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, 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.
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.
Rebel radio stations broadcast from these areas; revolutionary 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 of struggle.
We can 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 on this second front and looks at the ways we resist—and compromise with, surrender to, and, occasionally, foil—the constant external and internalized pressures to conform to the status quo even as we work to overturn it.