By Ruth Kinna
Twenty years ago the task of compiling a research guide to anarchism would have been a more straightforward task than it is today. In his introduction to For Anarchism, published in 1989, David Goodway argued that anarchism – theory, practice, and history – was only just emerging from the periphery. New currents in Britain, Canada, and North America indicated that anarchism was beginning to shake off the debris it had acquired from the scrap heap to which it had been consigned. Yet anarchist research still attracted little attention out-side anarchist circles and, as he has argued more recently, even in areas where anarchism was a significant influence – in literature, music, art – it struggled to gain intellectual currency or achieve prominence in public debates.
Goodway perhaps overlooked some important niches of anarchist research activity, but the picture he painted captured the marginalization of anarchist studies and the failure of mainstream research to engage with anarchism. The neglect was obvi-ous in socialist history, where leading historians simultaneously acknowledged the significant part that anarchists had played in radical movements across the world but nevertheless wrote anarchism out of the modern struggle. In the last 20 years, the volume of work in anarchist studies has grown substantially. The range of disciplinary territories over which anarchists now roam has expanded and interest in anarchist research has grown in parallel. Indeed, whereas researchers once shunned anarchism for say, Marxism (Goodway suggests reasons to do with the lack of tangible reward, anarchist anti-intellectualism, and bias against theory) more now seem willing to engage with it. To be sure, the ‘a’ word still presents problems in research cultures, but anarchism has a foothold in art history, anthropology, pedagogy, utopian studies and researchers working in the field have made significant contributions to film and social movement studies, to work on feminism, gender and sexuality, cultural studies and contemporary political theory. New avenues are being opened up in sociology and the influence of anarchist ideas is beginning to be felt in economics, criminology, and law. And the questions prompted by this body of research are not just about historical movements – though the important task of documenting anarchist activity continues – but about the
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