What is Life in the Liberated Zone?

globe w flags marking liberated zones
Around the world and throughout history, people struggling for social justice, and movements resisting oppression and fighting for freedom from domination create liberated zones. These spaces serve as refuges and as protective areas supporting front line struggles. They are often behind the scenes, rearguard spaces, but may also themselves become the locus of struggle. This is in fact more and more true, as conventional and guerrilla type conflicts give way to present-day popular struggles where the distinction between fighter and civilian is increasingly blurred.
In these spaces participants organize literacy campaigns, hold assemblies, trainings, and discussions; engage in cultural manifestations, rituals, and speakouts. Even when the liberated zone begins as a needed rearguard, a safety area or a place for participants to be close and protect the place they are defending from extraction or destruction, it often becomes itself a focus and a symbol of the struggles, as for example, the encampments at Standing Rock became the center and symbol of the environmentalist and Indigenous People’s movements.
Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock

Standing Rock, North Dakota, “liberated zone” in the struggle of  Indigenous peoples and allies to protect their lands and Earth as a whole from the destructive passage of the Dakota Access pipeline. A community of thousands, functioning in a cooperative, grass roots manner, sprang up to sustain this movement./Juliana Barnet

Liberated zones give movement participants the chance to put into practice aspects of the new social relations they are fighting for: collective decision-making, new relations for  work and social interaction, discussion and rules for grappling with internal manifestations of societal oppressions and inequalities. They often organize collectively to gather, store, cook and distribute food. In more established liberated zones food is grown and traded, again, in ways that are collective and in keeping with principles of social justice and equality.
Liberated Zone participants may do these things out of principle, but they also find that these changes are indispensable because the old ways of organizing daily life and social relations do not further their struggles, or simply are no longer workable.
Power to the people

A tent dwelling in Occupy DC, one of the many anti-capitalist communities that experimented with collective, cooperative means of organizing daily life as they protested inequality in the worldwide Occupy Movement of 2011-2012./Juliana Barnet

Rebel radio stations broadcast from such areas, which have been established in the heat of struggles for justice around the world and throughout history. Murals and poetry are created, cooperatives, schools and other collectives are founded. New social relations are forged, leadership is shared and social experiments undertaken, in order to live the values being fought for, and because the struggle itself demands new ways of doing things, new social relations, a new culture that carries out in daily practice what people are fighting to see in the larger society. Which makes these zones themselves battlegrounds for struggling with the ways we all internalize and reproduce the Beast. 
We also talk about liberated zones in a broader sense: protective physical, social, and/or metaphysical spaces established in the midst of social movements, enabling us to recover from our exertions, take care of our needs in keeping with our values, and to imagine, discuss and at times carry out trial runs of the new society we hope eventually to bring forth out of the old.
Life in the Liberated Zone delves into our collective and individual experience carving out liberated zones–often ephemeral but leaving a lasting mark on participants of life in a collective embrace. 

Posts in this topic explore life in these varied spaces of refuge in the midst of movements, how we make and maintain them, use and lose them, and how they keep us going.
zapatista readers

With the Zapatista uprising of 1994, Indigenous Mayans liberated part of their ancestral lands in southern Mexico, and established an autonomous zone under their control, in which they practice a contemporary version of traditional collective society based on equality, cooperative labor, and other liberatory values.

life in the liberated zone

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