Who are we, really? The micropolitics of 3Cs

Photo of toy blocks spelling out "3Cs Maps"The Micro-Politics of the Counter Cartographies Collective…

Who are we? If it is not already obvious from the name, we’re mapmakers… we base our work on the use, reappropriation and expansion of mapping and cartographic tools as ways of intervening in our worlds. By mapping, we mean 2-D foldable sheets, but much more as well. Mapping and cartography for us are ways of thinking and tackling the spaces we inhabit and creating territories of transformation and mutual aid. Saying we are mapmakers is to say that we take a different approach to thinking community, activism, work, friendship and struggle by focusing on space.

We are based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill- and we say this because it has profound effects on how we understand our role. A large part of our work and activity focuses on reworking the university as an ‘ivory tower’ and to map it as a complex actor in shaping new worlds. In our mappings, drifts, and convergences, we trace how the university is making and is made, how it shapes the town and country around it and how it creates worlds for students and shapes new worlds for us all… how it is, and always has been, a site of possibilities and struggles.

Our work tries to rethink the relation between theory and action- weaving together our different individual itineraries as students/professors/TAs and as activists to hone tools and modes of intervention that can help unsettle the campus and our communities.

Our research is provocative, it asks questions, it reconfigures public space. A map is not only a product of careful research, a reflection of the world as ‘just so,’ but a proposition, a suggestion for the way the world could, and at times should, be.

We use different media and languages to learn and to advance our work: from high social theory to ‘zines and pamphlets, from art work to textbooks, from Legos to Latour. A product is never final, instead opening up whole new conversations, trajectories and possibilities.

Our work, and our focus on the university and the territories it is a part of, is not just an intellectual exercise- we try to imagine different ways of inhabiting these terrains and invite others to join in creating other spaces, of hope and of struggle. How can we live differently? How can we challenge the injustices we see around us? How can we learn from others in our area and network to create communities of convergence and transformation?

If you had to define us you could say we’re an affinity group1-that is, a small group of folks intimately tied by shared notions of political principles and practices, working together on common projects.


Some of our affinities:

We are political in that we understand our work as interventions in the social worlds of our communities, recognizing our place as part of a large struggle of collectives and individuals in the area and beyond. We make the decision to politically inhabit the university but also from a position of autonomy– that is, both from within and against, based on logics of re-appropriation and exodus. We respect those strategies that try to enter university governance to transform it, or those groups who distance themselves from the university. But (despite individual actions) collectively we do not see those positions –either working completely from within or from a total outside- as the role of 3Cs.

We are project and product focused. But not in a capitalist sense: we see the process of collective production as a way of advancing and growing practices of radical thinking. Within the university, we are surrounded by excellent critical classes and incredible reading groups that sometimes help us to sort out the interstices of power in the world around us, but we find the symbioses between analysis, action and intervention more exciting, and more effective. This is where 3C’s insists that our thinking and debates center on projects and products.

We are proficient. We don’t imagine 3Cs as a hobby, nor as pro bono professional work. Productivity is more important than either category. We believe our work is simultaneously useful as an intellectual contribution to our specialized fields, the disciplines we trespass into and for its networking and convergences. Our meetings feel both playful and productive. We operate by bi-weekly short meetings run by consensus process, where we manage to check many items off of our collective running to-do-list.

We believe in mutual aid. We support each other individually and collectively in our political, professional and personal itineraries and in the places where these coincide. We try to nurture a collective silliness in this regard; to be humorous about what we are and what we do (even if it is serious); to build relations of solidarity and to check any sense of vanguard or leadership in what is a community of diverse ways of life and struggles. We mutually exchange skills and knowledges among us: from dissertation writing tips to map software use, from driving lessons to daycare assets.

1Affinity group is a term that originally comes from historical anarchism in Spain, and that in the US context can go from fighting nuclear weapons and power, to blockading Seattle, to tending gardens.

Call for mobilisations in european universities March 18-20

European call to action for March 18-20 in defense of higher education and research…

We do not want any «market of knowledge»!
Call for a European mobilisation against the Lisbon strategy in higher education and research

The next spring summit of the heads of state and governments of the European union will take place on March 19th ‐ 20th ,2009. One of its priorities will be the assessment of the Lisbon strategy initiated in 2000, which frames the policies currently engaged in the Member States so as to “modernise” the national research and education system (primary, secondary and higher education, lifelong learning).

The declared ambition of a “knowledge‐based society” should be encouraged, as far as it consists in a collective ambition to promote education and research as public goods, a guarantee of democratisation of knowledge, and an opportunity for citizens to possibly criticise scientific and technical choices. But the current orientation is different, and reduces this project to the building of a “market of knowledge” whose harmful influence can be observed everywhere, with consequences such as the weakening of the scientific independence, the deconstruction of the public research system and the strengthening of the private sector, the increase of precarious working and studying conditions, the deepening of inequalities in the access to knowledge and the widening of the gap between citizens and technical and scientific choices.

For a few years, large‐scale mobilisations of increasing intensity have been initiated by students, workers in education and research, and by social movements in general all around Europe. These protests strongly express a demand for a public sector of education and research which would not be built without any democratic debate, nor driven by the laws of the market.

That is why we call for a mobilisation of European citizens on March 18th, 19th and 20th 2009 in every member state and beyond, within universities, laboratories and in the streets,
AGAINST the marketisation of scientific and educative activities,
AGAINST the generalised competition of people and territories,
FOR an emancipating and democratic public service of higher education and research.

First signers :
> Association pour la Taxation des Transactions financières pour l’Aide aux Citoyens – Attac
> Fondation Sciences Citoyennes
> Sauvons La Recherche – SLR
> Sauvons L’Université – SLU
> Syndicat National des Chercheurs Scientifiques – SNCS
> Syndicat National de l’Enseignement Supérieur – SNESUP
> Union des Familles Laïques – UFAL

El Kilombo Speaker Series: Building Autonomy in a Time of Crisis

Speaker Series: Things Unseen: Building Autonomy in a Time of Crisis

January 23, 2009 (Friday)
7:00pm, at El Kilombo Social Center
324 West Geer Street, Durham NC 27701
(919) 688-8768

**Speaker I: Glen Ford, Executive Editor of Black Agenda Report, the
journal of African American political thought and action
**Speaker II: Kenneth Saltman, Educational Policy Studies and Research at
DePaul University; author of Capitalizing on Disaster: Taking and Breaking
Public Schools
**Speaker III: Daniella Ann Cook, Post-doctoral Research Fellow in the
Network on Racial and Ethnic Inequality at Duke University; Project
Coordinator for The National Coalition for Quality Education in New Orleans
**Speaker IV: El Kilombo Intergaláctico

An enormous political crisis is emerging in the United States, involving
the privatization of public goods, the elimination of public space, the
marketization of political representation, the displacement of poor
communities—in short, the privatization of wealth and the socialization
of misery. All evidence seems to suggest that these watershed
transformations resulting from global capitalism are picking up speed. If
one were to listen to prevalent media discourse, however, the global
supremacy of the US, our dysfunctional party-political system, and the
power of neoliberalism will survive the coming crisis unscarred. The
perspective from below is somewhat different. History teaches us, and the
debacle of the current financial crisis bears out, that the brunt impact of
these changes will fall hardest on working class and people of color
communities. Furthermore, it was from below that the “modern world” was
made possible, and it is here (away from the cameras and microphones of
those above) that another world is already under construction. In this
context, the El Kilombo community speaker series provides us with a space
to think strategically about the struggles that must be continually
developed in the face of this gathering storm. We will examine these
transformations through multiple lenses, in conversation with national and
international guest speakers on issues including: the relation of movements
to electoral politics; gentrification, the logic of racialized power, and
the central importance of territorial control; and the inspiration of
global struggles for dignity and autonomy.

This first event in the ongoing series will address Gentrification and the
Struggle Against It. Keynote speakers are GLEN FORD, co-founder and
executive editor of Black Agenda Report, the journal of African American
political thought and action (www.blackagendareport.com), to discuss the
process of gentrification in city development; KENNETH SALTMAN, Associate
Professor of Educational Policy Studies at DePaul University, and author
most recently of Capitalizing on Disaster: Taking and Breaking Public
Schools, to speak on Obama’s appointment of Arne Duncan as Secretary of
Education, and the role that charter schools play in the displacement of
poor communities; and DANIELLA ANN COOK, the current Postdoctoral Research
Fellow in the Network on Racial and Ethnic Inequality at Duke University,
and Project Coordinator for The National Coalition for Quality Education in
New Orleans (www.ncqeno.com), to speak about the relationships between
school reform and gentrification in post-Katrina New Orleans. A member of
El Kilombo will discuss Kilombo‘s effort to build community in the midst of
Durham’s ongoing citywide gentrification process.

Things Unseen, the El Kilombo Speaker Series, will continue through April
and will include:

February 19th, 2009 (Thursday)
7:00pm, at El Kilombo Social Center
**Speaker I: Fred Moten, Department of English at Duke University; author
of In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition
**Speaker II: Robin D. G. Kelley, Department of American Studies and
Ethnicity; author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination and
Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original

March 3, 2009 (Tuesday)
7:00pm, at El Kilombo Social Center
**Speaker: Gustavo Esteva, “Deprofessionalized intellectual”; founder of
the Universidad de La Tierra in Oaxaca; author of Grassroots
Post-Modernism: Remaking the Soil of Cultures

April 4, 2009 (Saturday)
5:00pm, at El Kilombo Social Center
**Speaker: Angel Luis Lara, Musician and sociologist; Lara conducts
research at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid

New (and some old) maps of Gaza

While the world turns its eyes away from the Gaza crisis, Israel continues to violate its unilaterally declared ceasefire and many Gazans are still without water, medical care, and electricity.

The damage in the Gaza Strip is horrifying.

More maps show the progression of damage in Gaza during Israel’s latest offensive as well as the damage in Gaza City.

If we look at some more maps, we are reminded that the violence, the destruction, the oppression in Gaza are not new…

loss-of-palestinian-land .

Palestinian villages depopulated and razed by Israel in 1948 and 1967.

Palestinian refugees.

The apartheid wall.

The Gaza Strip in 2007.

Israel has constructed its map of the region, its borders, its territory through the use of force, by fighting wars and building walls. The effects are more than just lines on a map, and in the last 25 days those effects include 1317  dead Palestinians, including 419 dead children, and 5340 injured.

In our work we are committed to creating maps that open up space, tear down walls, destroy borders, maps that create connections between people and places, maps that challenge oppression and inequality.  The new map of Gaza is not out of our hands  – there are things we all can do as academics , taxpayers, and consumers.

And if you have more maps of Gaza or the Palestinian struggle please send them in…

racial profiling and the 9-to-5 workday

note: this is the second in a series of posts about our ongoing work looking at 287(g) and the dynamics of racial profiling in traffic stops

After looking at the relationship between age, perceived race, and likelihood to be stopped by the police in North Carolina, I decided to break the traffic stop data we had access to down by time-of-day. Stops were coded either by a string giving either the 12 or 24-hour time, and after reconciling those two different formats I was able to pull out stop totals by hour throughout the day, distinguished by the perceived race of the driver. I divided each count by the total number of people in the state who reported that race on the census, and then divided each of those estimated likelihoods by the average likelihood for the whole population to get ‘normalized stop likelihoods’ — essentially an index of the degree of racial profiling, where a value greater than 1 means that somebody perceived as being from a given race is more likely than average to be stopped, whereas a value less than one means that person is less likely than average to be stopped.

What’s most interesting about the data here is up to you — I’m intrigued that the 9-5 workday is the period of greatest racial equality on the streets of NC (is capitalism really color-blind? do the police perceive drivers first as abstract labor selling itself on the open market and second as unique individuals?).


Teach-In: Understanding Gaza

Thursday, Jan. 15, 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Nelson Mandela Auditorium, Fed Ex Global Education Center, UNC-CH

Laila El-Haddad is a freelance journalist from Gaza. Her blog, “Raising Yousuf and Noor: Diary of a Palestinian Mother,” explores the complex relationships between the personal and the political as she raises her children while negotiating displacement and occupation. http://a-mother-from-gaza.blogspot.com/

Rann Bar-On is an Israeli activist and graduate student at Duke University. He has worked with the International Solidarity Movement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Rann advocates for an end to the Occupation and resistance to militaristic Israeli government policies. He is especially interested in the Shministim – a group of Israeli high-school students who are imprisoned for daring to refuse to serve in Israel’s occupying army.

Marty Rosenbluth: Formerly Amnesty International USA’s Country Specialist for Israel, the Occupied Territories and the Palestinian Authority, he is currently a human rights lawyer working with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice in Durham. Through his work with Amnesty, he documented violations by all parties to the conflict, including participating in Amnesty’s fact-finding mission in northern Israel during the war between Israel and Lebanon in the summer of 2006 where he documented Hezbullah attacks on Israeli civilians as well as meeting with Israeli officials to discuss IDF attacks on civilians in Southern Lebanon.

Dr. Sarah Shields: Associate Professor of Middle Eastern History at UNC-CH, she is the author of Mosul before Iraq and teaches courses on the Arab-Israel conflict, Islamic civilization, the Modern Middle East.

Mapping Gaza

We are horrified/outraged/saddened by the tragedy/massacre/something occurring in Gaza. We want to do something to stop the Israeli attacks. We often turn to mapping in times like these. But of course, cartography was born in the midst of war, conflict and violence and that bond is not easily broken.

The BBC has a map comparing “Israeli Attacks on Gaza” to “Palestinian Rocket Attacks against Israel”
From this map one might be lead to think this is a conflict between two equals, with equal numbers of causalities on both sides. One might even be led to believe Israel’s claim that it is defending itself, only attacking “targets”, that all the Palestinians are dying in “clashes” between Hamas forces and the IDF. One certainly would not see the over 900 Palestinians that Israel has killed in the last 17 days, the nearly 300 children that have been killed, the refugee camps and schools that Israel has bombed. Nor would one see the effects of Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip — the lack of clean water, electricity, food, medical care. Even less would one see the cumulative effects of the Israeli occupation — the constant threat of violence, people denied their basic human rights and their ability to control their own lives and make their livelihoods.

But then again, how do you show horror, outrage, sadness on a map? How can you map even a single lost life? But 917 people killed in 17 days, 284 children? Or even write about it…

mapping borders: race, ethnicity, and highway patrols

As part of our new project on border-mapping, I’ve started poking through the database of traffic stops by North Carolina police agencies in 2006 (provided by the thoroughly-helpful North Carolina SBI Crime Statistics Unit). Our eventual goal is to track how 287(g) enforcement, immigrant populations, and traffic stops interact and vary geographically across the state but in order to get into the data I first wanted to answer some broader questions about how race, ethnicity, and age influence the rate at which folks are stopped by the police in this state.

The data was provided to us in text-delimited format; I dumped it into a database using the highly-flexible (and recommended) sqlite3 database engine. For each stop, we have access to information about the age and perceived race, ethnicity, and gender of the driver (in addition to stop location, agency, time, etc.):

Screenshot of the traffic stops database

–next step: to the spreadsheets!–

First, I grouped the data by age, by perceived ethnicity (hispanic and non-hispanic) and by perceived race (white and non-white, since those are the categories which correspond with the 2006 state population-by-age data I had). Then, I grouped distinct ages into age classes to match up with the age classes used by the census, from 15 and 16-17 through 85-94 and 95+, so that I could calculate the number of stops of folks in each age and race or ethnicity class as a percentage of the total state population belonging to that class. The result would be more-or-less a likelihood of being stopped by the police if your age is such and you are (white/non-white/hispanic/non-hispanic). Following another analysis I also grabbed census data on 2006 NC car ownership-per-person, and used that to rescale the statewide population counts to get an estimated count of drivers statewide (note that this would not be as accurate as using drivers license data, if anyone has a lead on getting it).

The resulting graph is pretty clear, but there are still lots of questions to ask (click for a bigger view)…