We distinguish between learning as a horizontal convivial practice pursued by all sorts of people in all kinds of circumstances at any given moment for the purpose of community regeneration with more formal, bureaucratized, privatized, commodified processes of knowledge production, such as education, typically associated with formal institutions. It becomes insurgent learning when it is put in service of or made integral to dynamic participatory political processes, such as the Zapatistas’ creative use of the Caracoles and Juntas de Buen Gobierno (JBG). Insurgent learning draws from convivial practices that celebrate locally rooted wisdoms to collectively construct tools to solve local problems that regenerate the community. In opposition to low intensity education, insurgent learning subverts and transcends state and corporate strategies that convert knowledge production into an artificial system of meritocracy and commodified knowledge for the purpose of social control.
We stress the politics of knowledge production in order to avoid “transmission models” of education that uncritically treat teaching as a practice of bestowing information on benighted individuals. We celebrate collective processes of inquiry and skill sharing that prioritizes the process of arriving at a shared analysis and agreed upon plan of action in order to address a community’s immediate local struggles.
We highlight the distinction between learning and education in an effort to underscore the possibilities of convivial approaches to knowledge production. By convivial we mean what Ivan Illich advocated in recognizing a community’s fundamental genius to organize itself in such a way as to generate and share locally rooted collective wisdom and tools that address the problems that threaten to limit a community’s capacity to reaffirm its genius.