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Revolutionary Constellations: Seeing Revolution Beyond the Dominant Frames


The dissertation looks beyond the dominant frames of Western epistemology and philosophy that largely determine the ways revolution and revolutionaries are conceptualized and remembered in modern society. Rather than focusing on historically grounded political projects that conform to a particular revolutionary doctrine, our focus will be on common people whose praxis posed, and still poses, an alternative to a social order premised on the separation and stratification of the commons and its people. The revolutionaries we will meet in these pages see through what we will unravel as the myth of separateness. They see through a mythic reality that veils people’s interconnections with each other, with the commons, and with the cosmos from which all life emerges. Their praxis touches this deeper reality. To ground our discussion, we will look deeply at three flashpoints of revolt against the myth as it manifested itself in the liberal capitalist regimes of the 19th and 20th centuries: The Paris Commune of 1871, the student protests of 1968 in Paris and Mexico, and a self-immolation in protest of the Vietnam War that occurred in 1970. We will thread these flashpoints together to see how, despite the distance that separates these revolts in time and space, they illuminate an alternative way of being that stands in contrast to the atomized, competitive, and militant existence that is formed in the crucible of liberal capitalist empire. Threading these flashpoints together, we will begin to reconceptualize what is meant by success and failure, beginnings and endings. Though these revolts may end with defeat and death, the way of being that they touched continues on past their historical or biographical endpoint. Like the light from a dead star or from an extinguished candle, their revolution travels across space and across time waiting for the right conditions to manifest itself again in renewed praxis. Cultural production, particularly art and literature, will serve as our vehicle for illuminating this revolution and its continuations.

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