Of Occupied Pasts and Tidal Futures

Yesterday I read over the entire history of this blog, using Google Reader. It was an interesting experience to look back over 350 posts. From a personal point of view, the obvious change over the year was a shift from simply describing what I saw as an individual to being part of a community. And so it makes sense that this web-based reporting will become part of a wider online project in 2013 with Tidal: Occupy Theory, Occupy Strategy.

The first few visits I made to Zuccotti Park, I looked around, listened to the GA and went away. It was the carnival phase, all was going to be different. I learned about “the process” and watched the now-familiar rituals of stack, consensus and break outs. At that time, it was all mic-checking and the sound of it was very special. I joined the Education and Empowerment Working Group, which meant I showed up for meetings and joined a very active listserv. A working group about student debt got going.

After October 15, the Times Square demo where there was nearly an occupation of Washington Square Park, I worked with Occupy Washington Square Park. We concentrated on education and outreach. I happened to have Judith Butler’s email. We invited her on the off-chance and such was the mood in those days that she replied to my email within the hour. There was a great teach-in, the one where she spoke about “impossible demands.” She also did it at Zuccotti and had such a great time that her friend Angela Y. Davis asked if she could come as well. That was a wonderful day, a packed meeting at WSP where Davis beautifully answered questions for over an hour, followed by an emotional address from the steps at Zuccotti as dusk fell. There were three relays for the human mic that evening.

Somewhere around that time I was at Zuccotti and the phrase “occupy theory” popped into my head. I went home and the piece wrote itself, it’s still out there on the web on the Critical Inquiry blog for Occupy archaeologists. Around that time, I heard that there was an Occupy working group called Occupy Theory. I sent them an email. Months later, long after we had started working together, someone read it and reposted the piece on what was now the Tidal website.

Eviction did not seem to mark the end of the Occupation. There were rumors on the N17 demonstration of a new effort and the December 7 attempt to create a new occupation at Duarte. By late December though, things were quietening. People left town. The “holidays” disrupted everybody’s rhythm. And so the idea came to me to undertake this project.

There’s some things to say about the intellectual and political trajectories of the past year that I’ll cover in the last posts. For now I want to make a personal observation. Reading over the year, it’s clear to me that at first I felt very much the observer. I knew who people were but did not know them personally very well, if at all. By the time the New York Times described Strike Debt as college professors, corporate drop-outs, film makers, writers and graduate students (a more or less accurate description), I knew who was meant by each. But more than that, the combined experience of Strike Debt, the Rolling Jubilee and Occupy Sandy has produced a new community, one that no longer depends on the memory of the parks.

This time last year, there was a determination to carry on but a back-of-the-mind feeling that it might be over before the year was out. Now it’s clear that the crisis of austerity has become permanent but there is still no authority capable of making that seem right. The resistance continues. It continues to strive to learn what it is that it needs to learn. Its horizon is not the next week or month but years.

While I can’t keep up a daily writing project, it’s also been clear that the renewed movement needs the kind of flow of information and ideas that web-based communication provides. So I’m pleased to say that in 2013, Tidal will be beginning a new blog, which I’ll be writing for. It seems of a piece with the journey I’ve described that this writing should go from a personal to a collective framework. Tidal has some amazing projects in the pipeline. I’m organizing a militant research “collective visioning” called In Visible Crisis, February 8, 2013. There’ll be a book from this project–do we like Jubilant Theory as a title?

2012 changed my life. Let’s see what 2013 brings.

3 thoughts on “Of Occupied Pasts and Tidal Futures

  1. When I began writing for Intercontinental Cry magazine in February, it was a journal similar to your blog, in that it was the effort of a single individual. Now it is a collective product that has established itself as the main, non-academic, world voice of Indigenous Peoples’ liberation. On that topic, I believe there is a gathering in Washington Square in NYC today in support of the Indigenous resistance in Canada. I forget where I read that, but I remember an intentional outreach to Occupy to show solidarity.

    Also, there is an intellectual support network for this uprising, and it has connected with the magazine as well as the movement in a very fruitful way. I saw this https://www.facebook.com/events/524704030887321/ note just this morning.

    At any rate, what got me going this morning besides your reflection on Occupy was recalling the comment by Gerry Adams that democracy is a discursive process. The other quote that recurs on mornings like this is by Nelson Mandela, who remarked, “The slogan is attack.”

  2. I came upon your blog while doing research for an article I am writing (with Edward Soja) about graffiti writers and the Occupy LA movement. I guess the general theme I am looking into as part of my larger literature review and framework is visuality and the aesthetics of protest. If you want to, and have time, to send any leads or suggestions to me, please do. In the meantime I will be busy reading 360 blog entries by you.

    Thanks for your work,


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