The Subject/ion of the Political as the concept for 2018
The recent Velvet Revolution of Armenia has demonstrated (once again!) that politics is an indispensible tool for discovering new modes of being, that not only is it a locus of craftsmanship (a techne) where things are (or must be) constructed, founded and instituted, but also an uninterrupted space – a wide expanse – where human beings can fulfill themselves in the fullness of what it is to be human. The revolution has also revealed that the possibility of politics rests with freedom, and with humans being a ‘thesaurus’ of possibility, for if people were not free and equal, there would be no initiative to undertake, no action to take, no problems to debate, no relations to cultivate, and so on. Importantly, the Revolution has also showed that it is misleading to pose singular 'what (is the political)?' questions about politics, as it has been done traditionally – by either equating it with the art of government; or with being the domain of the public (vs. the private); or by relating it to the art of compromise, consensus, conciliation and negotiation (i.e., conflict resolution); or by associating politics with power. Instead, it would be much wiser to restructure the political as a necessarily plural 'how?' question, where politics is defined as the place where our humanness can be unlocked in its full potential, so that people could freely take up the task of turning the possibility of their way of being into new possibilities of being.
This shift in our politics of political thought can allow for a variety of reevaluations of the meaning of the political. Most importantly, it can open the door to treating politics as a locomotive of change, and to thereby also attributing a more positive meaning to it (contrary to the habit of associating politics with being a dirty game). We deal with politics every time we deal with disagreements on a collective problem; every time we encounter difficulties in arriving at collective decisions; every time we witness oppression, subjugation, domination and/or injustice at the expense of collective and/or individual freedom; every time we decide who/why/how should get what; who/why/how should contribute; and so on.
The thematic core of the second Green Academy of Armenia is comprised of questions that are just like this – questions, to put it figuratively, that deal with the Subject/ion of the Political; i.e., with the subjects of politics (actors), its subject matter (contents), and its subjection; i.e., people’s ability to bring problems of shared interest under their control and influence. The topics chosen – environmentalism, conflict transformation and gender democracy – occupy a central position within the fabric of the green discourse, but these are also topics of paramount significance to the Armenia society and belong to the ranks of issues that require immediate attention and ingenious solutions. It is our ardent hope that the discussions held as part of the Academy would not only contribute to the participants’ vita contemplativa (contemplative life), but would also touch off their vita active (active life) by giving them fresh impetus to assume their share of informed responsibility in tackling the problems under consideration.
The key sessions included
1. Green Transformation
- Is green transformation utopia or reality?
- Is society ready for such transformation?
- Are political actors capable to bring such transformations?
- How can political green activism challenge the existing neoliberal policies towards social democratic reality?
2. Peace Transformation
In the current state of no peace no war, it is of utmost importance that a discussion on the question of war and peace be undertaken in Armenia. Such a debate would, however, also allow for a better and a more informed understanding of the very nature of the political system we happen to be living in, be it the national level, the international level, or the transnational level, since the question of preventing war and establishing a lasting peace has been foundational and detrimental to the creation and formation of the modern political system.
- How has war and peace been theorized?
- Why and how do conflicts emerge?
- How can conflicts be ceased?
- What factors can best contribute to their elimination?
- What policies should be encouraged if the ideal of peace is to reign supreme and persevere?
It is equally crucial to go beyond the mainstream stereotypical perceptions of conflict patterns and also develop a vocabulary – and the analytical acumen – that explains, accounts for, understands and analyses the instances of individual conflicts – an important perspective, given the decades-old history of conflict that has saturated all the aspects of life of the Armenian society around the question of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh).
3. Gender in Change
“Gender” is a highly politicized concept in today’s Armenia. Why gender? Why does it so terrify the ruling politicians and the wider traditionalist groups of the society? What’s the status quo that “gender” may undermine? Whose power could “gender” ruin? What is the role of gender reflection in Rights movements and Change politics both in Western and in Armenian history? What transformations have gender and sexuality politics undergone in Armenian history, and why? What are the key perspectives of gender conceptualization now – in contemporary West and Armenia? Taking into account all those speculations towards gender we suggest thinking of “Gender in Change”: through histories, theories and local experiences.
“Gender in Change” provides series of discussions and lectures:
- To make visible the historical and on-going changes of gender and sexuality perception through time(s) and space(s).
- To interpret the existing reality as a legacy of gender-structured power relations.
- To open critical perspective on rigid understanding of gender, sexuality and power and to open possibilities of gendered thinking and change.
The Feedback by participants at the end of the Programme
GA final evaluation session was aimed at receiving participants’ feedback on the content of the Academy. Questions asked and replies are presented below.
What was the most important thing you discovered from the Academy: an interesting or critical idea, a new thought, a new term, a word, a wording? And what was especially impressive
- I discovered that ‘green values’ are much more and much broader than just nature protection;
- I thought about developing of the Eco-education in the regions, which I believe would be useful to better access and use their own local resources;
- Gender part was very interesting I never had a chance to hear about gender issues before;
- Global warming was the only environmental problem I cared before, but the case studies, green policies etc. discussed helped me to understand more;
- I started thinking of Eco-tourism in Armenia;
- I changed my opinion that the mining industry is supporting Armenia’s economic development, now I know that it brings more harm than economic benefit.
Which topics discussed were relevant to your life and personal experience; one thing you noticed or felt, however did not try to turn into a word, but the Academy did and formulated it?
- I decided to deeper examine the energy efficiency issues, and I was happy to meet Astghine Pasoyan –an expert in the field;
- I developed new ideas for my MA thesis from last year’s GA and this year they become even more concrete;
- I developed more critical thinking, for example I was never critical about the militarization issues in Armenia before, but now I do;
- Before attending in the GA the eco-issues were more on a ‘household level’, now I have much developed, broad and systematic approach to these issues thinking often what we will leave behind;
- Now I feel that even living in a conservative family I’m more free;
- My wrong notions on feminism and gender issues disappeared; now I would advocate for more tolerance where possible;
- I clearly decided to choose a ‘man-dominated’ specialization (criminal law) which I doubt before;
- I considered myself being a regular consumer; now before buying I would think twice – do I really need this 3rd pair of shoes?
- Now I’m more open to new ideas.
- Now I think how current marketing affects our behavior promoting more and more consum.
Was there something that you did not notice before, but after the Academy you learned that this was what always have lived/been with you?
- Hearing about the feminism was an explanation for my own feelings that I’m not only a wife and mother, but also a woman who wouldn’t build her personal life based only on these two norms;
- I discovered that I’m a feminist inside;
- Even being a woman I somewhat underestimated the women’s potential and importance, now I completely changed my opinion and truly believe that a woman with her knowledge, and skills can claim being a leader, politician activist etc. equally to a man.
What new decisions have you made after the Academy? Why? What changes in behavior and mentality have it brought to your personal life?
- I will advocate for women’s rights, speak up about women’s problems and encourage women not to be afraid in choosing their own path and break stereotypes on their perceived roles;
- I will be engaged in political and activist movements more actively (for the next future-I decided to act as an observer in upcoming parliamentary elections);
- Now I’m more courageous to get and share new ideas;
- I will now be actively engaged in environmental movements rather than following them via FB or TV news;
- ‘Green-concept’ is moving forward; I was planning some projects in this field, which – now I think –can be realized in Armenia.
GA Armenia 2018 full programme here (Armenian only).