Dispossession, pauperization and the exploitation of labor by a historical process of colonial capitalism continues to be met with resistance by indigenous peoples, small/landless peasants/workers, development-displaced persons (DDPs) and semi/urban poor and (racialized-gendered) forced migrant and labor/working classes in the neo/colonies. Praxis and the production of movement-relevant knowledge as research are central to the work of their organic intellectuals and organizational leaders, including local and trans/national activists working with(in) these struggles and movements.
Academic researchers located in post-secondary institutions also engage with these struggles. This collection seeks to contribute in this vein as engaged academic researchers draw on their respective research relationships with and for these struggles and movements in the neo/colonial regions of the Americas and Asia. It is our intention that this contribution is of use to researchers in academia as faculty and graduate students alike and to organic movement intellectuals, activists, and researchers. We extend our initial international perspectives on participatory action research (PAR) collaboration but now in relation to engaged academic research broadly defined (including variants of PAR) and specifically in contexts of neo/colonial capitalist dispossession, pauperization and urban poor labor/working-class exploitation.
The collection is informed by the interdisciplinary social sciences and includes engaged academic research methodologies (and methods) variously labeled as: comparative (historical-dialectical) ethnographic approaches; critical oral histories; participatory research (PR); anticolonial participatory action research (APAR); “Third-Worldist” PAR and PAR; grassroots-oriented (insurgent) research; waste-picker ethnography; guerrilla history (class struggle); public sociology and scholar-activism; activist ethnography; and praxis-oriented research. All approaches are informed by (depending on the politics of social groups and/or classes being engaged) an anticolonial, anti-capitalist, anti-dispossession, anti-proletarianization, anarchist, labor/socialist and/or an (indigenist) environmental politics addressing colonial “racial capitalism” (Robinson 2000) in select locations of ongoing contributor research in the Americas and Asia.
As editors we sought to include the work of those academics who were engaged with struggles variously addressing the historical continuity of the coloniality of Euro-American capitalism and power including a comprador national bourgeoisie and growing transnational capitalist and consumer class. These struggles continue to address a political-economic and cultural system of racial (gendered) social domination created by colonial conquest and the emergent system of capitalist accumulation and exploitation connecting all forms of control of work (slavery, servitude, simple commodity production, reciprocity, capital) to produce (through a racialized-gendered division of labor) initially for Europe and then the capitalist world market. The process is centered around the hegemony of a system of states wherein populations classified as inferior in racial terms (indigenous peoples, small/landless peasants, pastoralists, nomads) are excluded from the formation and control of this system (Quijano 2000; 2005) or are simply in the way of if not deemed superfluous for the reproduction of colonial (racial) capitalism.
Hence the struggles against (or to replace) colonial capital and the related research relationships are variously located (in terms of politics) in these chapter contributions. For instance, where capitalist relations are relatively established, struggles defined by the labor–capital dialectic (accumulation as expanded reproduction) or a class politics are paramount. Where such relations are still emergent (contexts of colonial accumulation by dispossession from land) “a
dialectics of colonial domination and anticolonial resistance (internally penetrative and mutually constitutive of each other)” (Kapoor 2017: 21) or land-based territorial politics takes precedence. The uneven development of capitalist social relations also ensures the prospects and possibilities for contradictory responses and resistance, if not other historical projects which pre-date capital.
This collection shares experiences of how and what is entailed in engaged academic research with and for these struggles and movements understood as “sustained challenges to powerholders in the name of disadvantaged populations living under the jurisdiction or influence of those powerholders” (Tarrow 1996: 874), while demonstrating the many ways in which academic research engagements can be productive for movements, despite the potential contradictions and challenges of such cross-locational socio-political work. The emphasis is on political solidarity through relationship with organized groups engaged in struggle which in turn demands significant changes in conventional academic research methods given the recognition that to be (critically) aligned with the politics of subjects in struggle is to recognize that knowledge is situated, intersubjective, and produced through a continuous praxis between movement actors and engaged academic researchers. The primary emphasis is on yielding political processes and outcomes that are of use to the struggle, as research-education/pedagogy-organizing and mobilization are often, methodologically speaking, indiscrete and in relation to political action addressing the structures and conditions of colonial (racial) capitalism.
What counts as academic research contributions to struggle in this volume is mutually defined (movements and academics) and largely dependent on the politics of the agents of struggle themselves. While knowledge production is central to any form of research engagement and is a primary contribution, academic research relations with social struggles can also include a much wider set of possible contributions determined through ongoing dialogue with movement actors.