The Cases of Rojava, Chiapas and Cherán
Seminar, Friday 30 April at 2 – 3.30 pm via Zoom
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Dr. Hanifi Baris
Dr Baris will present the results of the first 18 months of his Leverhulme Fellowship on experiments of council democracy launched by Kurdish movements in Turkey and Syria, and two indigenous movements, the Zapatistas and the town of Cheran, in Mexico. Despite important differences, what these movements share is that they invoke ancestral/communal forms of sovereignty but make no claim to independence. On the contrary, they seek to reconcile their aspirations with the Turkish, Syrian and Mexican constitutions. Nevertheless, the councils and assemblies set up by these movements appear to claim ultimate authority over public affairs within territories that constitute residential communities such as villages, neighbourhoods, towns and cities. Therefore, autonomy based on councils appears to be at odds with the principles of parliamentary sovereignty.
Scholars have defined these experiments as stateless democracy and/or radical democracy. In this project, Dr Baris considers further aspects of the politics of these movements: where did these models of autonomy come from? Do they introduce novel forms of government or are they projections of ancient and ancestral forms of self-rule? What implications do these models have with regard to autonomy and sovereignty? How can we reconcile them with the constitutions of the nation-states that host these movements? What appear to be their strengths and weaknesses in practice?
Council democracy in these cases is conceived as a form of government alternative to representative democracy: citizens participate in political decision-making processes directly via convening in local councils and assemblies. Dr Baris describes these experiments as council autonomy and aims to compare them with one another as well as with the council system outlined theoretically by Hannah Arendt and her predecessors, including Jewish experiments of anarchist communities, the kibbutzim, as well as the project of Mediterranean Federated States developed by Judah Leon Magnes.
Dr Baris will also dwell on the strengths and limitations of council democracy in theory and in practice and will use case studies to develop and contribute to political theory.