Robert Kramm (Chair of the panel)

Global Histories of Anarchism: Communal Life, Concepts, and Education Between Asia, Europe and Russia in the 19th and 20th Century


Anarchism has been and still is a global phenomenon. Libertarian ideas have been a driving force—both theoretically and in action—for the imaginary and actual building of a better society. They conceptualize people living together in peace and individual freedom, working cooperatively, and being bound together not by coercion, but by commitment and mutually shared interest. Anarchists and other radical thinkers and activists significantly enriched theoretical debates on the human condition, agency and social organization, and they actively created communal and educational projects all around the world. Particularly prominent since the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, these projects included, among many others, the Paris Commune, syndicalist federations, Tolstoian communes as well as the kibbutzim movement. Yet, until today, the rich history of anarchism is too often overlooked, limited to Eurocentric perspectives, or simply portrayed as a history of violence, naïve idealism, and/or failure.
This panel, on the contrary, demonstrates that anarchism developed highly sophisticated thought and successful lived experience, which have always transgressed regional, national and imperial boundaries. The multiregional panel Global Histories of Anarchism brings narratives on late nineteenth and twentieth-century anarchism from different world regions and historical periods into conversation. Its papers will cover a variety of actors, communities and networks in and between Asia, Africa and Europe, Israel/Palestine, Russia and the United States. They will discuss how anarchist and other radical circles conceptualized, overcame and struggled with (state) power, authority and hierarchy. Analyzing anarchism from a global history perspective thus enables us to approach the interplay of diversity, difference, and similarity in the modern world, and at the same time make visible manifold forms of trans-local, trans-imperial, and indeed world-spanning connections.

Robert Kramm (München)
Radical Utopian Communities: Japan, Jamaica, South Africa

At the turn of the twentieth century, radical utopian communities were built all around the world. They served as retreats but also as hubs for anarchists and other radical thinkers and activists. This paper analyzes them as marginalized yet key places in order to dissect transcultural and trans-imperial entanglements of people and knowledge in the modern world. It builds on a deliberately diverse set of case studies, including the Nōson Seinen Sha’s anarchist commune in imperial Japan, the Rastafarian Pinnacle Commune on Jamaica, and the Tolstoy Farm in South Africa to demonstrate the global scale of communal living.

Shakhar Rahav (Haifa)
“Realizing a New Life”: Comparing Communes in Post-WWI Asia

After WWI, activists worldwide exhibited great interest in forms of communal life and founded various experiments in shared living. Many of them were driven by utopian visions in founding small communities to realize these ideals, yet they were also forced to contend with the constraints of reality—finding viable means of income, coping with intra-communal social life, and negotiating the relationship with the societies in which they were embedded. This paper compares the attempts to reconcile ideals and reality in everyday life in several such experiments, focusing on the Garden of Morning Light and the Work Study Mutual Aid Corps in China, and the Kibbutz movement in Palestine.

Yotam Ronen (Vancouver)
Anarchist Education: Between Ideology and Educational Practice

Anarchist education enables to examine the interplay between ideology and educational practice. Anarchist intellectuals saw in education an important avenue for revolutionary action, and they created educational projects that aimed at instilling anarchist values in learners as precursors to a global anarchist revolution, yet with local variations. This paper uses examples from two anarchist educational projects – the Ferrer School of New York (1910-1915) and the Overseas Chinese Workers’ School in Paris (1916-1918) to examine the interplay between universalist anarchist theory, local contingencies and educational practice.

Ana Maria Spariosu (Florenz)
Alternative Communal Living: Non-urban Experiments in Russia and Italy

Non-urban communities have been mushrooming in reaction to modernization and globalization and its effects of increased social inequality, destruction of local traditions, exhaustion of natural resources, pollution and climate change. This paper provides a comparison of non-urban communities, also known as Ecovillages, located in 1960s-1980s Italy and post-Soviet Russia. Despite the communities’ cultural and historical specificities, they nevertheless demonstrate surprising similarities, including a return to local production, a striving for self-sufficiency, a re-examination of the relationship between humans and nature, and a desire for small-scale and alternative forms of governance.

Pascale Siegrist (London)