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Militant research against‐and‐beyond itself: critical perspectives from the university and Occupy London

Sam Halvorsen


Department of Geography, University of SheffieldSouth Yorkshire

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First published: 09 September 2015
Cited by: 9

The information, practices and views in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG).


This paper examines the increasingly popular approach of militant research and argues for the need to conceptualise it as a contradictory approach that exists against‐and‐beyond any form it takes. It understands militant research as a committed and intense process of internal reflection from within particular struggle(s) that seeks to map out and discuss underlying antagonisms while pushing the movement forward. Based on the author's experiences of doing militant research with Occupy London from both inside the university and through the Occupy Research Collective created outside, it argues that there are no ideal sites for doing militant research. It explores the opportunities of doing militant research within the university, pointing towards the potential for subverting the resources available, and highlights the barriers, in particular with relation to ethics. The Occupy Research Collective (ORC) is then examined as an alternative space for doing militant research. In turn, a number of limitations of ORC are noted, including both its lack of resources and tendency to (re)create a form of doing militant research detached from broader struggles. While recent work has highlighted the need for militant research to operate antagonistically to the neoliberal university, and there have been calls to create new institutions outside it, this paper extends previous arguments by emphasising the need to criticise all forms of militant research in order to push struggles forward. It draws on John Holloway's widely referenced ‘in‐against‐and‐beyond’ dialectical approach to emphasise the inevitable challenges of institutionalising militant research, no matter where this takes place. It concludes by suggesting that militant research should not shy away from embracing critiques of particular struggles and that further theoretical work needs to be done in terms of developing a more open and relational understanding of militancy.