Journal Papers

The organisation and politics of social forums

Abstract: Social Forums have become key spaces for the articulation of discontent and radical politics today. The first World Social Forum (WSF) took place in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in January 2001, and since then numerous other Social Forums have been organised in many different locations at local, regional and global levels. As articulated in the guiding document for the WSF – the Charter of Principles1 – a Social Forum is intended to provide a space that brings together multiple actors that are part of, or at least connected to and interested in, the so-called anti-capitalist or global justice movement(s). While there is a burgeoning literature on these movements, rather little has been written specifically on Social Forums (although see bibliography by Reyes, this issue).

This special issue of ephemera focuses particularly on the close relationship between the organisation and politics of Social Forum spaces. That is, since many people regard Social Forums as important political spaces, with the potential to radically transform politics – and therefore society itself – we feel it is important to consider the way these events are organised as a window into the politics, i.e. the power relations, they produce. The aim of this special issue is thus to engage with aspects of the organisation and politics – and more precisely the interface between organisation and politics – of Social Forums.

full text available on