Informal Anarchist Praxis: an open discussion of hangouts

Another Battlefield

The purpose of this is to attempt broaching a debate of informal anarchist praxis that focuses on contexts which I lack the terminology to succinctly describe. The problem of terminology arises because the contexts with which I’m concerned are social spaces where numerous identities congregate and loosely compose a vague culture through familiarity and consistency. While there are a variety of terms that approximate a description of these contexts, they are unsuitable. Participants in these spaces vary in terms of race, class, sexuality, religion, and other usual sociological categories. Yet, they don’t come together in anything that could be considered a coherent culture.

One way to describe these spaces is to consider them the buffers, interfaces, and filters between mainstream culture and subculture. They open up at particular hangouts (bars, venues, local eateries, etc.) and appeal to both more isolated, inwardly facing counter-cultures and those exploring cultural regions (and values) slightly outside a mainstream comfort zone. Consequently, these are spaces where counter-cultural individuals come into contact with the mainstream in more relaxed and intimate environments; spaces where individuals with different backgrounds and values become less “othered”/objectified without the social constraints of the workplace, the school, or any other place with narrowly defined purpose.

These hangouts and the proto-cultures which are constituted and expressed through them offer a variety of potential. They are the immediate outside of more coherent subcultures which individuals participate in and where newcomers find avenues into more underground spaces. Conversely, they are also spaces where capitalists constantly attempt to advertise their products and services, attempting to become staple features of them through sponsorship, branding, and other interventions. This itself creates an underlying conflict of values between culture and capital. At the same time, these are also spaces where individuals are often at odds with the State as it acts to regulate noise and rowdiness, set points of surveillance to apprehend intoxicated drivers, and infiltrate undercover to gather intelligence.

For the above reasons and many others, anarchists may often avoid such spaces as much as possible. These spaces are often rampant with sexism, racism, homophobia, fighting, superficial rituals, and general stupidity. The entertainment they offer is usually of a mediocre variety in attempt to appeal to a lowest common denominator of cultural taste and tolerance. Their accessibility is somewhat oriented around consumption, therefore suggesting participants have some money to spare. In all of their flexibility, they are still spaces mostly structured by privately owned local businesses and are accordingly rigid. Though all of the above is true, anarchists don’t simply ignore the existence of these spaces. They are spaces which have become a fixture of contemporary society and if anything, represent a potent model of social life to be critiqued, attacked, embraced, and/or supported. As such, a discussion about these spaces could prove quite useful.

I think this is a topic that almost everyone should be able to have something to say about, which is usually discussed abstractly (and confusingly), and directly pertains to revolutionizing everyday life in one way or another. I invite anyone with an interest in informal anarchist praxis to participate in discussing the features of these spaces in their locality, but also keeping in mind broader regional potentials. Feel free to describe your personal experiences, attempts at organizing, critiques, and other thoughts.

2 Responses to “Informal Anarchist Praxis: an open discussion of hangouts”

  1. hpwombat says:

    I think I’ve been at a number of these places, which were rather common in the 90s, but not so much, at least not from what I can tell.

    For me, I’ve been in or around subcultures off and on since I was a teenager. Not so much anymore.

    A space I can think of that successfully combined radicals, artists, punk rockers, techno djs with college kids and neigborhood locals was called “the Sugarshack”, which was a cafe and eatery, which was open 24/7 and ran by a family, including their children, which may of been homeschooled as well. It lasted for quite some time, but its location wasn’t one that constantly attracted customers, so I’m assuming this led to its closure.

    Another, similar space was Insomnia, a cafe in the 90s. Right in the heart of the University District (the most populated district in Ohio and home of the Ohio State University), it was across the street from the OSU student union. It attracted everything subcultural and mixed with college kids galore. It had all the games most cafes do, except people regular played them. People would meet up there all the time. Next to the business was a bench and tree that was the spanging location for the many traveler kids that were attracted to the cafe.

    Most people that went to Insomnia would meet up with other people and go somewhere else. When cell phones weren’t common, it was regular to just set up at Insomnia and wait for friends to show up, whether they knew you were there or not. It had an outdoor patio that made it easy to sit along the street and be seen by anyone that might matter.

    Insomnia failed because the many cultures needed drugs and drug dealers were using it as a base of operations, employing the junkie traveler kids as their foot soldiers. Soon people weren’t really buying the usually burnt coffee from the jerk behind the counter reading a book. As this became the hot market to sell any crazy drug (ecstasy, lsd, weed, shrooms, speed, heroin), the drug dealers started having violent events occur there. Even though actual patrons weren’t dragged in, it was turning the place into a nightmare.

    It might not of closed even with all this going on, if it weren’t for OSU’s development company “Campus Partners” buying off campus properties and basically destroying the entire scene along the University District strip. Insomnia was replaced by a bad sushi place, which was then replaced again with a higher end bar. The tree and bench next to the place were removed and the traveler kids were chased off.

  2. Squee says:

    Did you ever think about antics, organizing, etc. orientated towards those spaces (which are exactly the type I mean, still function here although admittedly less, and I’m sure are all over the country)?

Leave a Reply

LouiseBrooks theme byThemocracy