In 2011, Simon Critchley, Chiara Bottici, and Jacob Blumenfeld organized a conference entitled “The Anarchist Turn” at the New School for Social Research. Naturally, the conference was exciting news for anarchist scholars. I was originally attracted to the conference because it seemed to toy with post-anarchist ideas in a way that had mass appeal. In other words, it seemed to grant further legitimacy to the specific forms of inquiry that have been generating incredible innovations in anarchist thinking over the last two decades. It was all the more exciting because the conference seemed to attract highly respected public intellectuals such as Judith Butler, Alberto Toscano, Todd May, Miguel Abensour, among others. It seemed to me that these highly respected scholars had themselves made a turn toward thinking through and renewing the anarchist tradition; I call this a “turn” because they had not previously made sustained and lasting contributions in the field of anarchist studies.
Their contributions reflected the stated objective of the journal that I edit, namely Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies. In fact, Sureyyya Evren and I, in collaboration with our advisory board, inaugurated the journal precisely as a journal of post-anarchist scholarship. We knew that the name would probably be short lived, but it was the spirit of post-anarchism that we wanted to capture. It was a spirit of exploration, an intellectual derive, a fascination with making radical breaks with tradition while forging new connections with other traditions. Even so, post-anarchism seemed to want to build a new tradition, to read the classical tradition in different ways by adding and removing this or that iconic thinker or by focusing on marginal comments within Kropotkin or Bakunin rather than the oft-citing contributions. To demonstrate this scope, check out some of the things written about our journal from Lewis Call, printed in the editorial of our first issue:
The existence of this journal, Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies, has convinced me that the time to hesitate is through. A decade into the third millennium, post-anarchism has become a self-realizing desire, a kind of Deleuzian desiring machine. […] This journal contains thoughtful, passionate defences of post-anarchism, and equally insightful, equally passionate critiques of it. Some of the essays in this volume are not particularly post-anarchist in their outlook or method, yet even these share certain concerns with post-anarchism: concerns, for example, about architecture, territories, the organization of space. These essays follow lines of flight which sometimes intersect with post-anarchism, and these points of intersection are rich with potential.
All of this is to merely state the case that Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies has been one of many projects that I have been involved in that have attempted to renew and rethink the anarchist tradition. Moreover, this broader project has always had as its explicit goal an attempt to rethink the tradition but always in fidelity to the tradition itself (rather than from outside of the tradition). Our point of departure, therefore, has always been to find a way not just to make an anarchist turn but also to make an anarchist re-turn. This means that anarchism comes first. There is a certain spirit to the anarchist milieu that ceaselessly seems to erupt from within the anarchist tradition in order overcome the tradition itself. My concern, and in many ways it has been the concern of my co-editor Sureyyya Evren, has been that some post-anarchist scholarship really does move against the grain of anarchist thinking in a way that is unproductive for the anarchist milieu.
Anarchists have always been suspicious of non-anarchists who seem to take us from behind and force us to give birth to another Marxist offspring, or another post-structuralist discourse, etc. The spirit of anarchism seems lost upon certain forms of academic investigation. I will be entirely forthright: when I first heard about The Anarchist Turn conference I was immediately concerned that any radical potential that the conference might have had would immediately devolve into a banal academic form. It would flicker like a flash of lightning and then return itself to the dark skies of scholarly exchange. But I wanted to harness this potential and ensure that the anarchist milieu would profit from it more than the academic community would profit from it.
I wanted to help disseminate the lectures beyond the walls of the New School for Social Research. Admittedly, I had a few tools in my tool-belt for doing so. First, as I stated earlier, I helped to found one of the most exciting and well received anarchist studies journals in the world. One of the reasons it has been exciting is because it has disrupted the scholarly modes of inquiry that have seemed to gently sing anarchism back to sleep in its traditional forms. It offered all of its scholarly material online for free and it explored alternative mediums such as video, mp3, graphics, etc. At one point we even thought about allowing a video game to be published within an issue. In any case, our journal was inaugurated precisely to address the sort of anarchist modes of investigation that were being employed at the conference but to extend them further and to keep that flame ignited.
I decided that it would be interesting to record video and audio from the conference and post these materials online for free for anybody to view. I wrote to Simon Critchley, who I had been in contact with prior to the conference, and asked for permission to do this under the name of Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies. He approved. Next, I asked some of my colleagues who had demonstrated skill in video editing if they would hit the conference and record it for me. Several of these options fell through – in the end, I had heard that a dear friend and much admired professor named Michael Truscello (who directed the film “Capitalism is the Crisis”, and edited a fantastic special issue on 9/11 for us) had planned to do precisely this. I asked him if he would be so kind as to provide his video materials of the conference to our journal for dissemination, and he happily approved. It turned out that the videos were even better than I had expected. They were extremely high quality and expertly shot. I had to do some minor editing on my own, which involved adding some branding (the ADCS logo) and linking together the shots. I quickly learned how to use the video editing software. I posted it on the website of a project that I believe in, namely, blip.tv, had “ic mihrak” draft up a cover for the special web issue, and embedded the entire conference as a “Special Virtual Issue” (ADCS 2011.0).
We received incredible feedback. The video had successfully seduced many scholars into noticing that anarchist scholarship can occur within the academy. I had been under the impression that many anarchists believed that it was impossible to do anarchist research within the academy and so they succumbed to their supervisors flights of fancy. We helped to provide more legitimacy for an emergent form of scholarship, thus inviting new and younger scholars to take up the torch and be assured that there really is a place to have their research published. We received numerous visitors to our journal. Verso Books, the European Graduate School, and many others, advertised our journal. The conference helped to demonstrate that anarchist scholarship not only has a future but can in fact take many forms. It doesn’t only happen in the dry, dull, academic style that they might have witnessed at the conference. It can also happen through poetry, art, architecture, painting, music production, editing and writing, etc. In many ways, we used anarchist academics to advance anarchist forms of scholarship.
The second tool in my tool-belt involved my skills as an editor as well as my contacts within the world of publishing. I had heard it through the grapevine that the conference organizers were interested in turning the conference papers into some sort of publication. However, I also heard, from some of my contacts, that their proposals were being rejected across the board (Verso, for example, rejected their book proposal, among others). I knew what it took to make this a successful publication but I wanted to help make it successful in such a way as to bring that success back into the anarchist studies milieu. I approached Simon Critchley with a number of ideas. I informed Critchley that I would publish the conference papers in one of two ways: (1) through Pluto Press as an edited volume, with my name on the cover for all of my assistance, and with the Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies logo somewhere within the publication. In this case, I told him that we would publish the book as a “special issue” of ADCS but with a secondary press (rather than with our traditional press which could not distribute as widely as we wanted). I knew that other high profile academic journals have used this strategy for publishing special conference papers in the past and that it worked for them. I also informed him that I would like to write the preface with Sureyyya Evren, my co-editor and long time colleague, so that we could state the relevance of the conference for the anarchist studies milieu. Of course, it was obvious that the writing of the preface was an exercise in framing. The second option was: (2) I would publish the entire issue online on the ADCS website and the issue would be printed with our local press but it would have much less distribution. In the latter case, the publication would be open access.
Critchley wanted to go with the first option. He agreed to the stipulations in full and then asked that I continue from that point on to discuss the matter with his colleague and co-conference organizer Chiara Bottici. I spent several weeks working on the proposal for Pluto Press. I knew what Pluto looked for in a contract because I had already published a book with them called Post-Anarchism: A Reader. I have always found Pluto fantastic to work with. Still, to this day, I maintain that Pluto Press is a fine publishing company and I encourage future radical authors to pitch their projects to them. David Castle, in particular, is a shining star in the dark sky of scholarly publishing. Chiara was also incredible to work with – we went through the finer points that Critchley and I discussed and she worked with me to re-brand the project and create a new chapter outline, among other things. In other words, she allowed me to adapt the book as it needed to be adapted for it to be approved for publication.
I kept updating and working through the proposal with Chiara and Simon backed off from communicating with me. I had approached numerous professors and asked them if they would agree to use the book in their courses and had them write this formally so that I could place it into the document with the selected course modules. I did extensive editing of the chapters for the proposal and then spent several weeks in negotiations with the publisher. After handling the peer-reviewers for an additional month, I landed a really sweet contract with Pluto and they mailed it to me immediately. I still remember the many hours spent in the sun room of my apartment, working diligently even while working through the notes for my upcoming PhD comprehensive examination, and feeling like it was too much work and that I should maybe just give up on it. Of course, I worked through the stress and after many months of preparation I secured a contract from Pluto Press for the book. The contract, of course, included all of the stipulations I have listed above (journal special issue affilitation, my name as editor, etc). I also sent a digital version of the contract to Chiara who thought that it was all rather swell.
The hard-copy of the contract, which had listed all of the original stipulations, was mailed to Chiara Bottici at the New School. Before the contract was drawn up Pluto Press was pressuring for only Simon Critchley’s name to appear as an editor on the cover. This was obvious, it was for marketing reasons. Chiara absolutely rejected this possibility, as did I. On this point we stood firm and inevitably Pluto caved. One of the other amendments from Pluto Press involved the placement of Critchley’s name on the cover. For Pluto, Critchley’s name was to appear at the beginning of the list of names. To Critchley’s credit, he insisted that the names be listed in alphabetical order. On this point Pluto caved. Finally, Pluto did not want so many names listed on the cover. Chiara and I disagreed, we thought that everybody should get credit for their work. Pluto inevitably caved to allow all of our names to be on the cover. The original contract, one copy of which is still in my possession, of course reflects all of this. Pluto and the conference organizers were all quite happy with everything and agreed to all of the terms.While all of this was ongoing, Chiara sent me all of the chapters for me to edit into volume styling, to proof, organize, and so on. As any editor knows, this was intense work and it took me no less than a half a year to finalize.
It was a few weeks after the contract was mailed from Pluto’s UK office to my office at Trent University – where, upon receiving I signed my name and sent the contract off to the New School in New York – that Chiara wrote to me to let me know that Critchley now wanted to change the deal. He knew that Pluto was serious and that the deal had been made but he wanted to (1) change the title of the book and (2) remove my name as an editor. The original title of the book paid more debt to the anarchist tradition. It highlighted that anarchism was always a serious line of thinking. The new title, which merely reflects the conference name, assumes that anarchism was now legitimate simply because Judith Butler and Simon Critchley now called themselves anarchists. Interestingly, their anarchism seemed absolutely detached from the anarchist milieu and from the anarchist tradition.
It seemed to me that Critchley’s thinking was that editing involves merely soliciting the pieces from authors. In this case, of course, Critchley ought not be listed either since, I have been told, the majority of the heavy lifting was done by Chiara Bottici and Critchley’s graduate student Jacob Blumenfeld. None of my efforts in producing a revised manuscript, table of contents, title for the book, proofing, editing, etc., was anymore considered a form of “editing”. After some debates between Pluto, Chiara, and myself, all of which lasted at least a few days, I gave in and said that it is okay for my name to be removed so long as the rest of the stipulations remained. A new contract was going to be drawn up without my name on it and sent directly to Chiara in New York.
It was at this time that I was removed from all future correspondence. Several months later, David Castle at Pluto Press wrote to me to let me know that the book was going to continue to press without me. He also informed me that Simon had informed him to drop all of the agreed upon stipulations with Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies.
I wrote to Simon about this and let him know how much work I put into securing the contract for him. The next day I received a single sentence email from him stating the following: either you accept the new amendments or else I take everything and leave. I wrote back and asked him if he understood how many months of intense work I put into the project and he responded by letting me know that he would, of course, detail my work in the acknowledgements section. While I was still a little bitter, I nonetheless thought that this was better than nothing. At least I would receive a little bit of credit for my work.
I received a copy of the book today and my name is nowhere to be found.
All of this is to say that my creative labor was exploited to help Simon Critchley and his colleagues get a book deal that they couldn’t otherwise get. They cared very little about the voluntary contract that they signed with me in the beginning and they entirely disregarded all of my efforts that in point of fact gave them the book deal in the first place. My work was not acknowledged in any way. I did not even receive a free copy or a thank you by email, and that is what really makes me angry.
Update: I found one of the later versions of the contract. I took a few photos and uploaded it here. I’ve received many emails about this, I wrote this note for these people. Finally, I remember one more thing. I offered a compromise at one point with Critchley and Chiara. I said that we could drop my name from the list of editors and simply put “with Duane Rousselle.” I cited a few recent publications that did precisely this. This is why, on my academia.edu page I have listed “with Duane Rousselle” for the book.