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Pëtr Kropotkin 1921-2021 – Activism and scholarship

International Colloquium, Universidade de São Paulo (USP), Department of Geography, 19-23 July 2021

Pëtr Alekseevic Kropotkin (1842-1921) was undoubtedly one of the most important figures in the global history of anarchism and early socialism. Kropotkin’s writings and activities contributed to shape international theories and practices of anarcho-communism, exerting a defining influence on anarchist and critical thinking, one that remains relevant today.

Kropotkin’s ideas on mutual aid continue to challenge current capitalist and neoliberal notions of competition and can serve to counter lingering Malthusianism in the social sciences and development studies, especially in what is today called ‘the Global South’. Kropotkin’s notion of science as synonymous with ethical thinking, creative experimentation and unhindered questioning still challenges current expression of religious fanaticism and obscurantism all over the world, including the return of creationism. Kropotkin’s ideas on federalism and decentralization continue to nourish debates about the inter-relation of economy and politics, society, culture and territory, and environmental issues at different scales. His internationalism, while controversial, has lessons for all those who struggle against the walls and frontiers which are becoming increasingly in the world, and for cultivating internationalist solidarity among all the oppressed. Kropotkin’s anticolonialism stands among the first attempts to include spaces and identities in all struggles for social justice, now feeding ideas on the ‘spatial turn’ for social movements in Latin America and beyond.  Kropotkin’s efforts to develop new concepts and frames of thought around his concept of ethics to support anarchist organising produced a rich theoretical toolbox for critique never ceased to inspire worldwide notions of global solidarity and kinship. In collaboration with Elisée Reclus and circles of nineteenth-century anarchist geographers, Kropotkin established principles on social geography and the teaching of geography which still inspire critical and radical tendencies in the discipline.

As well as being an outstanding thinker and writer Kropotkin is also an exemplary subject for transnational histories of cosmopolitan and multilingual activism and the analysis of European and international socialism. He established some of the most influential anarchist papers of the nineteenth and twentieth century, maintained correspondence with a wide range of socialist activists and was constantly involved in political activity, especially in Russia, France and the UK. Kropotkin was a persistent and vocal critic of Tsarism and an equally vehement critic of Marxism.

Kropotkin’s centenary is an occasion to rediscover an exceptional figure who can interest and inspire geographers, historians, philosophers, anthropologists, sociologists, economists, political scientists and other scholars, as well as activists and wider publics. Kropotkin can help us re-think the disciplinary boundaries of the natural and social sciences and humanities and the socially transformative role of critical analysis. We welcome interventions on Kropotkin’s life and works and on their reception, as well as contributions that take inspiration from diverse aspects of Kropotkin’s anarchism. Recognising that the history of anarchism, like the history of any intellectual discipline, is not limited to the study of the “great men” (or “great women”) of history, we welcome interventions which explore the broader networks, circulation of ideas, and spaces and contexts that Kropotkin was part of. We especially invite contributions on (but not limited to):

  • The history and theory of anarchism, with special reference to themes addressed by Kropotkin (mutual aid, decentralization, social justice and manual work, French Revolution, ethics, pedagogy, prisons…)
  • Scholars and activists acquainted with Kropotkin or involved in fostering his legacy
  • Global history and transnationalism, with special reference to experiences of radical activism
  • Philosophy and history of geography (and of science in general), with special reference to early critical tendencies
  • Decoloniality, feminism, gender and critical race studies, with special reference to their relations with the anarchist tradition
  • Mutual aid, evolutionism, Malthusianism and their critiques
  • Philosophy of nature, environmental determinism and their critiques
  • Science, religion and their critiques  
  • Reception of Kropotkin’s anarcho-communism in Latin America and more broadly in the “Global South”
  • Current anarchist and radical research in all scholarly disciplines (humanities, social sciences, natural sciences …)
  • Anarchism and radical social alternatives today

Format

We want to avoid the hierarchical format of classical conferences, with “big professors” doing prestigious keynote speeches, early and mid-career scholars organizing sessions and students presenting papers and posters. In this conference, all session will be in plenary format (with no parallel sessions therefore), so that everybody addresses the audience and listens to everybody else.

Languages

Working languages are Portuguese, English, Spanish and French. We are unlikely to have a professional service of simultaneous translation, so we invite all presenters to provide a PowerPoint and a written summary of their intervention in their first language and a second language. We will endeavour to organize volunteers to offer solidarity translation in groups during the presentations.

Submission of abstracts:

Please submit your proposal (250-500 words) by September 14 2020 to kropotkin19212021@gmail.com On acceptance, you will receive practical information on registration, possibilities for accommodation etc.

Conference website: https://kropotkin2021.com/

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