This month on Partisan Gardens, we are sharing a presentation by Kristin Ross, author of the landmark book “Communal Luxury: the Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune.” She delivered the lecture to the 2019 Antipode American Association of Geographers Lecture in Washington DC and gave another version of the talk here in Bloomington that same year. Titled the 7th Wonder of the ZAD, Ross goes beyond an account of this successful anti-airport struggle, which called itself the Zone to Defend, to offer a powerful framework for understanding contemporary movements. She argues that anti-development struggles are not merely environmentalist or NIMBY, but rather an opportunity to defend the conditions for life on the planet while also building new relations amongst people and other organisms. The process of defending land calls into being new forms of sharing and coordination, and has, in the Americas, propelled indigenous movements for cultural resurgence.

In 2002, while fighting I-69, an interstate destroying farmland here in Indiana, farmers shared food they grew within the proposed route at huge community harvest meals. In order to defend the Wedzinkwa River from a gas pipeline in so-called Canada, indigenous people from the Wet’suwet’en nation recently built both blockades and a cabin to live in through the winter, directly above a ceremonial pit house. You can find out more here.

Contrary to any NIMBY framing, these defensive struggles often create surprising spaces and far flung connections, and not just on the ZAD, which Ross first visited in order to discuss the 1871 Paris Commune. In Atlanta, Georgia, the movement to defend an urban forest has become an anti-racist, abolitionist struggle in the wake of the George Floyd Uprising last year, since the forest is slated to be destroyed to build a vast police training center. You can find out about the fight against “Cop City” here.

We are grateful to Antipode for sharing this with us. This presentation was the 2019 Antipode American Association of Geographers Lecture, delivered by Prof. Kristin Ross on April 4th at the AAG Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography is a leading critical human geography journal established in 1969. It is owned by the Antipode Foundation, a UK-based non-profit which, among other things, stages lectures at international academic conferences.