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182 - Explorations in Open Space - The World Social Forum and cultures of politics
December 2004
We are living through a time of the rise of dramatically new politics, including civil politics at local, national, transnational and global levels, and new global networks among refugees, migrants, and religious groups. One of the most prominent manifestations of world civil politics is the World Social Forum, which held its first world meeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in January 2001. Based on issue analysis and diagnosis, the Forum aims to encourage the formulation of alternative proposals and strategies to neo-liberal “pensée unique” and to all forms of fundamentalism. The dramatic growth in numbers attending the world event – from around 25,000 in 2001 to over 100,000 in 2004 – attests to the relevance of the Forum to people all over the world.
While it calls itself “Social”, the Forum is a fundamentally political idea and promotes a specific vocabulary, grammar, and culture of politics. This issue aims at a wide-ranging, critical, and insistently plural exploration of the idea and concept of “open space” as a political-cultural concept, focusing on the Forum and its self-defined culture(s) of politics. In these terms, the Forum represents both an important experiment and something of a paradox. On the one hand, it offers a rich vision of an “open space” for movements that challenge empires and celebrate diversity and plurality. On the other hand, the open space is circumscribed by a specific conception of politics and a specific ideological orientation. Is multiplicity sustainable within and in relation to a single, “unique” larger idea? Can the culture of “open space” politics operate coherently both within the Forum and in its relations with the world it seeks to change?

Table of contents

Chloé Keraghel & Jai Sen :Explorations in open space. The World Social Forum and cultures of politics

The Dynamics of Open Space

Michal Osterweil: A cultural-political approach to reinventing the political
Geoffrey Pleyers:The Social Forums as an ideal model of convergence
Barış Gencer Baykan & Gulçin Erdi Lelandais:
Cross-readings of the anti-globalisation movement in Turkey and beyond. Political culture in the making
Isabelle Biagiotti:The World Social Forums: a paradoxical application of participatory doctrine

The Ethnography of Open Space

Taran N Khan: Trio
Véronique Rioufol:Approaches to social change in Social Forums: snapshots of recompositions in progress
Anila Daulatzai:A leap of faith: thoughts on secularistic practices and progressive politics
Giuseppe Caruso: Conflict management and hegemonic practices in the World Social Forum 2004

New Worlds

Massimo De Angelis: Opposing fetishism by reclaiming our powers. The Social Forum movement, capitalist markets and the politics of alternatives
Vanessa Andreotti & Emma Dowling: WSF: ontology, ethics, pedagogy
Raúl Enrique Rojo, Carlos R. S. Milani & Carlos Schmidt Arturi: Expressions of international contestation and mechanisms of democratic control
Immanuel Wallerstein: The dilemmas of open space: the future of the WSF


Germán Solinís: UNESCO and the World Social Forum: the first three years


Elise Féron: World Social Forum: Challenging Empires. Edited by Jai Sen, Anita Anand, Arturo Escobar & Peter Waterman. New Delhi: The Viveka Foundation, 2004.

Publication date 2004-12

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