November 6, 2011

Moana Nui and Fair Trade Partnerships in the Pacific

Important travel and trade practices that have long formed extended exchange communities of Oceania will be the focus of the upcoming Moana Nui summit of Pacific Islanders to be held in Honolulu, Hawaii November 9, 10, and 11, 2011.

These practices are endangered by a proposed trade agreement comparable to NAFTA, but encompassing countries on the Pacific Rim rather than those in North America. The proposed agreement, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), would have the same devastating impacts on local production networks, trading practices, and populations in the Pacific Rim, as NAFTA on jobs, farms, and other sectors in North America. The United States has drafted Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam into developing the TPP; the number of nations might increase as the conservative trade organization, Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), meets in Honolulu to attempt to finalize language for the TPP.

The topics and the content of the many preliminary discussions leading to the APEC meeting in Honolulu have been kept secret, thereby violating transparency protocols of democratic governments and U.S. President Obama’s explicit promise that the TPP discussions would usher in a new era of transparency in international trade agreement discussions.

October 20, 2011

Decolonizing Democracy


The Egyptian Democratic Academy in Cairo is one of the local organizations that made the Jasmine Revolution possible, educating Egyptians about alternatives to dictatorships and military rule under Mubarak. A recent story in The Nation describes one of the teachers at the Academy, a 25-year-old woman, Esraa Nouh, whose father was imprisoned under Mubarak for many years. Nouh believes in liberalism and John Stuart Mill, and teaches the history of liberalism beginning with the Greek origins (more on them in a moment) and John Locke, drawing a thread connecting that history to recent Egyptian political trends.

The irony is that J.S. Mill’s views on politics and economics were dominant in Britain and other countries at the height of the colonization of Egypt. In fact, John Locke was as strongly supportive of slavery as the Egyptian pharaohs were, which makes him even less of a pretender to democracy than Mubarak was. Locke’s profits from his investments in English slave trade ships led him to support private property as a central right in democratic representational governance.


September 14, 2011

Other Sovereignties


Subaltern populations achieve autonomy in many ways under globalization and the War on Terror. Their sites of autonomy rarely come to global public awareness, but when they do they are shaped by the terms under which they make sense to largely bourgeois, news-viewing and academic readers and viewers.  What other terms and logics might be useful for understanding subaltern autonomy?

September 6, 2011

Subaltern Democracies 2 Come

Democracy has multiple lineages beyond that of the European Enlightenment, lineages which include collective practices of accountability and ethics of indigenous groups and subalterns past and present. As globalization and the War on Terror spread their destruction across the globe, democratic collectivities have come under siege in many ways, and are responding with their survival at stake. Those in the global north may learn from these responses about forms of democracy that have much to teach the world about possible futures for democracy.

Subaltern ways of surviving under the War on Terror have gone virtually without mention in news reporting, despite the claim to protect rural and urban women and those with little formal education by the nations behind the World War Without End. Indigenous governance areas are at the center of the War on Terror, from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan to indigenous struggles over sovereignty in the Trans-Sahel region of North Africa. At the same time the claims to democratic governance in territory conquered by invasion, such as Hamid Karzai’s administration in Afghanistan, have only very tentative relations to full-fledged representative structures of classic European political analysis.

Indigenous group responses to globalization are often founded in democratic governance, like the Zapatistas in Mexico and the Karen of Thailand, the Republic of Lakotah in the United States and the Noongar in Australia. As a spokesperson for the Zapatista movement put it, “Collective work, democratic thinking, and subjection to the decisions of the majority are more than just traditions in indigenous zones. They have been the only means of survival, resistance, dignity, and defiance.” Yet their democratic practices may take forms that our European-derived notions of democracy would not recognize as legitimate or useful; rethinking the limits and politics of that recognition is one main goal of this blog.

At Democracies 2 Come we take seriously the possibility that subalterns living under the War on Terror and globalization may have something to contribute to the global understanding of democracy and freedom, dignity and justice. By taking them seriously as agents capable of intelligent analyses and democratically organized constructive responses to the War on Terror and globalization, we may move beyond seeing them only in terms of the status of victims needing rescue by foreign nations, multinational organizations like the IMF and the United Nations, micro-lending development schemes, and NGOs. Rural women and men with little schooling have much to say about economics and the War and its democratic claims in its many, many conflict zones, from Afghanistan to Yemen and regions beyond centralized national control.