Insurgent Learning and Convivial Research: Universidad de la Tierra, Califas

Manuel Callahan, San Jose
January 26, 2017

Insurgent Learning and Convivial Research: Universidad de la Tierra, Califas[1]

Knowledge production has increasingly become central to emancipatory projects. More and more people in struggle recognize the importance of learning and research as an essential part of movement and also an essential part of those moments of the future in the present across the globe. Alongside the serial protests and convergences of the 1990s and the occupations and assemblies of the 2000s there has been a keen interest in spaces of learning and research, often articulated into autonomous oppositional spaces, especially, but not limited to free, radical, and alternative “universities.”[2] These counter sites of inquiry and skill-share have been central to radical democratic oppositions to capitalism’s excesses, linking the reclaiming of knowledge commons and “vernacular values” of knowing with sustained confrontations against the most destructive forces of neoliberalism. Moreover, the proliferation of “convergence spaces,” or spaces of encounter, within this context along with spectacular advances in digital technologies has made “subaltern” and situated knowledge production more widely available.[3] The occupation of cyberspace as part of an “electronic fabric of struggle” has dramatically increased access, circulation, and archiving of large amounts of information while also encouraging more complex efforts of increased self-representation and self-determination against and beyond dominant systems.[4] The intersection of technological advances and increasingly autonomous political mobilization has therefore made knowledge production a more visible and necessary component of both alter-globalization and globalization from below, long before and after the Arab Spring, Indignados, and Occupy captured our imaginations.

Not surprisingly, the emergence of autonomous learning and research spaces coincides with a growing disaffection with formal education as an institutionalized, commodified process that sustains elites—those few who can possess and profit from a thing called “education”—and advances a colonial project. But it also has been increasingly recognized as a space of dressage that seeks to devalue and contain convivial practices, especially the everyday vernacular learning that sustains us.[5] People are suspicious of the low intensity education increasingly visible throughout the neoliberal, privatized educational system.[6] “Education” is, as Illich warned, the paradigmatic, overwrought industrial system and tool.[7]

What follows is a brief examination of Universidad de la Tierra (UT) Califas, an autonomous learning space rooted in the southern portion of the San Francisco Bay Area. We present UT Califas here as a convivial tool to examine both its strategy and practice in pursuing prefigurative, convivial, and networked pedagogies outside of the dominant educational system. Towards that end, we explore how UT Califas is animated by insurgent learning and convivial research—two moments of a prefigurative praxis oriented to rebuilding the social infrastructure of community, re-learning the habits of assembly, and fostering anti-capitalist social relations. The stress here is how spaces of insurgent learning and convivial research are efforts that can potentially unravel a capitalist social relation while at the same time encourage autonomous alternatives.[8] If we only focus our efforts on disrupting formal education as an industrial tool, we lose sight of other vernacular and oppositional knowledge practices and spaces of learning that could potentially undermine and eventually go beyond the authority of the subject/object relationship, the celebration of the individual, and imposition of capitalist command. Fundamental to our effort to critically claim insurgent learning and a convivial research approach is also to confront the epistemicide central to the West’s colonial project especially articulated through Western notions of progress, development, and civilization.[9]

UT Califas is not modeled after nor does it attempt to replicate or compete in any way with traditional, institutional educational projects such as the formal university organized around the classroom, seminar, conference, lecture hall, or institutional archive. UT Califas is not confined to any buildings, nor does a cumbersome bureaucracy constrict it. Its “architecture” does not require a physical space much less shelter a bureaucratic apparatus. Rather, UT Califas should be understood in the same way as the Aymara have deployed the “barracks” in their struggle for local autonomy which, according to Raúl Zibechi, “are social relationships: organizational forms based on collective decision-making and the obligatory rotation of duty, but in a militarized state or, in other words, adapted to cope with violent assault.”[10] UT Califas poses as a set of questions the challenge of learning from and through “dislocated spaces” and autonomous projects including and most especially those “societies in movement” associated with indigenous autonomy.[11]

As an alternative to a formal institutional space, UT Califas claims a social architecture that exists only when we convene. It can include, for example, a Center for Appropriat(ed) Technologies and a Language and Literacy Institute as well as occasional Theses Clinics when needed.[12] Our primary space of insurgent learning and convivial research is the ateneo.[13] We currently host a Democracy Ateneo and Fierce Care Ateneo.[14] When UT Califas does convene, it gathers deprofessionalized intellectuals, community-based researchers, local culture-bearers, and a wide variety of insurgent learners. As a prefigurative, convivial, and networked pedagogy UT Califas embodies a praxis of inquiry that claims the future in the present, hosting spaces that refuse to wait for a day when we can dismantle the dominant educational system.[15]

Temporary Autonomous Zones of Knowledge Production

To transcend the limits of bureaucratic structures, institutional sites, and professional identities, UT Califas’ strategically engages interconnected, diffused, and decolonized spaces, or Temporary Autonomous Zones of Knowledge Production (TAZKP).[16] As everyday spaces of prefigurative, networked, and convivial pedagogies, TAZKP refuse to impose a preordained or established structure for learning. TAZKP are open interconnected spaces that extend “the classroom,” celebrating collective strategies of knowledge production and inviting insurgent learners and convivial researchers to engage multiple sites of locally generated knowledges as part of an effort to regenerate community. TAZKP nurture a variety of oppositional knowledges through convivial processes that make it possible to co-generate knowledge, share information, provide support, build networks, coordinate resources, and strategize for direct action between a wide variety of constituencies. TAZKP reclaim public spaces as sites of situated and poetic knowledges in service of community renewal, taking advantage of how knowledge overflows formal and informal sites and projects. TAZKP can be very deliberate, strategically networked sites or simply spontaneous spaces. As on-going spaces of encounter for research, reflection, and action, TAZKP make possible a variety of political and intellectual itineraries by facilitating the convergence of different groups, projects, and networks.[17] TAZKP decolonize and deterritorialize formal, dominant institutional spaces by gathering public intellectuals, scholar activists, community-based researchers, and local culture bearers for the purpose of pursuing local questions. In short, the TAZKP is and encourages “relays.”[18] More importantly, the TAZKP can work as incubators for practices beyond capital and the state—a fragile learning space that actively encourages the re-conversion of nouns back into verbs.[19]

UT Califas subverts transmission pedagogies…by refusing to organize organizers, teach teachers, or train trainers who are authorized to bestow knowledge to “the community.”
As an unfinished effort, UT Califas has been imagined in relation to other emergent projects and situated sites of autonomous learning. It attempts to braid together a number of interconnected spaces of co-learning and skill sharing as part of a larger effort to “re-weave the social fabric” of a community. As a collective pedagogy, UT Califas engages established movement and capacity building projects, popular education spaces, and community based action research efforts to re-circulate the grassroots “technologies” and situated knowledges that address immediate, local struggles. Committed to getting beyond the non-profit industrial complex and the educational industrial complex, UT Califas converts diversity trainings into dialogues, employment hierarchies into shared, collective work projects, and service learning into networked community spaces that collectively address local struggles related to California’s changing demographics. More importantly, UT Califas subverts transmission pedagogies typical of traditional teaching and research institutions by refusing to organize organizers, teach teachers, or train trainers who are authorized to bestow knowledge to “the community.”

Refusing to limit learning to single “pedagogical events” typical of transmission strategies, network pedagogy celebrates learning in “the spaces of social networks, where individuals interact, desire, and configure ourselves every day.” Transductores, for example, reclaims the task of education by recognizing the interconnectedness of multiple agents, alternative media, and variety of institutions. Transductores disrupts the dominance of institutional and formal sites of privatized knowledge. Transductores decentralizes knowledge production by connecting a variety of agents, projects, and sites as well as links cultural processes with pedagogical ones. Thus, according to Javier Rodrigo Montero, a collective pedagogy is necessarily unpredictable, unstable, and irregular.[20]

Collective, networked, and convivial pedagogies are subversive and regenerative at once. UT Califas is committed to learning about how learning works especially drawing wisdom from communities of struggle organized around community regeneration, reciprocity, and balance. However, the effort implies a commitment to explore the challenges and opportunities that emanate from intercultural dialogues that are tenuous and not easily undertaken, especially in a context of a “democratic despotism” that has not yet been fully dismantled.[21] Thus, UT Califas is a cautious effort to engage the convivial praxis of the Indigenous autonomous movement especially its articulation at the Universidad de la Tierra “campuses” in Oaxaca, Chiapas, and, most recently, Puebla. UT Califas in the South Bay imagines a decentralized and diffused horizontal learning project as a cargo, or collectively entrusted obligation for community renewal that pursues research and learning projects organized as community determined tequios de investigación.[22] The challenge we face is how to pursue a collective pedagogy in urban, landless contexts with few cultural resources that can be called on to imagine a radically different social relation while also cultivating a studied reciprocity and sacred connection to place.

One example of a collective pedagogy that serves as a critical point of reference is comunalidad. Comunalidad, according to Jaime Martínez Luna, is “the epistemological notion that sustains an ancestral, yet still new and unique, civilizing process, one which holds back the decrepit individualization of knowledge, power, and culture.” Although it emerges out of a historical context of resistance to colonialism, internal colonialism, and neocolonialism, comunalidad, as Martínez explains, is a pedagogy that promotes harmony between individuals and the community and the community with the environment.[23]Comunalidad is a way of understanding life as being permeated with spirituality, symbolism, and a greater integration with nature. It is one way of understanding that human beings are not the center, but simply a part of this great natural world.”[24] A unique approach to collective pedagogy, comunalidad shifts the focus from education as the domain to prepare individuals contained within the discursive formations of progress and development to an emphasis on community regeneration that stresses the value of reciprocity and rootedness. A collective pedagogy that results from a more complex process of community regeneration claims a variety of cultural and social resources committed to community renewal. Thus, comunalidad creates a context for knowledge sharing that is integral and dialogic.[25] It fully decolonizes education.

TAZKP politicize “traditional” cultural practices and spaces by converting them into active deliberate spaces of knowledge production. In the case of UT Califas four cultural practices, including tertulia, ateneo, mitote, and coyuntura, have been reclaimed/reinvented as part of a larger autonomous praxis. Although each reclaimed cultural practice is subject to shifting meanings given the variety of class, gender, and race tensions peculiar to specific gatherings as well as the contexts in which each is convened, together these cultural practices function as open spaces of encounter organized for grassroots knowledge production appropriate for the specific context or network of projects and spaces that it articulates. In keeping with a convivial itinerary, each cultural practice reclaims and politicizes the code that narrates it by redeploying it for political uses.

The most public and less formal, the tertulia politicizes regular local gatherings often common to barrios as sites to generate and archive local histories of struggle.[26] Tertulias that achieve a more political focus, as we are suggesting here, can operate as Virtual Centers, meaning they can parallel the research efforts of more sophisticated elite “Research Centers” or “Think Tanks” without the costs or infrastructure. Thus, a consistent and accessible tertulia is a site of knowledge production where community members can develop projects, coordinate activities, facilitate networks, share resources, and promote research. Often criminalized in the popular consciousness, the mitote works as a reclaimed public space of celebration convened to generate poetic knowledges that privilege arts, dance, and embodied research.[27] We deploy the ateneo not as a space typical of the academy such as an advanced seminar, conference, workshop, plenary, or research cluster, but to insist on it as an open, diffuse space that can facilitate locally generated investigations that address specific situations in the community. As a space that allows us to gather as a diverse situated community, it potentially transcends bureaucratic structures and professional identities to promote reflection and action. The coyuntura draws from the popular education practices inspired by the work of Paulo Friere and Ivan Illich, encouraging participants to generate new tools and language for struggle as they collectively engage a series of activities and reflection and action spaces.[28]

As spaces that reclaim commons, regenerate community, and facilitate intercultural and intergenerational dialogues, tertulias, mitotes, ateneos, and coyunturas construct a complex and distributed “grassroots think tank” while also potentially re-generating the social infrastructure of community and at times relearning the habits of assembly.

It is important to note that all of the interconnected spaces work together to form something of a de-compression chamber, an in-between space that links “the community” with the non-profit and educational industrial complexes without being subsumed by bureaucratic exigencies, institutional agendas, or careerist demands. The decompression chamber constructed by the community architecture of interconnected spaces is an experimental space that explores various efforts at deprofessionalization, cultural regeneration, and social re-weaving. Ultimately it forms something of an “institution of the commons.” “These should not be thought of as ‘happy islands,’ or free communities sealed off from exploitative relationships,” explains Gigi Roggero. “Indeed, there is no longer an outside within contemporary capitalism. The institutions of the common are the autonomous organization of living knowledge, the reappropriation of social wealth, and the liberation of the powerful forces frozen in the threadbare dialectic between public and private: black studies since the 1960s and the contemporary experiences of autonomous education, or self-education.”[29]

Facilitation: Practice, Art, and Technology

Autonomous learning spaces are not without their challenges and, disappointingly, oppositions. Taking seriously Jorge Gonzalez’s admonishment, that “the way we organize ourselves to produce knowledge determines the knowledge we produce,” we recognize the challenge in pursuing prefigurative, convivial, and networked pedagogies that anticipate the relation between strategies of knowledge production and the production of social relations, underscoring that a collective pedagogy is always contingent and emergent.[30]

The prefigurative, networked, and convivial pedagogies that define many autonomous learning spaces, either implicitly or explicitly, address the question of facilitation. By facilitation we mean the concern about the impact of power, or better put, how power works in and through a space and the relations defined by it. On a practical level autonomous learning spaces must find a way to manage how knowledge is co-generated, new knowledge is accessible, and different, often competing knowledges archived within a context of power. Knowledge is always a graph of struggle reflecting what ways of knowing are celebrated and which epistemologies are vulnerable to marginalization in specific contexts. A space that treats knowledge as essential to the construction of a new relation must necessarily avoid the “explaining expert” and abandon any vestiges of “teaching” where the presumption is that one person or group possesses knowledge as a commodity that others do not have. The critical challenge is how to introduce new knowledges that might be familiar to a community or group, the vernacular knowledges that sustain it, and to establish some consistency in a process that makes the co-generation of new knowledges possible. Thus, the purpose of taking facilitation seriously is simply to find a path to collective or shared learning, not to insure that one claim of knowing dominates another.

A politically engaged facilitation approach should contribute to the overall effort to establish the learning space as a radically democratic space. A facilitation approach that addresses the challenges above is one that accounts for at least three dimensions of any organic effort that seeks to insure a space is horizontal and the learning is therefore shared. Towards that end we imagine facilitation as engaging three critical dimensions: practice, art, and technology.

Facilitation as practice attends to the basic focus of all facilitation efforts that have become increasingly common of group work in the business and non-profit world. In other words, the facilitation should make possible the participation of everyone present and take seriously the contributions each participant might make in the overall project. Both business and group-process “models” stress the importance of recording the process so the group or community has a sense of its achievements especially the goals and collective genius that the group claims. Unfortunately, while the practice of facilitation is necessary it is often undertaken from above, a responsibility perceived to be onerous and therefore left to often self-selected individuals or cabals to guide, direct, and impose the ideas that the group or community eventually claim through a regimented process of directed activity and acquiescence.

More complicated is facilitation as “art.” When we engage facilitation as “art” we often attend to critical, if often overlooked, elements of facilitation. Especially important is the challenge of reflecting back to the group the knowledge the group already claims as well as the new knowledge being generated. Equally important is the need to visualize the group’s process, documenting the group’s creative energy. More complicated still is the task of introducing new ideas or anticipating emergent questions not fully claimed by the group.

An innovative approach to facilitation that addresses some of the challenges listed above claims facilitation as technology. Defined very broadly technology includes any appropriate knowledge useful for a specific set of tasks. Tools are most useful when they emerge from collective processes addressing what works locally. Given that technology emerges from collective processes it necessarily is also a contested process.

Thus, we approach facilitation as modular. In this way, facilitation can be reduced to its essential elements, and once made explicit all of the required tasks of facilitation can be taken up by members of the group with each learning how to fulfill each task. Moreover, the tasks can be rotated, ensuring that everyone is familiar with all aspects of what would quickly become a shared facilitation. In addition, each task clearly delineated and taken up by members of the group on a rotating basis encourages the entire group to monitor the process ensuring that all tasks of the facilitation have been executed as agreed. Thus, not only is the facilitation fully shared and horizontal, but it provides a built-in assessment strategy where the assessment is horizontal, collective, and constant.

One tool in particular that UT Califas deploys to address facilitation as practice, art, and technology is the “agreement.” As a convivial tool, agreements allow the group to fully determine all aspects of the facilitation apparatus from the outset as well as allowing everyone access to change any portion of the process if necessary. Agreements can include the bundle of agreements associated with respectful, engaged listening and sharing, as well as more specific agreements such as producing summaries. More importantly, an agreement can include, for example, an agreement to organize the learning around questions. Generating questions can work as an assessment device to determine, paraphrasing C.L.R. James, what the group already knows, what it wants to do, and what it hopes for.[31] 

How will our efforts towards social justice be in harmony with a fragile, if not debilitated planet if not through investigation?


In the recently published Keywords for Radicals one notices no entry for pedagogy or even learning. Also missing is convivial or conviviality.[32] The omission in an otherwise brilliant tome is revealing. While the authors suggest that words are sites that map struggle, in leaving out learning, or by extension pedagogy, they expose a critical challenge at a decisive moment in history. That is the risk we face in not accounting for learning as part of our explorations beyond the current system. How else are we going to claim or live in the present moment—one where, as the Zapatistas say, many worlds fit—if not through learning? How will our efforts towards social justice be in harmony with a fragile, if not debilitated planet if not through investigation? We must, as the Zapatistas recommend, learn how to learn. The global north must learn to learn from the global south and we must learn to learn from each other or we will consume our planet to extinction. How do we escape a commodity economy and the excesses of the modern state in its service without a praxis of inquiry? What is the pedagogy of justice in the current conjuncture where more and more of us recognize the future in the present? In a social setting dominated by industrial tools, convivial knowledge practices in service of community regeneration must be re-learned to be reclaimed.

[1] The Universidad de la Tierra Califas can be accessed through the web page at <>. UT Califas is supported by the Center for Convivial Research and Autonomy <>. The Convivial Research and Insurgent Learning taller <> is a web constellation of tools and resources associated with CCRA and UT Califas.

[2] There are several examples of “autonomous” or “alternative” spaces of learning associated with direct action and movement spaces. See, for example, Undercommoning <>.

[3] For a discussion of spaces of encounter as part of a Zapatista praxis, see Manuel Callahan, “Why Not Share a Dream,” Humboldt Journal of Social Relations 29: 1 (2005): 6–38.

[4] Harry Cleaver, “Circuits of Struggle?” Political Economy of Communication 4:1 (2016): 3–34.

[5] For a discussion of vernacular knowledges, see Ivan Illich, “Vernacular Values,” Philosophica 26:2 (1980): 47–102.

[6] We define low intensity education as a state strategy to invest as little as possible in education in order to minimize cost in material and personnel while creating a system of artificial inequality through a privatized knowledge that creates an artificial meritocracy at the same time that it maximizes social control.

[7] Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society (London: Marion Boyars, 2002); Ivan Illich, Tools for Conviviality (London: Marion Boyars, 2009).

[8] One of the most provocative and consistent insurgent learning and convivial research projects is the Zapatismo put forward by the EZLN and the Zapatista base communities. By insurgent learning we refer to a praxis that imagines learning as a central element of radical democratic praxis, facilitating active spaces of transformation for participants in alternative political sites. On a practical level, insurgent learning undermines low intensity education through explicit, horizontal practices that reclaim everyday spaces of learning. It also introduces complex processes of communal regeneration. Most importantly, it mobilizes learning as an essential part of an on-going effort to ensure that an emerging community is sufficiently informed and prepared to engage in collective decision-making. By convivial research we mean a collective investigative approach that refuses to objectify communities of struggle, engages multiple sites of knowledge production, generates new strategic, conceptual tools, and promotes what the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) calls “direct action casework” as part of an on-going process of community regeneration. Emerging from a renewed commitment to participatory, horizontal, and strategic approaches to knowledge production, convivial research prioritizes the intersection between engaged research, insurgent learning, and direct action as a fundamental dimension of a radical democratic praxis.

[9] Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Epistemologies of the South: Justice Against Epistemicide (Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2014).

[10] Raúl Zibechi, Dispersing Power: Social Movements as Anti-state Forces (Oakland: AK Press, 2010): 53–55.

[11] UT Califas is an extension Universidad de la Tierra Oaxaca and owes much to that “campus” as well as the other Universidad de la Tierras in Chiapas, Puebla, and Toronto.

[12] The Center for Appropriate(d) Technologies promotes the generating and sharing of a wide variety of strategic, community-oriented technologies, or convivial tools. The Language and Literacies Institute treats language very broadly, making sure not to privilege dominant forms of communication mostly associated with Western imperial languages. Convivial language and literacy projects provide critical opportunities to further the analysis of local issues through communication skills and a wide-variety of “reading” tools used to decode different literatures, shifting conjunctures, and emerging socio-political formations. Each tool is designed to assist in making autonomous praxis more legible. The Theses Clinic supports compañ[email protected] who are strategically producing formal research products, such as theses or dissertations, for official programs. The “clinic” provides a horizontal, collective space that encourages researchers to treat the afflictions of empiricism and positivism. Long-term participants as well as “drop-ins” at the “clinic” can access a variety of tools that can “inoculate” researchers and prevent the potential spread of elite claims to professionalized authority and practices that objectify communities of struggle. Various collaborations and collective research projects will help decontaminate more formal university projects by making available locally situated convivial community-based knowledge production “technologies.”

[13] The deployment of an ateneo as a strategy of oppositional learning and research has a long history especially associated with the Spanish anarchist community of the late 19th century. The rise of the alterglobalization struggle, or “movement of movements,” has witnessed a resurgence of “worker” organized research projects and learning spaces. Many of these new uses of the ateneo have drawn from the success of the horizontal autonomous practices associated with the social centers and the okupas active across Spain since the 1980s.

[14] The Democracy Ateneo based in San Jose is an open space for reflection and action that interrogates the vexed and incomplete project of democratic promise. The learning space is animated by four critical themes: a) projects that attempt to democratize mainstream liberal institutions in the areas of learning, community wellness, food, and community safety; b) autonomous alternatives to traditional, representative democracy such as the Zapatista struggle and their critique of the party-state system, the analysis of the Fourth World War, and their experimentation with a politics of encounter; c) projects that have undermined democratic promise historically and politically including, for example, slavery, democratic despotism, development, neoliberalism, militarized policing, low intensity war, and (global) prison industrial complex; and d) the strategies, practices, and diverse formations that promote the production of collective subjects. In addition, starting from our oppositions we recognize the consistent struggle over care. For us the notion of “fierce care” is a concept that evokes the number of strategies that emerge in and through the social factory in opposition to the multiple, intersecting violences of capital. Our goal is to make more visible how capital and the state privatize care that, according to Precarias a la Deriva, manifests through externalization of the home, privatization of public space, destruction of the social wage, and the disciplining of desire. “Fierce care” not only exposes the violence of capital as it seeks to both privatize and militarize operations of care, it reveals the convivial practices and related tools of care that are often outside of the rhythms of capitalist reproduction. We hope to learn, for example, from the efforts by mothers and families to end police violence and the militarized policing and carceral apparatus currently directed at historically marginalized communities throughout the Americas. Or, how Indigenous communities are able to become the focal point of resistances against extractivist mining concerns. Or, how space, including urban space, can be reclaimed through collective action. In recent years and in response to various struggles and conditions, we have also convened an Insurgent Knowledges Ateneo (San Francisco) and a Social Factory Ateneo (Oakland).

[15] For a critical discussion of the politics of hosting, see Gustavo Esteva, “Hosting the Otherness of the Other,” in Frederique Appfel-Marglin and Stephen Marglin, eds., Decolonizing Knowledge: From Development to Dialogue (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996): 249–278.

[16] Following Hakim Bey, the one most associated with the term “temporary autonomous zone,” I am hesitant to define the full concept suggested here agreeing with Bey that, “in the end the TAZ is almost self-explanatory.” However, the TAZ, warns Bey, is not an exclusive end in itself, replacing all other forms of organization, tactics, and goals.” The TAZ is like an uprising which does not engage directly with the State, a guerrilla operation which liberates an area (of land, of time, of imagination) then dissolves itself to re-form elsewhere/elsewhen, before the state can crush it. Because the State is concerned primarily with Simulation rather than substance, the TAZ can ‘occupy’ these areas clandestinely and carry on its festal purposes for a quite a while in relative peace.” According to Bey, “we recommend it because it can provide the quality of enhancement associated with the uprising without necessarily leading to violence and martyrdom.” Hakim Bey, T.A.Z. The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism (New York: Autonomedia, 1991): 98–101.

[17] Rodrigo Montero, “Collective Pedagogies as Networked Activity: Possible Itineraries” in Transducers: Collective Pedagogies and Spatial Politics (2009): 242.

[18] Michel Foucault, “Intellectuals and Power” in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977): 206.

[19] Illich, Tools for Conviviality (1990): 39. See also, Raúl Sánchez Cedillo, “Towards New Political Creations: Movements, Institutions, New Militancy,” Translated by Maribel Casas-Cortés and Sebastian Cobarrubias. Accessed from <> on August 24, 2009. Universidad Nómada, “Mental Prototypes and Monster Institutions: Some Notes by Way of an Introduction,” Translated by Nuria Rodríguez. Accessed from <> on August 2009.

[20] Montero, “Collective Pedagogies as Networked Activity,” p. 242

[21] W.E.B Du Bois, “African Roots of War,” Atlantic Monthly 115:5 (May 1915): 709. In his opposition to World War I, Du Bois argued that American capital and labor conspired to advance U.S. interests with a pay-off to white workers who would enjoy a slightly better wage, access to consumer goods, and a modicum of leisure time. This bargain, according to Du Bois, was necessarily managed through war, or permanent war, as part of a larger design to despoil Black and Brown workers abroad and at home to maintain an American lifestyle. Du Bois’ theorization in many ways predates analysis attributed to Autonomist Marxists and others who point out the bargains made between the working class and capital. In this regard, Autonomists argue for the need to examine capital through compositions to make more visible the resistances of the working class as well as the official organizations that represent and attempt to contain working class insurgency, the sectors that potentially divide it, and the capitalist initiatives that seek to control it and exploit the divisions fostered within it.

[22] By cargo we mean collectively community determined, entrusted obligation for community renewal. A tequio, on the other hand, refers to a community defined work project. For a discussion of cargo and tequio in the context of comunalidad, see Jaime Martínez Luna, “The Fourth Principle,” in Lois Meyer and Benjamín Maldonado Alvarado, eds., New World of Indigenous Resistance (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2010): 85–100.

[23] According to Jaime Martínez Luna and others, the resistance that defines original peoples is one that has at times incorporated key elements of dominating forces reinventing and mitigating their most corrosive effects.

[24] Jaime Martínez Luna, “The Fourth Principle” in New World of Indigenous Resistance (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2012): 86, 93–94.

[25] Jorge N. Ferrer, “Dialogic Inquiry as Spiritual Practice,” Tikkun 18:1 (2003): 29–32

[26] A tertulia refers to neighbors who gather at an accessible public space, such as a pub or coffee house, to share news and information that affect the community.

[27] Mitote is a signifier originally used by the Spanish during the “age of discovery” of the Americas to criminalize Indigenous resistance. Initially the term signified what were perceived to be sinister gatherings of debauchery and excess assumed to be the result of the free use of intoxicants. The celebration and declarations, to the Spanish, must have confirmed their worst fears of an Indigenous disposition to subversion and the constant worry of revolt. In this instance, the term has been re-appropriated as a category of analysis, strategic practice, and a political objective. In this sense the term refers to a “clandestine” gathering marked by ritualized celebration and sharing of knowledge between generations for community renewal. As strategic sites of insurgent learning, mitotes operate as spaces of encounter in service of complex, emergent strategies of rebellion and autonomous political formation.

[28] Throughout we rely on coyuntura, or conjunctural analysis, as a foundation to co-generate strategic knowledges and develop plans of action. We approach coyuntura as a category of analysis, a space for epistemological rupture, and as a space to actively produce new knowledges. Inspired by the intersections of critical pedagogy and liberation theology in Latin America during the 70s and 80s, coyuntura links research, analysis, reflection, action, and community empowerment by encouraging participants to name, define, narrate, and act on the struggle that impacts them in the current conjuncture, or what Gustavo Castro calls the “amplified present.” Thus, coyuntura as a collective, horizontal practice of knowledge production exposes the competing strategies of opposing forces composed of key agents, projects, networks, and alliances. Not surprisingly, as an approach to analysis, coyuntura draws heavily on the major theoretical advances of various “marxisms” and “post-marxisms” to illuminate the intersections between structural and cultural forces operating in economic, political, social, and cultural contexts over time. Coyuntura can also refer to a gathering convened for the purpose of producing new knowledges by first generating an epistemological rupture—exposing the views, attitudes, values, and concepts that are taken for granted and prevent a group from arriving at an agreed plan of action. Making a collective’s diverse, complex, and situated resources available often requires not only exposing the “common sense” but also revealing the sedimented technological expertise or those taken-for-granted concepts that can prevent a group from listening to one another, arriving at a shared analysis, and constructing new tools to solve local, immediate problems. For the most thorough treatment of coyuntura as praxis, see Gustavo Castro Soto y Enrique Valencia Lomelí, Metodologia de Analisis de Coyuntura vols. 1–10 (México: Servicio Jesuita a Refugiados-México y Servicio Informativos Procesados, A.C., 1995).

[29] Gigi Roggero, Production of Living Knowledge: The Crisis of the University and the Transformation of Labor in Europe and North America (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2011): 9.

[30] Jorge A. González, José Amozurrutia y Margarita Maass, [email protected] e iniciación en la investigación: Por una cultura de Conocimiento (México: UNAM-CEIICH, el Instituto Mexiquense de Cultura y el CONACULTA, 2007).

[31] C.L.R. James, “Black Power,” in Anna Grimshaw, ed., The C.L.R James Reader, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992): 362–374.

[32] Kelly Fritsch, Clare O’Connor, and AK Thompson, Keywords for Radicals: The Contested Vocabulary of Late-Capitalist Struggle (Oakland: AK Press, 2016).

Manuel Callahan

Manuel Callahan

Manuel Callahan is an insurgent learner and convivial researcher with the Center for Convivial Research and Autonomy. He also participates in the Universidad de la Tierra Califas when he is not working for the Mexican American Studies Department at San Jose State University.

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