Social Movement Theory and the Italian Radical Community Archives: A Question of Valence?

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Abstract

The theory and practice of the radical community, and a capacity for self-organisation, demonstrates their ability to control the symbols and language of society, to define new conventions of meaning, and to offer alternative reasons and explanations for action. Invariably, however, the sociological study of Italian social movements of the 1960s and 1970s grant certain intellectual circles a monopoly over the comprehension of the ‘object’ of study. The wilful exclusion of potentially relevant theoretical practices in the sociological modelling of the nexus of the radical community and politics sweeps aside the localised actions and discourses of various subgroups within the social movement environment. That is, the assumptions in play in disciplinary thought treat the radical community as the material of the theorist, and disqualify the practice and theory of radical social movements as a credible mode of analysis of the social and political condition. Ultimately, this discounts the radical subject as knowledge producer. By reflecting on my personal experience of conducting doctoral research at three key archives in Italy—The Centre of Documentation in Pistoia, the Archives of Primo Moroni hosted by the Cox 18 social centre in Milan, and the Workers’ Archives of Augusto Finzi managed by the Marghera Public Library—I contemplate an alternative approach, which considers the valence of these communities as essentially epistemological and not simply ‘political’, or social. I then discuss how access to knowledge, in particular the refusal of the exclusion from knowledge creation, is a central concern for the radical political subject. To finish, I briefly consider how the holdings of each archive, along with their unique approach to governance, may promote or diminish the epistemic value of radical social movements.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalThe Journal of Community Informatics
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2018

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