My current research interest - as an undergraduate student at the University of Oregon - is in developing an "Ethnohistory of the Direct Action Environmental and Anarchist Movements in Eugene, Oregon: 1995-2001". I was involved in this movement for brief moments between 1995-1998 and continually from 1998-2001. A portion of my analysis is on swarming tactics and the carnivalesque.
I first became aware of swarming through the work of defense theorists John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt especially in their work, "Swarming & The Future of Conflict" (Aquilla and Ronfeldt 2000). Of particular interest in this work, is their analysis of Direct Action alter-globalization activists especially of anarchists at the WTO protest in Seattle of 1999. This analysis circulated among anarchists and other anti-authoritarian Direct Action activists at the time.
The authors describe "Scattered efforts to formulate swarm-like doctrines" including in the work of "(Russian anarchist Mikhail) Bakunin’s anarchistic 'general strike' theory" (Arquilla and Ronfeldt 40).
“Swarming has never been systematically and explicitly developed as a major doctrine. But there have been important scattered efforts to recognize the value of swarm-like approaches to conflict. The most clearly developed theoretical work on the subject can be found at the level of social conflict. In anarchist thought, for example, the 'general strike' theory of Mikhail Bakunin focused on the notion of pulsing the power of workers in simultaneous strikes aimed at bringing down the state. As E. H. Carr put it, Bakunin used his general strike theory as a means of overwhelming the state, a “conception of revolution
through the people by destroying the power of the State” (1950, p. 101). His approach is strikingly different from classical revolutionary thought, which instead keys on ways to seize state power and use it in ways that are often ultimately beneficial to the state itself (Skocpol, 1979)" ((Arquilla and Ronfeldt 41).
I am interested in further developing this analysis of Bakunin from a postanarchist (post-structuralist, post-modernist anarchist) perspective.
The authors continue:
“At present, our best understanding of swarming—as an optimal way for myriad, small, dispersed, autonomous but internetted maneuver units to coordinate and conduct repeated pulsing attacks, by fire or force—is best exemplified in practice by the latest generation of activist NGOs, which assemble into transnational networks and use information operations to assail government actors over policy issues. (50)"
To just provide a glimpse of this analysis, the authors continue:
“From the standpoints of both theory and practice, some of the most interesting swarming was conducted by black-masked anarchists who referred to themselves collectively as the N30 Black Bloc, which consisted of anarchists from various affinity groups around the United States. After months of planning, they took to the field individually and in small groups, dispersed but internetted by two-way radios and other communications (51). . ."
The authors argue that the swarming tactics of radical anti-authoritarian networks - through decentralized affinity groups and networks of affinity group called "clusters" in the activist jargon - are highly effective strategies. They further argue that law enforcement and the military must adopt these strategies to compete. As a postanarchist anthropology student and an active participant in the alterglobalization movement, I find this assessment to provide insight into the effectiveness of the methodology of direct action social networks.
Then in 2008, postanarchist anthropologist Jeffrey S. Juris took the first step in applying these insights in his groundbreaking work, "Networking Futures: The Movements Against Corporate Globalization". Recently, postdoctoral research fellow in Visual Culture at Kingston University, Gavin Grindon wrote, "Carnival Against Capitalism: A Comparison of Bakhtin, Vaniegem and Bey". Hakim Bey and Raoul Vaneigem directly influenced local anarchist strategies and through these authors, local anarchist were indirectly influenced by Bakhtin.
Arquilla, John. & Ronfeldt, David F. & Rand Corporation. & National Defense Research Institute (U.S.) 2000, Swarming & the future of conflict / John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt RAND, Santa Monica, CA.
PDF available for free online: http://www.rand.org/pubs/documented_briefings/DB311/
Grindon, Gavin. 2004. "Carnival Against Capitalism: A Comparison of Bakhtin, Vaniegem and Bey" Anarchist Studies 12(2) (also translated into Turkish in Siyahi 5, 2005) PDF available for free online: http://www.gavingrindon.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Carnival-Aga...
Juris, J. S. 2008. Networking futures: The movements against corporate globalization. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
P.S. I just joined "Open Anthropology" today after searching google for "Open Source Anthropology". I hope I am on topic with this.
We need to seize the spaces where people can gather into direct democracy decision-making bodies – People’s Assemblies. We need to challenge the legitimacy of this feeble and hated Con-Dem government by establishing alternative sovereignty in as many key locations as possible.
We think by March 26, with the example set by the galvanic student movement, and the looming Eurozone crisis, a strong majority of rank-and-file trade unionists will NOT be satisfied by a march from A to B, or footprints going round in circles, as the TUC march logo has it!
We propose a map of direct action targets for March 26 (media, education, local and national govt buildings, bank branches, courts, police stations, libraries) to be seized and occupied as seats of the sovereign populace, including any places, space or agencies that should be held accountable to their local communities. We, the people, should be making the decisions about how to share our commonwealth.
Is this the kind of thing, obviously on a rather small scale, envisaged as a swarm? I’ve included links to their site and the Facebook event: