movements, in large part through these critical discussions made possible by the uniquely broad and international array of authors already involved in the two volumes.

In particular, the objectives of the MOM Book Project are:

  • To seed and to nurture the organization of study circles, workshops, seminars, colloquia, encuentros, and conferences, as widely as possible across the world, around emerging world movement, and using the material in the books as a base.
  • To contribute to the learning and movements of ideas between and across movements, including in terms of the language, grammar, and syntax of movement, and thus to make more comprehensible the movements and the praxis of movements. Conscious of difference and multiplicity, and committed to engaging across standpoints, the two books together hint at possible meta-narratives of movements and their intersectionalities, and through this to encourage and enable readers to develop their own meta-analyses of movement.
  • To contribute to the building of an open networked process and culture of critical engagement with emerging world movement, by encouraging and enabling networking between different initiatives taking shape in different parts of the world, and also by building on past such experiences (such as the ‘Networked Politics’ project in the late 2000s) and collaborating with related contemporary initiatives (such as the ‘Writing with Movements’ project).

Taking a step back, the MOM Book Project also puts forward the suggestion that the ‘movements’ that we see, hear, and feel are much more than simply what we commonly understand them as being, based on received theory and projections: crowds of people, actions of social and political desire. We suggest that they can also be viewed, as a whole, as fundamental expressions of the human spirit – of life itself, and of the life of Mother Earth herself. We believe that we can gain new understandings, both, of movement and of the world around us if only we can see them in this interconnected way. We are therefore attempting to focus – in the books and in the organizing of this project – not just on ‘movements’ but on the larger movements of movements that are arcing across the world, today and which are radically re-fashioning our world. The good news is that some people are already beginning to think about doing things around this material – from also uploading it on their websites to organizing conferences around it. Now let’s see what more we can do, together.

Jai Sen is an architect by training and first practice, an activist around the rights of the laboring poor based in Kolkata, India and also a student of the history and dynamics of movement. Seeing critical reflection as a potent contribution to building transformative power, his present work is centered around creating spaces for reflection in and on movement, in different media.

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