Västerås Conversations: Anthony McCann

Time: Wednesday, 30 April 2014 – 18:30-20:30
Place: ABF Conference Room, CuLTUREN, Västerås
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As spring gathers momentum here in Västerås, Anna and I seem to have started a residency programme. Over the next seven weeks or so, we have a series of wonderful people – writers, thinkers and doers – coming to stay in our apartment. And rather than keep them to ourselves, this seemed like a good excuse to start organising some informal public events locally.

So, in collaboration with the Arbetarnas Bildningsforbünd (Workers Educational Association), we present a series of Västerås Conversations, starting next Wednesday, 30th April.

This is a free event and everyone is welcome. The discussion will take place in English.

Conversation #1: Anthony McCann

If we think of power as the ability to control and manipulate others – and if we don’t want to be controlling or manipulative – then we have defined ourselves as powerless. So maybe we need another way of thinking about power?

That’s the starting point (as I understand it) of what Anthony McCann calls a ‘politics of gentleness’. Behind it lies years of thinking about the dynamics of enclosure, the patterns by which domination, oppression, coercion and violence arise within human interaction. He was led to this by his earlier research on the extension of copyright law into Irish traditional music during the 1990s, but while the enclosure of the commons provided a historical analogy for thinking about this, he became critical of the way that much of what is said about ‘the commons’ today (not least in relation to the ‘information commons’) ends up producing and reinforcing enclosure, rather than resisting it.

Something I love about Anthony’s work is his commitment to finding an everyday language in which to talk about these things. He often recalls an encounter with one of his academic heroes, bursting with ideas and a youthful desire to impress: the older man stopped him after a couple of minutes, telling him, ‘Talk to me like you were talking to your grandfather.’

I’ve known Anthony since 2006, when we were both living in Sheffield, and I’ve found his thinking hugely helpful. It is there in the background of a lot of the work I’ve done, from Spacemakers to Dark Mountain. He has worked across many academic disciplines, but I see him as a philosopher in the old sense of the word, a lover of wisdom, committed to rigorous thinking.

So I’m looking forward to having the luxury of his company here in Västerås for a week – and to sharing that with you, if you’re able to join us on the evening of the 30th. If you can’t be there, we’ll also be recording a podcast of the conversation, with the help of Joar Holtter.

Stand by for information about future Västerås Conversations on Wednesdays in May and June.