ICS Seminar Series

Next Seminar

Date: Thursday 26 May 2016
Time: 11.30am–1pm (followed by a book launch for Building Dignified Worlds: Geographies of Collective Action, 1.15pm at the Institute)
Venue: EB.2.02, Western Sydney University, Parramatta South campus

Gerda Roelvink

(Western Sydney University)

Building Dignified Worlds


Building Dignified Worlds examines how contemporary collectives are designing alternative economies. Contemporary collectives differ markedly from previous groups associated with revolutionary politics. Instead of assembling large groups of workers around labor issues, these new collectives creatively arrange diverse peoples, animals, natural environments, and technologies around economic concerns. Like older forms of leftist organising, these collectives seek to bring about change. However, rather than working to overthrow and replace an underlying capitalist system with an equally totalising alternative like socialism, they experiment with new forms of economic life. This paper explores how socially and politically concerned groups actually establish alternative economies. 

Building Dignified Worlds investigates social movements that do not simply protest but actively forge functional alternatives. The market model described by many scholars and activists as the enemy of these recent social movements rarely exists in today's world. As I note, current markets are better conceptualised as dynamic social networks open to intervention by innovative social movements. Radical scholars have theorised social transformation as a performative act. They have provided extensive analysis of how discourse shapes the world through language and is materialised in bodies and practices. Until now, though, little has been written about the geographical nature of collective associations 'performing' new worlds. I take actor network and performativity theories of action as starting points for thinking about how contemporary collectives bring the new into being. This approach enables an understanding of how collectives initiate change and begins to map the forces through which they operate. This work reveals, in particular, how the relational and geographical nature of performative action is central to the ways in which hybrid collectives strive to create alternative economies.


Gerda Roelvink is a senior lecturer in Geography and Urban Studies in the School of Social Sciences and Psychology at Western Sydney University. Her research expertise is in the field of diverse economies, focusing in particular on collective action and economic transformation. Gerda's work on diverse economies includes the book Building Dignified Worlds: Geographies of Collective Action and the co-edited volume Making Other Worlds Possible: Performing Diverse Economies (both published by the University of Minnesota Press). In addition to her work on the geography of collective action, Gerda has conducted research on the affective dimensions of collective action and is the co-editor of forthcoming special issues of Angelaki (2015) and Emotion, Space and Society (2015) on posthumanism and affect. She has published research in various scholarly books and journals including Antipode, the Journal of Cultural Economy, Emotion, Space and Society, Progress in Human Geography, and Rethinking Marxism. She is currently working on a project investigating farm-led collectives responding to landscape degradation in rural Australia.

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Feature Video

Watch Professor Ien Ang’s seminar presentation on Navigating Complexity: From Cultural Critique to Cultural Intelligence, which formed part of a special issue of the journal Continuum.

Three students listening to a seminar presentation.Seminar audience listening to a seminar presentation.

Handel Wright presenting at the ICS Seminar Series.

Handel Wright presents at the ICS Seminar Series. The photo shows attendees sitting around table.