Monday, 14 February 2011


Friday 27th May

Venue: Lock Keepers Cottage, QMUL, London E14NS no. 33 on the map
Time: 5pm-7pm

Robert Sember (Ultrared)
Robert Sember joined Ultra-red for SILENT|LISTEN in 2005. Over the past fifteen years he has contributed to ethnographic research and policy analysis related to HIV/AIDS and other public health concerns in the United States, South Africa and Brazil. Sember brings a background in performance studies to his research and his collaborations with artists and curators around the world. He has taught in the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, the School of the Arts at the University of California in Los Angeles and at the University of Amsterdam’s International School for Humanities and Social Sciences. He was 2009-2010 fellow with the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at the New School in New York.


Arianna Bove (

Arianna Bove is an independent researcher and translator involved in the making of, where her work can be found. She currently teaches at QMUL.


Mate Kapović, assistant professor at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (University of Zagreb) and political activist  (Academic Solidarity, Zagreb)

Academic Solidarity is the first directly democratic trade union in the sphere of science and higher education in Croatia. It has spread to several cities in only a few months, gaining wide spread media attention and support, influencing the mass rebellion against the introduction of neo-liberal laws in education throughout Croatian universities.


Vedrana Bibic (The Occupation Cookbook, Plenum delegate; Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Zagreb)


Previous workshops
Friday May 6th
Venue: Lock Keepers Cottage, Queen Mary University London E14NSNearest tube: Mile End
Time: 5pm-7pm
An encounter to muse and think together about external dynamics, political discourse and outreach, the role of the organiser when working with constituencies, issues of politicisation, involvement and negotiation.

Doina Petrescu (Atelier d'Architecture Autogérée, Paris)Doina Petrescu is an architect, co-founder together with Constantin Petcou of atelier d’architecture autogérée (aaa) in Paris and Professor of Architecture and Design Activism at the University of Sheffield.

Her publications include Trans - Local - Act: cultural practices within and across (2010), Agency: Working with Uncertain Architectures (2009), Altering Practices: Feminist Politics and Poetics of Space (2007), Urban Act: a handbook for alternative practice (2007), Architecture and Participation (2005). During our session, Doina will speak about metropolitan commons and self-organised spaces.

Jane Wills
(QMUL, London) Jane Wills has research interests in low paid employment, migration, trade unionism and new forms of labour organisation, the living wage, community organising and political-economy. Her new co-authored book on low paid migrant labour in London entitled Global Cities at Work: new migrant divisions of labour was published by Pluto in 2010. Jane is convenor of the MA Community Organising and an active member of London Citizens.

C. Petcou, D.Petrescu, Acting Space
Published in Multitudes 3/ 2007, Urban/Act and included in the disobedience archive

D. Petrescu, Jardinieres du commun
published in Multitudes 44/2010

and Trans-Local-Act.

C. Petcou, D.Petrescu, At the Ground Level of the City Published in Multitudes 20/2005

and The Right to the City (Sydney, 2011)

What makes a biopolitical place? A Discussion with Toni Negri, Constantin Petcou, Doina Petrescu, Anne Querrien, Paris - September 17, 2007

Published in Multitudes 3/ 2007 - In English:

Jane Wills 'Identity Making for Action. The Example of London Citizens', in M. Wetherell (ed) Theorizing Identities and Social Action, London: Palgrave, 2009.

Jane Wills 'The Living Wage'


Self-organisation and the economy
Friday April 1st, 5-8 pm
From cooperatives to social enterprises, between state funding, self funding, alternative economies
and charity dependence, and the related questions of authorship, redistribution of resources,
production of value and co-production.
Siôn Whellens (Calverts Coop, London)

Siôn Whellens was a contributing editor at Anarchy Magazine, and active with London Workers Group, Workers Playtime and the anti-party and autonomist communist left in London in the late 1970s and 1980's. He co-published a bi-weekly newsletter, the Picket Bulletin, during the long Wapping printers' lockout of 1986, dedicated to creating an effective communication tool for grassroots activists. Since 1983 he has worked with Calverts, a collective-type worker co-operative of graphic designers and printers, and in the wider worker co-operative milieu. He is an elected member of the Worker Co-operative Council and a director of Co-operatives UK . Siôn is interested in exploring the conflicts and potentials of workers’ self-expression, self-organisation and self-management under capitalism, and understanding how the development of our day-to-day activity can contribute to the emergence of a new social economy.

For resources, see:

Sion's blog:
Bethnal Bling;
The special issue of Affinities on The New Coopoerativism;

A group of worker co-operators recently wrote and published a ‘code of governance’ which is really a guide to what the seven co-operative principles should look like in practice. PDF download;
Bob Cannell's blog. He is a thinker-practitioner of worker co-operation and its enemies;
Radical Routes is an explicitly anti capitalist federation of autonomous UK worker, housing and social co-ops. Their site has interesting content and resources;

For a more political take, see the opening paragraphs of Barrot & Martin’s ‘
Eclipse and Re-emergence of the Communist Movement

Marcel Mars
(Jan van Eyck Academy, Maastricht/MI2, Zagreb)
Marcel Mars will discuss the use of free software, proprietary collaborative software/social networks and file sharing practices in the context of self-organization. Software is a socio-technical system in which machines, people, and processes are inextricably interconnected and interdependent. [1]
The use of collaborative software in every organization will affect its organizational structure, capacity of negotiations, rules of access to (org) resources, decision making process and overall group dynamics. That said, an organization (still) controls the strength of the effect with its knowledge of how to use and adapt (develop) collaborative software to its own needs.
The collaborative development of software, as in the case of free software movement, brought to the world enormous autonomous infrastructure beloved by many activists and self-organization freaks. Still, the network effect [2] created by most of the groups, activists or not, pays off to the web2.0 startups, social network giants and other proprietary solutions.
"Utility Computing is the packaging of computing resources, such as computation, storage and services, as a metered service similar to a traditional public utility (such as electricity, water, natural gas, or telephone network)."[3] When computing in general and computer-supported collaboration becomes public utility its development becomes more and more invisible to the public. Utility computing is still in its first phase. It is mainly led by big corporations like: Amazon, Microsoft, HP, Google, Oracle, IBM etc.
Their infrastructures are built upon Free software (Linux, Xen, KVM, Apache, Hadoop). But, they keep their advances in technology as trade secrets.

[1] Ensmenger, Nathan L. The Computer Boys Take Over: Computers,
Programmers, and the Politics of Technical Expertise. The MIT Press,
[2] “Network effect - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia”, n.d.
[3] “Utility computing - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia”, n.d.

For resources, see:
Matt Zimmerman (Debian/Ubuntu, London)


Toni Prug (QMUL, London,
Hack the State, gComm(o)ns)

Toni Prug will discuss the impossibility of democratic self organization in the economy.

"If the economy disrupts our lives, then we must disrupt the economy" (UK Uncut, 2011)

For self organization to be democratic, there must be no capital, state power holders, or holders of physical forces of coercion (parts of society without state/capitalist controls over them) who are in the position to impose their will to dictate the model of cooperation by utilizing people’s need to acquire the means of subsistence by selling their labour for a wage, or to obey in fear for life. The egalitarian impulse that exists in self organization is rarely developed due to participants’ different class positions (skills, time, space, money, social networks) and the lack of value chains external to capitalist models of valorization whose inbuilt anti-egalitarianism cannot valorize egalitarian self organization.

The richest parts of the world have increased their productivity several times since WWII. Instead of proliferation of time for self organization based on abundance of the time gained by increased productivity, egalitarian elements (access to shelter, health, education, care) are disappearing and the amount of labour time sold for a wage, or volunteered in a hope of one, is increasing. If we consider self organization as a form of emancipation, and if we aim for it to be democratic, in the times of rapidly reduced material equality amongst the people of some of the wealthiest states in the world, the possibility of democratic self organization has to be considered not as a sporadic question, but as a central, systemic one.

For resources, see:

Werner Bonefeld: ‘What is the alternative?’ (Shift, 2011, No. 11)

Alexei Penzin, ‘The Soviets of the Multitude: On Collectivity and Collective Work: An Interview with Paolo Virno’ (Mediations, Volume 25, No. 1, Fall 2010)

"Marx's Method" by David Harvey: A Colloquium Talk Video (Geography at Berkeley, October 21, 2010)


Self-Organisation and Internal Ecologies

Friday 4th March 2011

This encounter was an attempt to better understand what is at play when individuals decide to become a group, to create a collective agency able to change their living situation. What are the forces that traverse the becoming of the group, what Foucault called the microphysics of power?
Conflicts, frustrations, pauses and acceleration, the development of habits and fixed roles, all that is left unsaid and all the words that are repeated as a refrain until they lose meaning are just some of the issues that hunt the constant process of groups creation.
Furthermore, the current diffusion of models of governance and organisation based on self-management often borrows the vocabulary and tools developed in autonomous spaces during the 1960 and 1970, distorting their potential in the service of neoliberal policies of exclusion. Subjectivities, individual and collective, are today the locus of governance, directly implicated in the political. Many of those who are involved in self-organised initiatives are also implicated in strategies of self-management as precarious cognitive workers. Instead of proposing a recipe or a method, the micropolitical approach helps to develop a sensitivity towards the gestures that can empower or stifle collective practices, in order to de-naturalize (“this is just the way it goes”) but also de-psychologise (“it is his fault!”) group experience. In light of the current season of dissent, the micropolitics of groups can offer precious tools of sustainability and joy.

David Vercauteren has been a member of the Collectif Sans Ticket, based in Belgium and active for five years (1998-2003) around the issue of public transportation. The dissolution of the CST was at the base of the self-investigation and research that constituted the basis for the book ‘Micropolitiques des Groupes. Pour un Ecologie des Pratiques Collectives’, written together with Thierry Müller and Olivier Crabbé. Currently, David is part of the Groupe de Recherche et de Formation Autonome (GReFA).

Here you can read David's text 'Anti-hierarchical artifices for groups to use'.

Also, in French or Spanish: The book is published in French for Édition Les Prairies Ordinaires ( and freely accessible online at In Spanish, for Traficantes de Sueños and freely accessible online at

Valeria Graziano is a Phd student at QMUL and member of the Micropolitics Research Group, a London-based collective formed in 2007 to investigate the micropolitical implications of the flexible subjectivities who dwell in the cultural and creative sectors. The MRG activities are currently on stand-by, since its members became involved in the recent struggles against the cuts to public education and for a different knowledge production.

Special Guests: REFF
Ubiquitous media can (and is) changing the way we perceive public spaces, relationships, time and space. Mobile devices and the possibility to bring technologies to the body are factors that are not only creating new opportunities (and problems, obviously), but also new senses and new points of view on ethics, noetics and anthropologies. REFF has been created to fight against the invasion of digital cultures by large global operators. REFF uses the slogan "Remix the world! Reinvent reality!" to suggest the project's main strategy: using the practices of fake, remix, reinvention, recontextualization and reenactment as tools to reinvent reality. As a fake-real institution, REFF is promoting an education program whose main focus is the methodological reinvention of reality. They produce open platforms that allow anyone to produce independent, ubiquitous content and to use it for critical, tactical purposes.


Many thanks to Ade Alele for his logistical support.

The background is FOX GAMES, © 1989 Sandy Skoglund.