Welcome to The Militant Research Handbook! It’s designed to help you answer the question: what is militant research? Let’s begin by saying that it’s the place where academia and activism meet in the search for new ways of acting that lead to new ways of thinking. Native American activist Andrea Smith quotes her mentor Judy Vaughn to this effect: “You don’t think your way into a different way of acting; you act your way into a different way of thinking.”
And that’s how the Handbook came about. In 2012, a group of visual culture artists, activists and academics met in New York for an umbrella event called Now! Visual Culture. The packed panel on student debt was perhaps the most passionate moment of the weekend. Some of those present attended one of the first Strike Debt meetings on the Sunday after the event and many of the New York attendees had already been involved with activism in and around Occupy Wall Street. We wanted to develop the relationship further, to think about how academics working on debt could work with debt activists and viceversa. The result was the idea for the event that became In Visible Crisis: A Collective Visioning of Militant Research, held on February 8, 2013.
At the same time, we did not want In Visible Crisis to be solely concerned with New York area issues. We felt the need to engage with other approaches and to think about different perspectives. So we invited participants familiar with militant research in Spain and Argentina. We brought a group of activists and academics from California, where Occupy was less long lived and was not always received positively, especially by those who were concerned about allegations of sexualized violence at the Occupy encampments. Despite a howling snowstorm, we had a two-day three-way engagement that answered some questions and generated many more. In the final assembly of In Visible Crisis, it was resolved to produce this Handbook. So it is not a comprehensive document, as no 32-page booklet could possibly be. It’s more of an invitation: what does militant research look like to you? How might you and those you care about engage in such practice? What else do we need to learn in order to begin? This can be a living document, or it might even be the beginnings of a publishing project.