Skip to main content

Martin Crowley - Autonomy and alliance - Dialectics of the ZAD

Event information>


Institute in Paris

Martin Crowley, Professor of Modern French Thought and Culture at the University of Cambridge, invites you to delve into the intricacies of the ZAD at Notre-Dame-des-Landes. Explore the distinctive autonomy and alliances within this Temporary Autonomous Zone as he examines its ecological solidarities and the complex interplay of autonomy and alliance.

Location: University of London Institute in Paris, 9-11 rue de Constantine, 75007 Paris 


In its withdrawal from the territory and control of the state, the ZAD at Notre-Dame-des-Landes (2009-2018) presents a singularly durable instance of the Temporary Autonomous Zone, the organizational form theorized as an element of anarchist practice by Hakim Bey in 1991, and more recently familiar from a number of Black Lives Matter protests in the US.  

In the case of the ZAD, this defining autonomy strikingly frames a mode of existence which is anything but: here, relations are understood primarily as alliances of diverse actors, whose agency is precisely not autonomous, but rather is derived from this heterogeneous relationality and dedicated to its further cultivation.  

Beyond the relative ideological pluralism of its human participants, such enmeshed agential alliances characterize in particular the ZAD’s embedded commitment to the specific ecosystems of its territory: inhabitants of all kinds emerge alongside one another as actively sustaining the diversity of these systems, against the monocultural logic of the surrounding political and economic regime which pursues their destruction. And in turn, such alliances nurture and compose the forms of combat by which the ZAD is obliged to protect its autonomy. 

Drawing primarily on writing by ZADistes and images by photographers including Bruno Serralongue, and situating the ZAD’s ecological solidarities in relation notably to the work of Malcom Ferdinand, Isabelle Frémaut and Jay Jordan, and Jean-Baptiste Vidalou, this paper will track the detailed operation of this dialectic, in which autonomy and alliance are at once mutually irreducible and mutually constitutive. 


Martin Crowley is Professor of Modern French Thought and Culture at the University of Cambridge, where he is also Anthony L. Lyster Fellow and Director of Studies in Modern and Medieval Languages at Queens’ College.  

His most recent book is Accidental Agents: Ecological Politics beyond the Human (Columbia University Press, 2022), and he serves as General Editor of the journal, French Studies.