Revolutionary Love


Editors Note

Dear friends and lovers,

As anthropologists, we find ourselves entangled in academia, taking on the roles of scholars and narrators tied not to our own stories but to those of others. Yet, a persistent yearning drives us to discover new ways to express unsettling emotions and lingering inquiries. We see storytelling as a powerful tool against powerlessness and alienation amid ongoing crises and personal complexities. Motivated by this shared impulse, we embark on a journey to refine our expression, exploring uncharted territories of understanding and narrative. We resist the rigid structures that threaten to limit our thoughts, striving for an authentic reflection on a seemingly unchanging world. This state of limbo pushes us into a volatile existence, limiting our ability to assign meaning to the unfamiliar, the overly familiar, and the absolute personal.

Upon deliberation of the thematic underpinning of our first issue, the inception of Thirdshelf, it seemed fitting to delineate the ethos of our journal by delving into a central concern within ethnographic practice- the imperative for creativity, experimentation, and linguistic-visual disjunction in the pursuit of research.

Why Thirdshelf?

H: Thirdshelf is spearheading a push to present anthropology not just as a captivating odyssey but also as a foundational pillar of the imaginary and the manifested. The revolutionary sense of our mission lies in the deliberate undoing of our collective psyche and the blind spots it carries. The allure of ethnographic exploration isn't merely in its capacity to study the mundane and the relatable but in the ability to bear witness and participate in the company of human expressions and resilience - a fusion of sorrow, relief, and transformative breakthroughs.

Consistently, I find myself lost in the ethereal and dreamlike details of this practice. Whether it is the tangible realities of displaced Iranian sweethearts in Istanbul or the dissonant beats of drum practices in London, teasing out the individualism woven into 'self-care' rituals, Thirdshelf unveils the potential to reimagine the future of anthropological practice. It empowers us to confront the unimaginable - how often our aspirations are confined by the imperatives of survival and routine. As an ethnic minority and second-generation immigrant, the notion of pursuing the airflows of anthropology was ingrained in me from an early age as unattainable, a classist lineage of credible thinkers beyond my grasp. This perception is gradually eroding.

Why revolutionary love?

F: When I first started to think about love in a revolutionary sense it was to make sense of feelings I had of isolation and depression, the struggles I shared with many people around me. Something that affects us deeply yet is so difficult to talk about. Trying to find answers to the emotions I was feeling and the compassion I found in my friends, I started a journey of exploration of new ways of relating to each other. In a world that always seeks to divide us and puts us into competition, I felt out of place. In the cracks of this reality, in the hopes for a transformation, we empathise in ways that represent a threat to the system. We explore friendship and love in a transformative sense, aiming at a deeper understanding of each other and the world we want to live in. One that is based on risk-taking and a radical interdependence of all beings. Many claim revolutionary love is an idealistic idea and removed from reality. If there is one ambition with this issue is to prove that it is the exact opposite. We need to stop being afraid to talk about and with humanistic values and emotions if we want to materialise a better, kinder world. The conception of love in our issue goes beyond being a mere pacifier; it is a potent act of embodied rebellion against structures that impede our ability to live and produce creative and fulfilled lives.

An ethnographic inquiry

In our ongoing discussions about the state of ethnographic practice today, moral and relational anthropology persistently emerges. The challenge is clear: what do preservations of sentiments present to us, vital in humanitarian efforts, in the context of ethnographic work? For anthropology to remain true, it must be, above all, an embodied practice. Anything less renders it incomplete, lacking its inherent power.

The inquiry into the nature of revolutionary love encompasses nuanced perspectives, presenting a formidable challenge in defining the radical and discomforting elements that culminate in love. We ask, how can we navigate the balance between idealisation, sympathy, disguise, or outright avoidance of the concept across time and space? Love becomes an act of self-denial, a spiralling experience of loss and gain, a flaring thwart, and a secular redemption for a cyclic cynic.

Drawing from various philosophical frameworks and practical applications, we find inspiration in the concept that happiness and freedom hinge upon one's capacity to shape public discourse and influence, underscored by Hannah Adrendt’s teachings. This notion underscores the importance of public engagement in fostering a sense of democratic belonging and cultivating what Adrendt termed amor mundi- the love of the world. Additionally, Barbara Ehrenriech sets out the emergence of a new science of happiness, representing an ideological shift aimed at the discouraging acknowledgement of sorrow and loss, while concurrently serving as a catalyst for market interests within the realm of emotional life. Kae Tempest tells us that our success as humans is rooted in our ability to be aware of each other’s needs and feel empathy, while Dilar Dirik vividly illustrates hevaltî as an embodiment of care, depicting the unbreakable bond of camaraderie and friendship among Kurdish guerrillas, integral to their vitality.

Each contribution offers a unique perspective into the world of an active participant, embodying the role of an observer- an inherent role we often assume without conscious effort. As we absorb stories resonating with familial tensions, provoking introspection within our own lives, and inspiring audacious engagements with utopian ideals that challenge conventional notions of love, we find ourselves compelled to activate deep intuitive work.

Our ethnographers and artists delve into personal histories, exploring the reciprocal shaping of narratives, and embodying a commitment to tuning into restlessness. This restlessness serves as an antidote to our narrow treatment of emotions, proposing experiments in the practice of revolutionary love.

Solidarity greetings,

Helena and Franca