“We are the people who don’t count!”

POSTED ON February 5, 2013 BY admin

Living politics, living learning and
‘the weapons of the weak’


The first serving of padkos is a paper written by Anna Selmeczi of the University of Hungary. Entitled ‘”We are the people who don’t count” – Contesting Biopolitical Abandonment’, it was written in February of this year.

From the feedback we’ve had, it’s clear that many people really appreciated CLP publishing the Living Learning booklet last year. Certainly for those of us within CLP who were involved in various ways in the Living Learning work, it was a very important act. It made the point that militants of grassroots movements think; that they can think their own politics; and that, where the people do claim their control over the thinking of their politics, they create the possibility of a properly emancipatory politics for all.

So it was exciting to come across work from a PhD candidate at a university in Hungary drawing on Living Learning, as well as her time spent with Abahlali baseMjondolo, to make the point that

“Complementing the … role of the singular experiences of suffering, keeping living politics close to the poor largely rests on the Abahlali’s practice of ‘living learning’… [T]he practical pedagogy of Abahlali declares that everyone can think, and everyone can equally contribute to the living politics… [This] talks to the presumption of equality crucial for the disruptive politics of the shack dwellers. It does so because… it works toward eliminating the hierarchy of teacher and student; that is, it opposes the proximity of equal minds to the distance of explanation…

[It] is not so much about the emphasis on what could be framed as their “local” or “traditional knowledge” … as about the political subjectivization of equal human beings.Freedom, real freedom, and the experience of real freedom has to be something that is outside of what is prescribed to us; it will come from becoming masters of our own history, professors of our own poverty; and from making our own paths out of unfreedom (Abahlali and Rural Network 2009, Living Learning)”.

In her paper, “We are the people who don’t count” – Contesting biopolitical abandonment, Selmeczi quite simply ‘gets it’ as far as we are concerned. In itself that’s encouraging, but perhaps the real significance of her work is the fundamental argument that this unity of praxis between ‘living learning’ and a ‘living politics’ of struggle, offers something of immeasurable value to the world:

[T]he dual scheme of neoliberal development that casts the needy into spaces of abandonment … can be disrupted by the shack dwellers’ living politics. By demanding the here-and-now of settlement upgrades, they contest the forced mobility of superfluous lives. Through voicing their suffering and struggling for a place in the city, they reorder what is visible and audible, what is political and just. … [It is] imperative to conceptually consider such political practices as those of the Abahlali and thus to continue rethinking what ‘the weapons of the weak’ against radical biopolitics are.

We are sharing Anna’s paper at this time because she is currently in South Africa and we will have the opportunity to discuss it with her.

We invite you to join us as we explore further the significance of living politics, living learning and the ‘weapons of the weak’.

Date: Thursday 21 October
Time: 9.30 to 12.30
Venue: CLP resource centre

Good coffee, eats and discussion guaranteed!

Read Attachment – Anna Selmeczi