Spaces of dissent studentship

My name is Greg Bond. As part of my project I have a residency with Coexist, a community Interest company that generates the Hamilton House Space in Stokes Croft. Whether or not Coexist can be considered a space of dissent within the current neoliberal world is a contested topic. This is indicative of a group that both wants to exemplify alternative economic practices and ways of living while also being sustainable within a capitalist society.

Additionally, the group’s core purpose is to generate a ‘space that best provides for the community’ therefore they must overcome the inevitable exclusion that occurs when providing for and not with. The group regulates their actions and position within society through weekly facilitated meetings. While these meetings are loosely inspired by consensus decision-making practices, the everyday challenges of survival will invariably lead to initial visions and ideals being compromised in favour of sustainability. This can be attributed in part to the assumed superiority of normative economic discourse over other understandings of space.

My research will implement participatory filmmaking with a post-structuralist feminist perspective of the economy to explore how we can generate a more appropriate economic discourse that recognises Hamilton House as more than just a bounded capitalist space, but a complex process of social relations.

Spaces of Dissent workshops: Coproducing Resilient Futures

The social enterprise Coexist chose their name as a defiant statement of intent, a commitment to ‘what could be’ in their effort to achieve a potentially unachievable vision: a pluralist world in which a myriad of resilient communities can coexist. One could describe this as a utopian vision. However, it has been suggested that Thomas Moore’s model of utopia is detrimental to everyday practice as it positions egalitarian practice as a distant unachievable ‘no-place’. 

Instead, alternatives are often used such as ‘heterotopias’ or ‘everyday utopias’ to describe the innovative and alternate practices that are occurring within our current societies across the globe. These labels enable us to acknowledge the realised dreams that exist today, as opposed to distant non-existent ‘no places.’ It is a deliberatively affirmative stance that emphasises the power we each hold to affect the world and create moments of change in our societies. 

The Spaces of Dissent series acknowledges the everyday utopias one can find in Bristol by inviting a diverse range of alternate and innovative groups to participate in our workshops. Furthermore, the workshops themselves are an attempt to realise the dream of diverse organisations and groups collaborating and coexisting in the same space together. It is our ethical stance that while there is not one model we should all follow, and we should instead celebrate difference and diversity, this does not mean we should all work in isolation. If we are going to construct a better future, it must happen together, starting today. 

In 2016 Greg has been involved in develoing the Coexist Think Tank into a space of critical reflection –through a series of workshops on Spaces of Dissent with Brendan Tate funded as part of the 2016 AHRC Connected Communities Utopias festival. This led to three externally facing workshops and events being held by Coexist which explored: Decision-making in governance; Diversity and exclusion within social enterprises and charities; Grassroots regeneration and gentrification.

Key contacts

Project outputs

Productive Margins, University of Bristol
8-10 Berkeley Square, Bristol, BS8 1HH

Tel: +44 (0)117 3940042

Email: productive-margins@bristol.ac.uk

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