Prepared by Mayuri Saini, August 2004, revised Jai Sen, September & December 2004
A set of three books that emerge from and encapsulate The Open Space Seminar Series , a very successful series of eleven seminars held at Delhi University from August – December 2003, on the theme : ‘Are Other Worlds Possible ? Cultures of Politics and the World Social Forum’ . The series was co-organised by Mukul Mangalik, Madhuresh Kumar, and Jai Sen. (see table of contents, pdf format).
The Concept The books will each have a table of contents, a general introduction and a volume introduction, a background note about the organisers and their concepts in putting together these seminars, one page about the World Social Forum, the main body of text divided into chapters, speakers’ biographies, interesting sub-headings, quotes, a glossary and an index. Time and budget allowing, these will be interwoven with graphics and boxes of short comments and exchanges to make the material more accessible and reader-friendly. The books will interrogate and explore the realm of possibilities. They will nudge readers to find answers for themselves while posting road maps and assistance to answer the question : Are other worlds possible ?
The books – individually and as a set - will be designed to lend themselves to the examination and explanation of larger contextual and structural issues that impact on our lives. In particular, they will help make the global more comprehensible, in relation to everyday life and to the deeply interrelated and tension-ridden world in which we live today. By presenting multiple perspectives, they will help the reader make examined choices. The wide variety of views and ideas expressed, and the various graphic devices that we hope to use, will be oriented towards facilitating a climate of critical reflection, enquiry, and discussion.
Each book will focus on a different aspect. The set as a whole will build on the structure adopted for the ‘Open Space Seminar Series’, where one stream focussed on the structural issues that the World Social Forum has so far been concerned with and in many senses is organised around – economic globalisation, and militarisation and war – and also with the new issues that are being added to this vocabulary by it being held in India - religious fundamentalism and communalism, and caste, race, and patriarchy. In short, the empires that confront us and attempt to bind us, the empires that the Forum has decided to confront, both implicitly and explicitly. The other stream, as in the seminar series, deals with the relationship of the Forum to such issues. These are organised not in terms of the issues, but of themes that the organisers felt were crucial to understanding the evolving culture of politics offered by the Forum.
Book One , titled Talking New Politics , will introduce the World Social Forum and present an in-depth discussion of questions of politics facing both the Forum and the world today.
o Book Two , titled Interrogating Empires , will examine the effect on our lives of external forces like globalisation, militarisation, and fundamentalism, and of structural factors like caste, patriarchy, and sexuality.
Book Three , titled Imagining Alternatives , will critically examine the levels and meanings of a more open world, including of the university as an open space and the new internationalisms that seem possible through cyberspace and its influence on the existing world.
As with the Seminar Series itself, we are aiming here at a different kind of book , and a different kind of debate – one that does not normally take place, and certainly not in most existing institutions. One of the great strengths of the books will be the wide range of views expressed, coming from speakers from many different fields and persuasions.
Given the quality of the speakers and their presentations, each Book could thereby become a standard reference book in their respective fields, and the set a landmark.
Style These books will not be print-heavy, dense collections of text. Rather, they will carry excerpts from the seminars, with lively illustrations and graphics to make the point. The introductions to each will be short and concise, giving the reader a crisp sample and overview. They will prompt readers to discover new and open spaces both within their own minds and within the framework of the essays.
While the books will not be identical in terms of length, all three will follow the same format so that they may readily be identified as belonging to a set. Yet each will have a separate identity as well. At present, we expect the three books to respectively be 160 pages, 200 pages, and 160 pages long : Three slim, easy-to-purchase, easy-to-carry, and easy-to-read books.
The Voice The books will speak directly in the voices of their many presenters, delighting in their strengths of multiplicity and plurality. As with the seminar series, they will each be an open space, with little ‘voice over’.
In the process, what emerges will be a dialogue between thinking and active people – some eminent, many well known, some not so - and important exchanges between speakers, students, and other members of the audiences. These will be presented in their own words. The changes in voice will provide a rich tapestry of thoughts and viewpoints.
The books will draw on the exchange of ideas that took place, with question and answers at the end of each session.
The focus will be on encouraging openness and an ability to generate new questions, to allow readers to stop and think if indeed other worlds are possible, to help define them better.
The voices featured in the book are varied: Ashish Nandy, author and commentator, Urvashi Butalia, author and feminist, Praful Bidwai, journalist and commentator, Swami Agnivesh, social activist and founder of the Bandhua Mukti Morcha (Bonded Labour Liberation Front), Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary CPI (ML), Veena Das, professor at John Hopkins University, Baltimore, Paul Divakar, Convenor of the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights, and Gail Omvedt, author and political activist. The list goes on, and is presented in detail with the Background Note in Appendix A .
Highlights These are some of the points these books will address:
• The issues and concerns of the World Social Forum. These will include the structural issues that the World Social Forum has so far been organised around – economic globalisation and militarisation and war, along with other new issues added to this vocabulary – religious fundamentalism and communalism, caste and race, and patriarchy. They will also include the ‘internal’ concerns of the Forum, including the question of non-violence in movement, the roles of political parties in a ‘civil society’ process such as the Forum, and the question of internal democracy.
• Why and how the issues being confronted by the World Social Forum are world issues, and why the ‘internal’ issues are generic issues, pertinent to all civil and political institutions.
• How these issues are intertwined; and what their implications are.
• A critical examination of existing cultures of politics, and of what the alternative culture of politics proposed by the Forum – the idea of open space; of plurality and openness – can offer us, given the state of the world and of politics today.
• The importance of openness in our own actions in daily life, and of attempting to practice a culture of critical awareness and open space.
Issues The issues addressed in the books will range from those of globalisation to authoritarianism, militarisation and nuclearisation to caste and race, fundamentalism, communalism and nationalism; from patriarchy, sexuality, and questions of openness to cultures of politics and the university as an open space. They will include the relationship of the World Social Forum to new internationalisms, and the culture and politics of cyberspace.
The Editors, Designers, and Publishers of the ‘Are Other Worlds Possible ?’ series
Editors : Jai Sen and Mayuri Saini
Associate Editor : Madhuresh Kumar
Designer : Shuka Jain | Design Works
Publishers : Zubaan Books
The Conceptualisers and Managing Editors of the ‘Are Other Worlds Possible ?’ book project : Jai Sen and Madhuresh Kumar
Jai Sen has worked as an architect and urban designer, as a civil campaignist and researcher on dwelling, labour, planning, and rights-related issues, and more recently as an independent researcher on the history and dynamics of popular movements in India for a place to live. Much of Sen’s more recent work has been on the internationalisation and globalisation of civil movements, on cultures of politics, and on the concept of ‘open space’. Among other things, he has edited, together with Anita Anand, Arturo Escobar, and Peter Waterman, World Social Forum : Challenging Empires (New Delhi : The Viveka Foundation, 2004), in which he has three essays. He has also written ‘A World to Win – But whose world is it, anyway ?’ , Chapter 9 in Whose World Is It Anyway ? Civil Society, the United Nations, and the Multilateral Future, edited by John W Foster with Anita Anand, 1999, and ‘Are other globalizations possible ? The World Social Forum as an instrument of global democratization’, Chapter 8 in From a Global Market Place to Political Spaces, edited by Leena Rikkilä and Katarina Sehm Patomäki, 2002.
During 2003 he organised, together with Mukul Mangalik and Madhuresh Kumar, a major event at the University of Delhi called the ‘Open Space Seminar Series’, twelve seminars during August-December 2003 and immediately after the World Social Forum in Mumbai in January 2004, around the theme ‘Are Other Worlds Possible ? The World Social Forum and Cultures of Politics’.
During 2004, he has among other things acted as Editorial Adviser, together with Chloé Keraghel, to the International Social Science Journal for its special issue 182 on the theme ‘Explorations in Open Space : The World Social Forum and Cultures of Politics’. He is also presently a member of the steering committee for the ‘Other Worlds Educational Project’ organised by the voluntary organisation Mundi, at the University of Nottingham, UK, which was inspired by the ‘Open Space Seminar Series’.
Presently based in New Delhi, India, Sen attended the World Social Forums in Porto Alegre in January 2002 and 2003, the Asian Social Forum in Hyderabad, India, in January 2003, and the World Social Forum in Mumbai, India, in January 2004. During 2002, he was co-convenor of the WSF India Working Group (that set up the WSF process in India), and then a member of the WSF India Working Committee and its Coordination Team until late in the year.
Madhuresh Kumar, a student of History and Human Rights based now in Kolkata, works with Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group on the issues of globalisation and mapping sustainable rights in South Asia. Together with some other students from JNU and DU, he has started a youth group called ‘Apunba’, a forum for discussion and togetherness‚ to spread political awareness amongst youth. He is also a member of the student group ‘Cultural Analysis Summer Academy’ at the University of Amsterdam, where he conducted a workshop on ‘Students Activism, Social Movements and Markets in Universities : A Perspective’, in July 2004.
In 2003, he together with Mukul Mangalik and Jai Sen, organised a series of twelve seminars at the University of Delhi called the ‘Open Space Seminar Series’, during August-December 2003 and immediately after the World Social Forum in Mumbai in January 2004, around the theme ‘Are Other Worlds Possible ? The World Social Forum and Cultures of Politics’. He is also a member of the steering committee for the ‘Other Worlds Educational Project’ administered by the voluntary organisation Mundi, at the University of Nottingham, UK.
He is also involved with the Hindi Heartland Project around the book World Social Forum : Challenging Empires (New Delhi : The Viveka Foundation, 2004), together with Kishan Kaljayee and Jai Sen.
The Copy Editor of the books : Mayuri C Saini. Mayuri has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, editor, web-writer, scriptwriter and documentary filmmaker. Some of her markets have included San Francisco Examiner, Outlook, The Discovery Channel and The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). She has lived and worked in New York, San Francisco and in Hong Kong.
Mayuri has also worked as Senior Editor at The Earth Times, New York and has written extensively on conferences and events related to the United Nations, both at the headquarters in New York, and in other parts of the world. She has also made training films and edited written material for several UN organisations.
She graduated with Economic honours from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University.
The Designer of the books:Shuka Jain, of Design Works, New Delhi. [incomplete..]
Zubaan … Zubaan is an independent feminist publishing house based in New Delhi, India, with a strong academic and general list. It was set up in March 2003, as an Associate of the well known feminist house Kali for Women, and carries forward Kali's tradition of publishing world quality books to high editorial and production standards. “Zubaan” means tongue, voice, language, speech in Hindustani. Zubaan is a non-profit publisher, working in the areas of the humanities, social sciences, as well as in fiction, general non-fiction, and books for young adults. Zubaan is committed to publishing works on and by women, to ensuring that the voices of women, particularly from the South, are heard, and to reversing the flow of information, which is traditionally from the north to the south, the west to the east.
Urvashi Butalia | Zubaan firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Asian Social Forum held in Hyderabad, conceived as part of the international consultations going on for the past two years under the umbrella of the World Social Forum, provides a unified platform for diverse groups trying to mobilise people's power to turn back the tide of imperialist globalisation. By Sukumar Muralidharan, January 18 - 31, 2003.