Making and Mobilizing Activist Archives in Contemporary Struggles for Change

The significant learning and ‘really useful’ knowledge produced through organizing for social and political change is often overlooked. By exploring how activists actively participate in constructing critical histories, analyses of power and injustice, and alternative visions of social change by political engagement with historical materials – often informal archives – produced in earlier periods of social and political struggles, my research aims to advance understandings about relationships between informal learning, knowledge and social change.

Collaborating with activists/organizers and socially engaged academics, this research explores and maps already-existing practices, and supports popular, context-specific, efforts to retrieve and engage with historical movement knowledge within contemporary social and economic justice organizing in several activist milieus.  This project continues my work to examine theoretical, practical and democratic implications of the intellectual work of activism for social change. My research will contribute to scholarship on critical adult education and social movements and help to bring to light knowledge resources hitherto unexplored, as well as sharing these through more popular formats.

Questions include: How do activist groups, organizations and movements use historical materials for political education?  What are some of the ways that they construct 'useful' challenging histories, through assembling and engaging with independent (often informal) archives?  How do they employ historical resources and critical understandings of earlier struggles in contemporary struggles?

This research aims to increase understanding of movements as important sites of innovative learning practices and ones which produce knowledge that is relevant to, and grounded in actual struggles for social change, and generative of conceptual resources that can inform broader collective efforts to change the world.

Aziz Choudry, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Integrated Studies in Education

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