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Renewing the Anarchist Tradition Conference, November 5-7, 2010, Baltimore, Maryland

Renewing the Anarchist Tradition (RAT) A Scholarly Conference November 5-7, 2010, in Baltimore, Maryland

Register Now! (see below)

The RAT conference, organized by the Institute for Anarchist Studies (IAS), is returning after a year’s hiatus—over the weekend of November 5-7, 2010, in Baltimore, Maryland. For those of you who have attended the conference in the past, it will be different this year.

First, the IAS board decided to reshape RAT as an “anarchist intervention,” similar to the aim of our new Anarchist Interventions book series. We’ve developed nearly two-dozen questions (see below) for RAT that we hope capture some of the key concerns and dilemmas that contemporary anarchism and anarchists face at present. Each question will serve as a panel, but rather than a distinction between speakers and audience, the panelists will briefly offer their thoughts on the question as a way to open up space for everyone to engage in conversation and debate. The questions are meant to push and further develop anarchist analysis and social theory as well as our political practices. Beyond this close and participatory reflection at RAT, we plan to audiotape all the panels and then make them widely available to others as part of a new weekly IAS podcast series.

Second, RAT will be in Baltimore rather than in its former central Vermont location, with the logistics around space, food, and housing kindly being organized by the folks at Red Emma’s Bookstore and Cafe. Just like in the past, we’re limiting RAT to 150 people, with all panelists included in that number. Everyone must also register and pay for the conference as well as their own travel costs in order for us to collectively self-fund this project. We’ll again do our best, though, to offer scholarships/sliding scale to those in need.

As always, RAT is meant to be a space outside professionalized, commodified sites of learning and education, where longtime anarchists can meet as peers and comrades to grapple with ideas together, in as intellectually open and curious, yet politically engaged and grounded, a way as possible. It is not an academic conference, nor meant as something to add to one’s CV; instead, RAT aims to encourage a culture of public intellectuals, autonomous and collective scholarship, and critical yet visionary thinking, especially among those who are marginalized by the education-industrial complex. RAT, in short, is a dialogue among politically active anarchists who see theory and analysis as part and parcel of their organizing efforts to transform society.

The RAT conference is co-organized by IAS board members David Combs, Mark Lance, Cindy Milstein, Maia Ramnath, and Joshua Stephens, and friend of the IAS James Birmingham.

REGISTRATION (by or before October 18):

RAT registration is limited to 150 people. Everyone coming to RAT (panelists and participants alike) must all register and pay the registration fees in full by or before October 18. RAT has no outside or independent funding, so everyone who attends contributes financially to make this conference possible. Those who register for RAT can also book a table(s) for bookstores, infoshops, magazines, and other projects (see below).

We’re offering a sliding-scale registration for the following two options:

Option 1: Registration and five meals (for locals and others not requiring housing, or those who want to book their own hotel room): $55 to $85

Option 2: Registration, five meals, and two nights in shared dorm room at the Baltimore Hostel: $95 to $125

The lower end of the sliding scale covers the actual conference costs, such as renting space; the higher end or donations beyond that provide a “scholarship fund” for those needing assistance. Registration includes five vegetarian/vegan meals (Saturday breakfast, lunch, and dinner; Sunday breakfast and lunch), along with coffee/tea during RAT. Housing is for Friday and Saturday nights only. Note: we cannot custom-tailor registration fees to include, say, only three meals, and we cannot refund registration fees, since we need to make sure all actual rental and food expenses are covered.

The Baltimore Hostel is located in a converted nineteenth-century mansion in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood (a few blocks south of Red Emma’s). It has a magnificent first-floor common area, a full kitchen that everyone is free to use during RAT as well as free wifi and computers. The majority of the dorm rooms house eight to twelve people, although there are a couple smaller rooms, with forty-eight spots in total. The hostel is about thirty to forty-five minutes away from the main conference location by foot, but there’s a free shuttle bus a block away from the hostel that goes directly to RAT, in addition to numerous other transit options. Red Emma’s has reserved the entire hostel for the weekend, so we’ll have the run of the place for socializing as well as sleeping.

To register, or if you have additional questions, please e-mail: RATregister@gmail.com

Please include the following information:

· Your name and email · A sentence about yourself · Whether you want to register for option 1 or 2 · The amount you can pay on our scaling scale, or if you need scholarship assistance · Whether you prefer vegan or vegetarian meals, and if you have any special food needs or allergies · If you want to stay at the hostel, indicate any roommate preferences, such as a specific person(s) or gender · Any other specific needs · If you’d be willing to moderate a panel

We’ll then send you details on where to send your registration fee (check or money order). And once you’re registered and have paid, we’ll send you more specific details on the location, schedule, and so on.


A limited number of partial scholarships are available to subsidize RAT conference fees for those with limited resources. We will do our best to offer assistance to those who need it. Please ask about this when registering.

These scholarships are made possible because of the generosity of other RAT participants. If you can afford to pay the higher end of our sliding-scale registration fee or want to donate more beyond that, we will pass along the extra funds to those needing financial aid to attend RAT.


If you are registering for RAT, you can also reserve a table. Tables are available for bookstores, publishers, infoshops, periodicals, and others selling literature/materials for a sliding scale of $25 to $50 per table; if you can afford the higher end or more, we’ll donate the extra to our scholarship fund. You must reserve and pay for a table in advance. Tables will also be available at no charge for free literature or other giveaway materials, although any donations to our scholarship fund are welcome. To reserve a table(s), please email: RATregister@gmail.com.


RAT will open for registration, tabling, and hostel check-in starting at around 4 p.m. on Friday, November 5, followed by two simultaneous panels that evening. Saturday, November 6 will consist of a full day of panels and then an evening dinner party, followed by more social time for those who like to stay up late. There will be more panels on Sunday, November 7, and RAT will wrap up with a closing discussion lasting until about 4 p.m. All participants and panelists should plan on attending the full conference, if at all possible, since RAT is meant as an extended and shared conversation. We will be using three of four spaces in close proximity to each other for meeting rooms, tabling, and meals—all within fairly easy walking, biking, shared ride, and public transit distance of each other. You should plan on arriving by or before 10 p.m. on Friday to be assured of your dorm room.


RAT panels this year will revolve around key questions; panelists will briefly respond to each question, primarily as a way to kick off conversations and debates among those present in the room. Given this new format, we hope that everyone attending RAT will review the questions in advance, and bring their own thoughts and answers to this critical exploration. As always, four panels will run concurrently on Saturday and Sunday.

Track 1: Capitalism

Session 1a: What shifts are taking place within capitalism right now? What theories best help us understand these changes, and see the possibilities for resistance, organizing, and the opening of new social spaces as well as the threat of new forms of social control and exploitation? How can the development of noncommodified culture contribute to alternative social relationships?

Session 1b: What nonhierarchical organizational forms are applicable to and up to the challenge of contesting capitalism as it exists today? How can such forms allow us to construct a dual power to the system of capitalism in its present state? What economic alternatives might, in the here and now, move us from a market to a moral economy?

Track 2: Policing, Prisons, and Domestic Security

Session 2a: What changes are currently taking place within the worlds of policing, prisons, and domestic security? What theoretical models allow us to understand these shifts, suggest effective forms of resistance and organizing, and help us cope with emerging forms of social control and oppression?

Session 2b: What types of nonhierarchical organizational forms are applicable to and up to the challenge of contesting the current system of policing and prisons? How can our organizing draw us into productive and equal relationships with communities disproportionately affected by incarceration and police brutality? How do we move from reactive protest to disbanding policing and ensuring self-organized safety/security?

Track 3: Militarism and Empire

Session 3a: What shifts are taking place in the global system of militarism and empire? How do these shifts relate to new forms of exploitation and social control? What do these geopolitical shifts suggest in terms of resistance, organizing, and openings for solidarity? In answering these questions, how do we take into consideration the conditions and contexts specific to different locations within the imperial system?

Session 3b: What types of nonhierarchical organizational forms are applicable to and up to the challenge of contesting and ultimately offering a dual power to current systems of militarism and empire? What political alternatives might, in the here and now, move us from states, supranational governing bodies, and the interstate system toward self-governing models? What do we understand by terms like sovereignty and self-determination?

Track 4: Environment

Session 4a: What shifts are taking place in terms of ecological crisis right now? How do these shifts relate to new forms of exploitation and social control? What do these shifts suggest in terms of resistance, organizing, and openings in the present context of environmental devastation?

Session 4b: What types of nonhierarchical organizational forms are applicable to the environmental movement as well as up to the challenge of contesting and ultimately offering a dual power to those forces that are destroying the planet and separating humans from the nonhuman world? How would a society based on anarchist principles resolve the ecological problems inherent in various aspects of the current system, from transportation to the food supply to energy production?

Track 5: Emerging Social Struggles and Movements

Session 5a: What shifts are taking place in relation to emergent social struggles and movements, both within progressive and leftist circles? What do these shifts suggest in terms of resistance, organizing, and openings as well as new forms of social control and injustice?

Session 5b: What lessons can we glean from recent work by antiauthoritarians around housing takeovers and cities from below, and what strategic dilemmas does such organizing raise? In what ways, if any, can the foreclosure crisis fundamentally challenge private property?

Session 5c: What lessons can we draw from recent anarchist involvement in indigenous movements as well as efforts to bring indigenous radicals and their issues into anarchist organizing?

Session 5d: What shifts in “social relations” are occurring in the context of the information age and social networking within radical movements and social struggles, in both generative and debilitating ways?

Track 6: Self-evaluation, Reflection, and Criticism: Looking at Recent Anarchist Activity

Session 6a: What are the recent lessons from convergences and protests over the past couple years in North America—specifically, the G20 in Pittsburgh and Toronto, the Olympics in Vancouver, the “occupy everything” wing of the student movement, the U.S. Social Forum, and the resurgence of insurrectionary tactics?

Session 6b: What challenges, tensions, and new understandings has the insurrectionist milieu brought to anarchism and movement-building notions recently? What ideological tensions exist between insurrectionary notions of social change and movement building, and in what ways can the theories complement or productively push each other?

Session 6c: As a thought experiment, what would we do, as anarchists, if we set aside street protests of all kinds as our strategy of resistance?

Session 6d: As a thought experiment, how would anarchists approach education, scholarship, and intellectual life without the current university structures? How do we build autonomous intellectual and educational institutions?

Session 6e: Given the need for anarchists to innovate and reinvent to ensure a necessary degree of dynamism in relation to movement building, aspirations, and strategies, how do we evaluate whether our strategies or tactics are working or NOT working, getting us closer to our aspirations/goals or NOT? How would a metric for success or failure function in elaborating movements, campaigns, projects, communities, and so on?

Track 7: Contemporary Currents in Place, Politics, and Identity

Session 7a: What does anarchism offer existing critical thought around race and racism? How does anarchist thought expand possibilities for meaningful solidarity with as well as free association and self-determination for colonized people, domestically and internationally? In what ways can anarchism be reshaped by the practice of these things?

Session 7b: What are the economic functions of immigration, immigration control, and borders? What are effective strategies for foregrounding these, and situating them within popular discourse around immigration? How might we actualize that shift?

Session 7c: What shifts are taking place right now related to queer politics, and what theories best help us understand these changes? What new questions, possibilities, and practices do these shifts suggest for alternative social relationships and new forms of radical queer politics?

Session 7d: What shifts are taking place right now related to gender and feminism, and what theories best help us understand these changes? What new questions, possibilities, and practices do these shifts suggest for alternative social relationships and new forms of gender/feminist politics?

Session 7e: What are the links between radical disability politics and anarchist organizing? What are the historical and current fissures related to eugenic thinking in anarchist? What is the healthy direction?


The IAS, a nonprofit foundation established in 1996 to support the development of anarchism, is a grant-giving organization for radical writers and translators worldwide. To date, we have funded some seventy projects by authors from countries around the world, including Argentina, Lebanon, Canada, Chile, Ireland, Nigeria, Germany, South Africa, and the United States. We also publish the online and print journal Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, organize the annual Renewing the Anarchist Tradition conference, offer the Mutual Aid Speakers List, and publish the Anarchist Interventions book series in collaboration with AK Press, and recently co-organized the New World from Below convergence at the U.S. Social Forum. The IAS is part of a larger movement to radically transform society as well. We are internally democratic and work in solidarity with people around the globe who share our values. For more on the IAS, see www.anarchiststudies.org.