Huff, Patrick Walker
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This ethnography explores the ways in which contemporary political anarchism articulates a value system distinct from the hegemonic value systems associated with the state and capitalism. This ethnography is based on seven months of intensive fieldwork within New Orleans’ anarchist milieu, an ensemble of persons and reoccurring social situations taking place across the space of the city. I employ an innovative and reflexive methodology that synthesizes the ethnographic extended case approach with the philosophy of science known as critical realism. The extended case methodology achieves generalization through the reconstruction of existing theory based on the empirical data obtained during ethnographic case research. Critical realism completes this methodological approach by provided a fully developed ontological and epistemological justification authorizing the methodological procedures entailed in the extended case method. I focus on four primary ethnographic field sites within the city of New Orleans and its anarchist milieu: the efforts of a local and national network of anarchists to organize an Anarchist People of Color (APOC) convergence in New Orleans during the summer of 2012; the decision-making process adopted by the Iron Rail Collective, which manages a radical lending library and bookshop; the efforts of food justice activists as they struggle against the commodification of food, and the culture of creativity associated with the Nowe Miasto housing collective. From this empirical data I develop a theoretical reconstruction of categories of value associated with anarchist activism: autonomy, solidarity, gift, and alienation. I demonstrate the ways in which anarchism can be understood as an alternative value system. I develop a conception of anarchism as the internal “Other” of Western modernity and suggest that it offers a pathway toward the greater fulfillment of the political project of realizing human freedom and emancipation.