Starting from the Amazon: communication, knowledge and politics of place in the World Social Forum

Stephansen, Hilde (2013). Starting from the Amazon: communication, knowledge and politics of place in the World Social Forum. Interface: a journal for and about social movements, 5(1) pp. 102–127.



This article explores how communication activists in Belém, Brazil, engaged with the 2009 World Social Forum (WSF) when it arrived in their city and sought to take advantage of the opportunity it offered to strengthen and gain visibility for place-based movements in the Amazon. While the WSF has enabled an unprecedented diversity of movements to exchange knowledges and experiences, and to a certain extent succeeded in “giving voice” to marginalised groups, it also has continued to suffer from its own hierarchies and exclusions. These are evident, inter alia, in the asymmetrical relationship that exists between “local” grassroots groups and “global” cosmopolitan elites. Emphasising the centrality of place to the construction of alternative epistemological imaginaries, the article analyses efforts by communication activists to facilitate autonomous processes of knowledge production among movements in the Amazon. At once place-based and transnational in scope, their communication strategies challenge conventional hierarchies of scale and highlight the importance of grassroots movements appropriating communication technologies for their own purposes. At stake here is not simply the inclusion of “local subalterns” within the “global” WSF, but the construction of communication networks that can support the proliferation of alternative knowledge projects at different scales, within and beyond the WSF.

Viewing alternatives

Download history

Item Actions



  • Item ORO ID
  • 40018
  • Item Type
  • Journal Item
  • ISSN
  • 2009-2431
  • Keywords
  • World Social Forum; Brazil; Amazon; social movements; alternative media
  • Academic Unit or School
  • Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS)
  • Copyright Holders
  • © 2013 Hilde C. Stephansen
  • Depositing User
  • Hilde Stephansen