Wenner Grenn Foundation 2020

Wenner Grenn Foundation 2020


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Workshop Title:

Requested Funding:

(maximum $5,000) US$. List only the amount requested from Wenner-Gren Foundation. Please do not use commas. Input as 5000 for maximum.

4600 US$

Please provide an abstract of the workshop's aim and scope.

(This should be a general description of your proposal in language that an interested layperson could understand. If your application is successful, we will post this abstract on the Foundation's website.) - 220 words

This workshop is mainly oriented to alternative collective projects by social organizations and activist groups seeking to enhance the autonomy of their communicational processes within and among the networks of which they are part. The proposed approach combines theoretical-political reflection on autonomy, pluriversal transitions, and ontological politics, on the one hand, with a practical approach centered on the design of autonomous communication processes anchored on “convivial tools”.

The workshop will focus on a series of specific problems that unfold in the field of communication when approached from an autonomous perspective. In the initial part, a series of readings and bibliographical materials will be provided, from anthropological and other theoretic-political perspectives, enabling a process that goes beyond merely practical or technocratic approaches. The second part focuses on the practical dimensions, and it will develop in two ways: [a] the provision of digital tools for alternative grassroots approaches, adapted to a convivial perspective (based on technologies provided by the hacker movement, free software, open-source, non-corporate protocols and open standards); [b] dialogue, exchange, and reflection among the participating groups and with other projects/groups with substantial experience on the tools in question, to be specially invited to the conversation for this purpose.

Please include the Workshop Dates:

  • Start Date: 01/12/20
  • End Date: 31/02/21

Please list the workshop country location(s).

(Briefly offer reasons for this selection.)

This will an international virtual workshop with participants from all parts of the world, mainly from the Global South and connected with the networks and allies of the Global TapestryThe weaving of networks of Alternatives of Alternatives.

Who will administer the workshop?

(Please indicate if this is an individual or an institution.)


Who will handle the disbursement of funds?

Unitierra Oaxaca (México) and the Global Tapestry of Alternatives

Please describe the sponsoring institution or organization and outline its role

The University of the Earth (Unitierra) in Oaxaca was established in 2001. Unitierra is a space, an organization and a network of learning, study, reflection, and action. Is an initiative that facilitates access to learning for all those for whom school is not an adequate place for learing. The model was heavily influenced by the work and thought of Paul Goodman, John Holt, Gustavo Esteva, and Ivan Illich.
 Unitierra provides the legal and formal structure to manage the funds. More about Unitierra: https://unitierraoax.org/english/

The organization of the workshop will be taken by the Global Tapestry of Alternatives (GTAGlobal Tapestry of Alternatives). It is an initiative seeking to create solidarity networks and strategic alliances amongst all these alternatives on local, regional and global levels. It locates itself in or helps initiate interactions among alternatives. More about GTA: https://globaltapestryofalternatives.org/introduction

What other sources of aid have you received or requested for this workshop?

(Please list the source(s), the items covered, and the amount of funding.)


Have you ever received a Wenner-Gren Foundation grant?


Workshop Description Question 1:

What is the rationale for the workshop? What are your aims and objectives in holding the event? Address the current status of research on the topic and theme, the particular need for a workshop at this time and with these participants, and the meeting's potential contribution to anthropology. Also, please help describe the international scope of your proposed workshop by detailing the number of participants you plan to invite along with their geographic location. (Maximum 500 words.)

The workshop rationale stems from the following hypothesis: that there is a growing convergence between the activist intellectual-political field of transformative alternatives to the dominant socio-economic and cultural arrangements, on the one hand, and certain salient anthropological concerns seeking to problematize anew the dualisms between humans and nonhumans (the anthropocentric divide) and between the West and its others (the colonial divide), on the other. In terms of the first field, activist-intellectuals (including many anthropologists) have advanced significantly in conceptualizing the character of genuinely transformative initiatives, meaning those which go beyond reformist reforms (e.g., “sustainable development,” “green economy”) to incorporate anti-systemic features in relation to patriarchal capitalism and anthropocentrism. As they attempt to dismantle hierarchies, assuming the principles of sufficiency and autonomy, these alternatives are breaking with dominant regimes and taking a new path, contributing to create new worlds guided by the paradigm of care for life and new ways of understanding autonomy, territoriality, and the communal. We will focus on those collectives, organizations, or social movements enacting transformative ontological politics, i.e., those mobilizing for the defense of ways of being and doing based on the premise of the inter-dependence of all that exists. These alternatives enhance a post-development pluriverse (Kothari et al., 2018), or, in anthropological parlance, “a world of many worlds” (de la Cadena and Blaser, eds. 2019).

While the anthropological subfield that most clearly addresses simultaneously the anthropocentric and colonial divides is political ontology –(Blaser 2013, 2016; de la Cadena 2015; Escobar 2018; de la Cadena and Blaser, eds. 2019)–, our project is also informed by several related trends, including the anthropology of the “more than human” (e.g., Ingold 2011; Tsing 2015; Puig de la Bellacasa 2017); pluriversal and postdevelopment studies (e.g., Kothari et al, eds. 2018; Klein and Morreo, eds. 2019; Escobar 2020); new Latin American approaches to autonomy and the communal (e.g., Gutiérrez 2018); and ontologically-oriented design (e.g., Fry 2012; Escobar 2018; Manzini 2019; Murphy and Wilf, eds. forthcoming; and Corsín, forthcoming, on the use by cultural activists of free and open-source ideas and tools to contest urban space). We find a hopeful convergence between anthropological and activist practices: while the former, in their appeal to ontology and the more-than-human worlds, have made huge strides in questioning the dualist ways of constructing worlds, most of their insights have remained highly abstract, and are yet to seep into actual rewording practices; conversely, while activist groups are decidedly engaged in such practices, and proposing theoretical innovations of their own that could enrich anthropological reflections, they could benefit from engaging with anthropological debates. Our workshop will be situated within this conjuncture. The mediating variable will be those communications tools and practices that could enhance not only the autonomy of the alternatives but also the groups’ ability to convey their work both to fellow travelers (thus contributing to one of the most crucial theoretical-political questions at present in the social movement field, namely, how to foster confluences among transformative alternatives), but also to anthropological and other academic audiences.

Workshop Description Question 2

What are the specific topics to be discussed? (Maximum 500 words.)

The workshop will provide a space to discuss the adaptation of communication tools for use by communities engaged in transformative alternatives (Illich, 1972). We see this goal as an important step in the design of such alternatives from the perspective of the communities' specific ontologies. In fact, we suggest that communication tools themselves stem from particular ontologies. Dominant tools have been designed from a dualist ontology of subject/object; designer/client; producer/user; emitter/receiver; and so forth. This pre-structures communicational dynamics and logic. Grassroots collectives and groups engaged in transformative alternatives use these tools without realizing the limitations on their autonomy stemming from the use of a medium that has embedded within it a universalizing ontology, that which supports and reproduces the idea of a “One-World world,” or a world where only one world fits (Law 2015).

The proposed workshop contemplates three objectives/actions:

  • Promote understanding and reflection on autonomous communications and the nature of transformative alternatives from theoretical perspectives such as “decoloniality”, “pluriverse”, and “political ontology” (Blaser, de la Cadena y Escobar, 2013)
  • Review and adapt existing community-based tools for use in the design of new autonomous communication processes by the participating groups
  • Carry out an exchange of concrete experiences of autonomous communication, led by groups that are already traveling that path.

The workshop will consist of 6 modules: 1 about the general approach and 5 on specific perspectives, including the following:

  • Online autonomous communication in the context of ontological politics: strategies and tools to establish autonomous communication channels into collective processes. We will seek to have convivial, open and safe tools integrating designs for synchronous conversation in text, video and audio. The focus will be on alternatives based on p2p models, privacy control and cryptographic security.
  • Open digital collaboration and action-oriented tools: design of collaborative processes and workflows to improve the internal organization of collective processes. Tools for project and task management, goal planning and process self-organization.
  • Archiving, memory and sharing collective learning: construction of repositories of knowledge to document one's experience and reflection on the practice of collective processes. Techniques and tools to enable the collective construction of learning based on reflection on group's own practices. The need to design processes in response to the challenge of preserving the collective memory in times of digital and ephemeral predominance.
  • Mass dissemination and alternatives to digital corporate social media: tools to build autonomous alternatives for the construction of networks and mass communication. The management of own databases in a secure way, the use of distributed technologies of great scope, such as email, the importance of protocols and independent social networks. The integration and strategic use of hegemonic platforms and mainstream social media (like Google, Facebook, YouTube and others).
  • Communal governance of infrastructures: the knowledge, experiences and techniques for the creation of autonomous physical infrastructures and community management of distributed networks. Low-cost technologies and adaptation of devices for generating self-managed communicational tissues. Autonomous communication hardware to enable networks beyond the Internet.

Workshop Description Question 3

How will the event be structured? Describe the workshop length and general format. (Maximum 500 words.)

There will be 3 months of preparation, mainly for tool development, dissemination and general preparations. The workshop itself will last 3 months.

There workshop will consist on 6 modules, already introduced. Each module will consist of:

  • a series of theoretical and intellectual-activist readings and resources, from anthropology and beyond, including texts from the Global South.
  • experiential perspectives, to be led or conducted by at least one group or social organization that has advanced towards autonomous communications practice in the specific area or topic addressed in the session.
  • horizontal dialogue exchange among activists with previous experience, the members of groups seeking to advance in their autonomous processes, and intellectuals / theorists.

The participation will be open but focused on transformative alternatives and grassroots groups. Many of them will come up of the already existing weavers and endorsers of the Global Tapestry of Alternatives, consisting in more than 40 international networks and organizations at the moment.

The theoretical and practical material in conjunction with the outcomes of the dialogues and reflections that would take place in each module will be compiled in digital publication. This book will be published under an open copyleft style license in order to allow re-use of the contents and a wider impact and benefit of grassroots alternatives groups.

Personal information of each member

Vasna Ramasar

  • First name: Vasna
  • Middle name:
  • Surname: Ramasar
  • Title: Assistant professor

  • Address line 1: Sölvegatan 10
  • Address line 2:
  • City: Lund
  • Zip/Postal Code: 22100
  • Country: Sweden
  • Email: vasna.ramasar@hek.lu.se
  • Telephone: +46736243066

  • Date of Birth: 20/11/1976
  • Place of Birth: Durban, South Africa
  • Citizenship: Sweden/South Africa
  • Are you a dual citizen?: Yes
  • Gender: Female

  • Is English your scholarly language?: Yes
  • Highest Academic Degree: PhD
  • Year Degree Awarded: 2014
  • Institution that awarded the degree: Lund University
  • Discipline of degree: Sustainability Science
  • Is English the scholarly language of your institution?: No
  • Primary Scholarly Language of Institution: Swedish

Arturo Escobar

  • First name: Arturo
  • Middle name:
  • Surname: Escobar
  • Title: Independent Scholar

  • Address line 1: Dept of Anthroplogy
  • Address line 2: University of North Carolina
  • City: Chapel Hill
  • Zip/Postal Code: NC 27599
  • Country: USA
  • Email: aescobar@email.unc.edu
  • Telephone: (919) 265-9754

  • Date of Birth: 11/20/1951
  • Place of Birth: Manizales, Colombia
  • Citizenship: USA
  • Are you a dual citizen?: Yes
  • Gender: Male

  • Is English your scholarly language?: Yes
  • Highest Academic Degree: PhD
  • Year Degree Awarded: 1987
  • Institution that awarded the degree: University of California, Berkeley
  • Discipline of degree: Development Studies
  • Is English the scholarly language of your institution?: Yes
  • Primary Scholarly Language of Institution: English

Franco Augusto

  • First name: Franco
  • Middle name:
  • Surname: Augusto
  • Title: Independent Scholar

  • Address line 1:
  • Address line 2:
  • City:
  • Zip/Postal Code:
  • Country:
  • Email:
  • Telephone:

  • Date of Birth:
  • Place of Birth:
  • Citizenship:
  • Are you a dual citizen?:
  • Gender:

  • Is English your scholarly language?:
  • Highest Academic Degree:
  • Year Degree Awarded:
  • Institution that awarded the degree:
  • Discipline of degree:
  • Is English the scholarly language of your institution?:
  • Primary Scholarly Language of Institution:


  • Digital workshop platform: 1200 US$
  • Development of convivial software tools: 1200 US$
  • Publication edition: 1000 US$
  • Visual and graphic design tasks: 700 US$
  • Server infrastructure (1 year): 500 US$
  • TOTAL: 4600 US$


Blaser, Mario. 2016. Is Another Cosmopolitics Possible?. Cultural Anthropology 31(4): 545-570.

Blaser, Mario. 2013. Ontological Conflicts and the Stories of Peoples in Spite of Europe: Towards a Conversation on Political Ontology. Current Anthropology 54(5): 547-568.

de la Cadena, Marisol. 2015. Earth Beings: Provincializing Nature and the Human through Andean Worlds. Durham: Duke University Press.

de la Cadena, Marisol, and Mario Blaser, eds. 2018. A World of Many Worlds. Durham: Duke University Press.

Corsín Alberto. Forthcoming. “Autonomia ethnographica: designs for liberation and the liberation of design.” In K. Murphy and E. Wilf, eds. Anthropology Designed. Santa Fe, NM: SAR Press.

Escobar, Arturo. 2020. Pluriversal Politics: The Real and the Possible. Durham: Duke University Press.

Escobar, Arturo. 2018a. Designs for the Pluriverse: Radical Interdependence, Autonomy, and the Making of Worlds. Durham: Duke University Press.

Fry, Tony. 2012. Becoming Human by Design. London: Berg.

Gutiérrez Aguilar, Raquel, ed. 2018. Comunalidad, tramas comunitarias y producción de lo común. Oaxaca: Colectivo Editorial Pez en el Árbol.

Ingold, Tim. 2011. Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge, and Description. New York: Routledge.

E. Klein and C. Morreo, eds., Postdevelopment in Practice. Pp. 100-116. London: Routledge.

Illich, Ivan. 1972. Tools for conviviality. Harper Row.

Kothari, Ashish, Ariel Salleh, Arturo Escobar, Federico Demaria, and Alberto Acosta, eds. 2019. Pluriverse. A Post-Development Dictionary. Delhi: Tulika Books/AuthorsUpFront.

Law, J. 2015. What’s wrong with a one-world world?. Distinktion: Journal of Social Theory, 16(1), 126–139. doi:10.1080/1600910x.2015.1020066. Available in: sci-hub.tw/10.1080/1600910X.2015.1020066

Manzini, Ezio. 2019. Politics of the Everyday. London: Bloomsbury.

Puig de la Bellacasa. 2017. Matters of Care: Speculative Ethics in More Than Human Worlds. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Tsing, Anna. 2015. The Mushroom at the End of the World. Princeton: Princeton University Press.