Living utopias: An anarcha-feminist account of globally networked movements confronting oppressions and organising radical social change (London 2013-2018)

  • Kate Burrell

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The recent wave of contemporary movements is galvanising social-transformation-making traction in new and complex ways. Their contribution is redefining relationships between Peoples, creating new social relations between current and future generations and with nature. The ‘how’ of this transformation is an area of immense intrigue within movements, academic and mainstream debates.
In this thesis, I explore how social movements organise their collective actions, and how prefigurative and strategic dilemmas of their everyday organising are, on the one hand exposing, undermining and in some cases venturing beyond existing structures of domination; global capitalism, patriarchy/gender oppressions, racism, (neo)colonialism, (dis)ableism…. On the other hand, their experimental forms are creating alternative social forms; participatory democracies, direct/collective action, autonomy, decolonising, gender awareness, local and global networks of solidarity and voluntary association. When horizontal movements encounter difficulties, they may stifle and fold, and/or collectively, imaginatively, and in praxis transcend above and beyond issues and contentions to create new ways of being, moving beyond previously conceived parameters of possibility.
I offer six London-based case studies of globally networked social movements. Occupy London and offshoots, Reclaim the Power, anti-fracking and Climate movements, Rhythms of Resistance carnival anti-capitalism, Wretched of the Earth with decolonising critique, Defend the Right to Protest, and Stop Trump. I explore how prefigurative and strategic politics are played out within the dilemmas of everyday organising, linking the minutiae of micro-politics to the dismantling of structures of oppression.
My argument is that, within movements, it is the collective-self-conscious combining of strategic refusal of systems of oppression alongside creative prefiguration of new worlds which creates multiplicities of lived experiments in organising, being, doing, relating, living and loving and dynamism for social transformation. As such, these movements are utopias in motion. My contribution is an anarcha-feminist methodology which attempts to both describe social-transformation-making and to contribute to it, through collective learning interventions around anarchist means–ends alignment and collective self-reflection around movement’s social-change making traction. I also contribute to the Left-anarchist-feminist-decolonising debate around social transformation
Date of Award21 Jul 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorAna Cecilia Dinerstein (Supervisor)

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