This ambitious book offers radical alternatives to conventional ways of thinking about the planet’s most pressing challenges, ranging from alienation and exploitation to state violence and environmental injustice.
Bridging real-world examples of resistance and mutual aid in Zapatista territory with big-picture concepts like critical consciousness, social reproduction, and decolonisation, the authors encourage readers to view themselves as co-creators of the societies they are a part of - and ‘be Zapatistas wherever they are.’
Written by a diverse team of first-generation authors, this book offers an emancipatory set of anticolonial ideas related to both refusing liberal bystanding and collectively constructing better worlds and realities.
Chapter 2 offers readers a detailed introduction to the Zapatistas and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN). It provides a genealogy of the Zapatista uprising in 1994, as well as expanding on how the movement continues to engage in resistance and is practising self-determination in the face of neoliberalism and authoritarian state power. The chapter also discusses some of the principles that define the Zapatista movement by moving into an explicatory overview of several axioms that characterise the spirit and praxis of the Zapatistas, including ‘preguntando caminamos’ (‘asking, we walk’); ‘para todos todo, para nosotros nada’ (‘everything for everyone, nothing for us’); ‘un mundo donde quepan muchos mundos’ (‘a world where many worlds fit’); and ‘no están solos’ (‘you are not alone’).
Chapter 3 focuses largely on neoliberalism, with specific attention paid to policies and discourses that both shape and affect health, education, and knowledge more generally. In addition to providing a definition of neoliberalism and demonstrating how it operates differently across varying geographical contexts and social institutions, the chapter critically discusses global health, biopower, docility, surveillance and the ways in which neoliberalism not only shapes the global economy and governance, but also psyches and subjectivities. The chapter highlights how universities are being corporatised and inculcating the people who learn and work in them with neoliberal ideology and market-oriented subjectivities by advocating extreme individualism, self-centrism (protagonism), capitalist mentalities and consumerism. Overall, Chapter 3 offers a sobering glimpse of the realities of neoliberal education before transitioning to ideas about how things can be changed.
Chapter 4 offers a sharp genealogy and dissection of modernity and the ways in which it is inextricably linked to colonial worldviews and imperial power. It also offers a dedicated look at the realities and struggles of Indigenous people, in particular, the Zapatistas. The chapter defines and illustrates key terms and concepts related to imperialism, coloniality, modernity and decolonisation. In discussing the historical and ongoing trajectories of colonialism, the chapter provides readers with an overview of the ways in which life, labour and land have all been expropriated, commoditised and de-sacralised via Western-liberal worldviews and capitalist rationality. It also offers a dedicated focus on different phases of the Zapatista struggle, and how their communities, as Indigenous people, are responding to the colonial-capitalist enterprise by constructing grassroots autonomy.
Chapter 6 includes a synopsis of a constellation of transformative concepts such as critical consciousness, praxis, feminist politics and solidarity that the authors feel are essential to be aware of, but are either being suppressed or sidelined in mainstream education. Drawing from the work of Paulo Freire and his critique of the banking model education, as well as a host of liberatory feminist thinkers, the chapter highlights how education can be put at the service of freedom. It also offers an accessible explanation of the role that colonial power, race and heteropatriarchy have in contemporary systems of domination and exploitation. In addition the chapter provides a summary of how borders and nationalism continue to be used to divide, ‘Other’ and conquer, as well as the pivotal role of feminist ethics and dissent in challenging oppression.
Chapter 7 illustrates how Zapatista communities are placing dignity, collectivity, defiance and selflessness at the heart of their social relations, economy and autonomous education system. The chapter offers an insight into the genesis of the Zapatista rebellion along with a detailed overview of how grassroots political education operates in Zapatista communities. After historicising the EZLN’s uprising in 1994, the chapter demonstrates how Indigenous customs and cosmovision remain at the heart of the movement’s resistance and education system. The chapter then highlights the ways in which being engaged with nature, active learning and political history are featured in the curriculum. Overall, the chapter provides readers with an overview of how the Zapatistas have incorporated political education, solidarity, collective action, democratic process and praxis into their construction of autonomy.
Chapter 8 focuses on how the domain of social reproduction is a necessary political terrain on which to organise for widespread change and just social relations. More expressly, the chapter demonstrates how social reproduction, which includes care work, community building, provisioning and all the work that perpetuates life, can be intentionally foregrounded as a strategic site of anti-capitalist, anti-colonial and anti-heteropatriarchal struggle for politico-economic and socio-cultural transformation. With a focus on the political agency and dissidence of the Zapatista women, the chapter illustrates how the autonomous movement can be seen as an example of how people can work together collectively to co-create gender just social relations and inclusive cultural norms. Ultimately, the chapter illustrates how resistance can undermine patriarchy and animate pathways out of structural violence.
Chapter 9 describes how the Zapatistas are building an alternative solidarity economy that incorporates mutual aid, food sovereignty, Indigenous knowledge and organic agroecology as a response to the deleterious products of global capitalism and the corporate food regime. The chapter also provides a critique of orthodox approaches to global health, and shares with readers information about the disparate physical and mental health effects that were and remain a product of colonial power, capitalist social relations and Eurocentric worldviews. On this point, it underscores the transformative potential of Indigenous knowledges and approaches to care, health and wellbeing. In detailing the Zapatistas’ construction of autonomy and decommodisation of nature, it also includes several insights into what principles are incorporated into and are at the foundation of a solidarity economy.
Chapter 10 ends with a reflection on the current challenges at hand regarding mainstream higher education and universities, as well as the authors’ thoughts on some potential solutions, which draw directly from the spirit of Zapatismo. As a summary chapter, it provides readers with an overview of how the Zapatistas have prioritised political education, social reproduction, solidarity, collective action, democratic process and praxis in their resistance, movement and pursuit of health. The chapter also reiterates the point that the book should ultimately be a gateway text that motivates readers to refuse liberal bystanding and contribute to collective action and radical change wherever they are, from the local to the global, that is relevant, inclusive and enduring.
Chapter 5 touches on the consequences of resisting exploitation, extraction and ‘development’, as well as the realities of environmental defenders and what movements like the Zapatistas offer us in the way of building alternatives and changing the world. The chapter also explains the ways in which the driving forces of capital accumulation continue to perpetuate land grabbing across the globe, as well as how Indigenous and peasant communities engage in resistance and confront the expropriation of traditional territories and resources. In addition to evidencing the political agency of communities in struggle who are challenging state-sanctioned violence and the environmental degradation that results from corporate extraction, the chapter illustrates the ways in which land defenders and water protectors are criminalised and subjected to reprisal because of their resistance.