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“Give up Activism” and Change the World in Unknown Ways: Or, Learning to Walk with Others on Uncommon Ground



This article reflects on a politics of hope, silence and commonality through some extended conversations with members of the public during a demonstration which shut down an oil refinery in Nottingham. My reflections concern the concept of uncommon ground, where there are encounters between activists and their others. While conversations on uncommon ground highlight the entrenched nature of many social roles, possible connections open up by highlighting how they are always emotionally laden, relationally negotiated, hybrid, corporeal and contingent. Hence, the paper addresses the potentialities for extending dialogue on uncommon ground into common places. A key element relates to the need to transcend the role of the activist, to literally give up activism. This article builds upon normative, participatory and libertarian approaches in Geography which propose what could become possible by working with others towards mutual aid and self-management. In essence, learning to walk with others helps us to counteract universalist solutions and instead assemble toolkits for developing contextualised and workable alternatives to life under capitalism.