cultivating alternatives to Empire

This website is all about alternatives to Empire—including feminism, anarchism, permaculture, decolonization, antiracism, and other movements and practices.  

rhizome2I’m a PhD student writing on (and working in) these movements and the ways they are cultivating healthier forms of social, political, and ecological relationships.

I’m going to use this blog to write about the people I talk to and the stuff I read over the course of my PhD (I hope to finish by 2017 or so).  I’m trying to tag and categorize my posts so it’s organized:

The Audio page contains links to podcasts, lectures, audio documentaries, and other resources
that I’ve found in my research.

The Video page has lectures, documentaries, and other video resources.

The Reading Summaries page has summaries, analysis, and questions from books and articles I’m reading for my research.

The Writing page has posts of my own writing about all this stuff.

The News & Reblogs page has reblogged content from other sites.

All over the world, people are recovering and cultivating alternative ways of living (and inventing new ones) in the shadow of Empire.  I use ‘Empire’ to refer to the complex of colonialism, capitalism, bureaucracy, racism, ecocide, heteropatriarchy, and other interlocking processes of domination and control.  My own research is focused on alternatives connected to permaculture and anarchism, and the ways these alternatives can be deepened and radicalized by decolonization, feminism, antiracism, and other movements that create and sustain radical, alternative ways of living and relating.  I’m interested in what’s going on at the “edges” of all these movements–what new practices and ways of living become possible when they come into contact and inform each other?  How do these movements prefigure new and old ways of living that are convivial and support thriving ecosystems and communities?  How can place-based movements be radical, joyful, and responsible at the same time?  How can permaculturalists and anarchists build networks of resistance and resilience, in ways that challenge colonialism, white supremacy, and patriarchy?  What are the potentials of these movements, and what are some common pitfalls?  What does it mean for settlers to create place-based communities on colonized land?  What makes movements transformative, and what leads to their co-optation?  How are communities defending themselves and their lands against enclosure and exploitation?  What are the common challenges, lessons, or practices to learn from?  How are folks developing alliances and networks across struggles and communities?

This research is also personal: I’m trying to figure out how to do food and land politics in conversation and solidarity with other movements resisting the dominant order, and to think and write in ways that are relevant beyond the academy.  From what I’ve encountered, women, people of colour, and indigenous peoples are leading the way in creating alternatives to Empire.  They are at the forefront of radical departures from the dominant order partly because they’re often the most oppressed, but also because they’ve refused to give up the traditions, practices, and lifeways that Empire has tried to colonize and eliminate.  I’m rooting my research in permaculture and anarchism not because these are the most promising or radical movements (in fact, they’re often dominated by white men like me), but instead because I want to work within them to find their edges, and help forge connections to other radical movements.

Plenty of people are already asking these questions, so I am really just trying to find them and join the conversation, learn what I can, and hopefully contribute something useful.

If any of this interests you, and you’re working on related questions (in academia or in your community, or both), I would love to hear from you.

You can reach me at cultivatingalternatives[at]

My name is Nick Montgomery and I’m doing my PhD in the Cultural Studies program at Queen’s University, in Kingston, Ontario.  I’m sometimes there, but I mostly live on the other side of the continent in Lekwungen territory (Victoria, British Columbia).

13 thoughts on “cultivating alternatives to Empire

  1. Caitlin Hachmyer

    Hey there, this looks great. I am a farmer, currently on sabbatical and working on my Masters at Tufts University in Boston. I am writing my thesis with some similar themes – I’d love to talk more! In particular, if you have any recommendations on pertinent readings around movement-based methods and social movement collaboration I would love to check them out! My email is

    1. Lauren

      Hello! I’m also doing work on related themes surrounding decolonization, food justice, and food sovereignty. I’m just finishing the first year of my PhD at the University of Toronto and am interested in chatting further as well as sharing any helpful resources you’ve come across. If either of you have a few free moments drop me a line at

  2. N. Profitter

    Thank you for this! I look forward to reading more!
    I work at a non-profit involved in what has been called the local food movement. If you have any recommendations on making/keeping non-profits radical, anti-oppressive and avoid bureaucracy I’d love to hear from you! Please get me at my included email.
    I would also be curious to hear where on Haudenosaunee territory you live. I grew up on Neutral Indian territory so we could be very close! What school/program/prof are you with? Your project sounds really interesting.

    1. Nick Montgomery Post author

      hey there! the best resource i’ve ever encountered on radical non-profits is “The Revolution Will Not Be Funded” by INCITE! (I suspect you’ve already heard of this if you’re looking for radical shit on non-profits, but if not, it’s amazing). What non-profit do you work at? I live in Kingston, and I’m at Queen’s, working with Richard Day in Cultural Studies.

      1. N. Profitter

        Awesome! I have not heard of it but I will definitely check it out now!
        As you can probably understand I’d prefer not to say, especially since my organization is extremely small but if you want to hit me up at my email address I’d love to chat more!

    1. Nick Montgomery Post author

      Hi Vanessa, that is a big question… I’m working on writing something that explains this better, but in general, when I talk about ‘settlers’ I’m drawing on ideas from anti-colonial activists and writers. Generally, ‘settlers’ are understood as people who live on and benefit from the structure of settler colonialism: i.e. the subjugation and genocide of indigenous peoples, the theft of their lands, and the imposition of a political order based on domination (private property, heteropatriarchy, resource extraction, etc. I would like to think that I’m working against these systems and creating alternatives to them at least some of the time, but I use ‘settler’ partly as a reminder to myself that these systems are my inheritance, whether I like it or not. In other words, I think settlers are complicit in ongoing colonization and settlement (albeit in different ways, for different people). If we don’t work against it, it slips into the background. As a white man with Canadian citizenship and a middle-class background, I benefit from settler colonialism in ways that a lot of non-indigenous people don’t. There are ongoing conversations among anti-racist and migrant justice activists about how ‘settler’ applies (or doesn’t) to refugees, undocumented people, and others. Rather than seeing ‘settler’ as a neat box or identity with a clear definition, I’ve found it most useful to think about my relationship to the structure of settler colonialism as an ongoing process, which marginalizes and subjugates other kinds of relationships between people, land, and non-humans. For me, this raises the importance of decolonization and solidarity with indigenous struggles and decolonization efforts, which tends to get left out of a lot of food/farming projects in North America. At a more practical level, acknowledging and unpacking the term ‘settler’ and the broader structure of settler colonialism has been an effective way to build alliances and connections between settlers and indigenous people, by acknowledging and working across differences, rather than flattening them out with stuff like (‘we’re all human’).

  3. stpaulsromeo2013

    Hello, just discovered your site after posting a blog. Our little Episcopal church sits on 10 acres of property. This year we planted a garden and gave about 1000 lbs of produce to outreach, all organic, We started an apiary, but end of August, the colony disappeared. We are hoping to obtain certification as a wildlife habitat. At our recent Diocesan Convention we voted on a resolution to choose, one or two of the many listed social justice issues and make that a part of our congregation’s study and ministry. Of course, we will stick with the farming and be intentional about how the little bit we do makes an impact on the environment, which also impacts the community. Your blog will help me with the education aspect of how, what we do, is connected to social justice issues. Thanks

  4. P-A Cormier

    Just found this website while looking for alternatives to cultivating with a tractor, to not just minimize compaction but get rid of it as much as possible. Well I did not find what I was looking for at the moment, but I did find something I have been thinking about for a long time, about alternatives to the dominant order. hope I find some good stuff.

  5. jadis

    sweet. i’m a documentary filmmaker interested in making feminist anticolonial cinema. I’ve just found & started perusing your blog. good stuff, and I’m impressed my your feminist research (although I don’t believe in cis-male feminists, I do believe in allies:).
    I would love to discuss many things with you..what’s the best way to be in touch?

  6. cheryledwilliams

    Hi, I’m a documentary filmmaker on mohawk territory,striving to make feminist anti-colonial cinema. i stumbled upon this blog looking for anarchist land projects. good stuff. I am impressed by your feminist research(I don’t believe in cis-men feminists per say, but do believe in allies:). There’s much I’d love to discuss with you…what’s the best way to be in touch?

  7. Whit Forrester Photography

    Hey thanks for a fantastic blog. I’m a settler-descended artist who’s work is looking at the same stuff as your blog : colonization, decolonization, collective liberation, feminism, queer theory, permaculture and land practice. I’ve been working on a series of images thinking about European American colonization of the suburban american landscape, and would be curious to get your feedback on them sometime. Also curious what your thoughts are on what decolonization looks like for folks descended of settlers. Thanks again, this blog is refreshing. Looking forward to chatting with you.


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