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Getting to Know AK: Kate Khatib

By AK Press | December 31, 2008

[Editor's Note: Kate Khatib joined AK Press about six months ago. We were really happy when she applied for the job—since we already knew her (some, by reputation; others, as a friend and comrade) to be a conscientious, diligent, and very hard-working part of the anarchist movement. Not surprisingly, she's turned out to be a great asset to our collective, and we're pleased to provide the following introduction for those of you who don't know her.]


My name is Kate, and, as of this past July, I’m a new member of the AK Press team, where I handle the marketing and publicity for our published titles … so if anybody out there is interested in reviewing an AK Press book, email me and we’ll set something up!

By way of history, I was born in Florida, moved to a teensy coal-mining town in upstate Pennsylvania, spent the better part of my pre-teen and teen years in a teensy town in Kentucky, and fled to the big city – Philadelphia, in this case – as soon as I could. I’m always surprised when I hear that campus activism was “dead” until the new SDS started kicking again … I just don’t think anybody was paying attention. We had a great radical community in Philadelphia that was a pretty unique blend of students, community activists, and other assorted folks, and we organized around the Gulf War, around the Mumia struggle, and around community rights issues pretty much constantly. But the focus was largely infrastructural – building better communities, developing the kinds of social, political, and material networks that helped to ease the burden of day-to-day life in a depressed world. It was also very local in a lot of ways, and that’s really what led me to develop an interest in anarchism, which I see as being very much about the importance of building strong local communities that are linked with a larger distributed network of like-minded projects and places.

In 2000, disgusted with the U.S. after the RNC in Philly that summer, I headed to Amsterdam where I spent three years going to grad school and working in autonomous and squatted social centers, running an infocafe on the weekends where we gave out free breakfast and lunch and offered squatting advisory services, and programming a series of political avant-garde films at the former home of the Netherlands Film Academy, which is now a reclaimed autonomous space, Overtoom 301, that houses a cinema, performance spaces, living spaces, and a rockin’ vegan cafe.

I headed back to the States in 2003, to take up a doctoral position at Johns Hopkins (I’m still writing my dissertation on American Surrealism), and ended up helping to found Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse, a collectively-owned and operated radical bookstore and fair-trade cafe in Baltimore that’s been at the center of my life and of my political development for the past six years.

I’m incredibly thrilled to be a part of the AK team these days – AK was an important part of my political development in the mid-90s as a West Philly anarchist and surrealist. I remember the first time AK’s massive print catalog found its way into the Philadelphia Radical Surrealist Front (a West Philly group house with an awesome porch and a nifty purple flag out in front): what a revelation! There were sections on anarchist AND on surrealism! And later, when we started Red Emma’s, AK was a huge inspiration for us – it was proof that a collective business can exist, can function, and can thrive, and that workplaces don’t have to be exploitative cesspools in order to survive. And, in true movement form, the folks at AK were incredibly supportive of us when we were starting out, offering advice, a helping hand, and general moral support, in addition to a massive catalog of books with which we could fill our shelves! I hope that AK will continue to encourage a network of solidarity between autonomous, anti-authoritarian, and anarchist places and projects in the years to come – I know I’ll continue to make that a priority in my work with the collective.

Otherwise, I continue to work on Red Emma’s (I’m based in Baltimore) and its sister project 2640 (4,000 glorious square feet of an old church that we run as a radical events & arts venue), and I organize the Mid-Atlantic Radical Bookfair and a variety of other events, including the upcoming City From Below conference, scheduled for March 27-29.  I also frequently work with the Chicago Surrealist Group and the Charles H. Kerr Company, the nation’s oldest, continuously-running labor press, distributed by AK Press!  I write articles, rants, manifestos, and other cogitations on the contemporary relevance of surrealist praxis and on the Benjaminian approach to dialectical materialism when I have time, and I’m a contributing editor to Steampunk Magazine, a fantastic journal that’s working hard to put the punk back into steampunk.

If you’re ever in Baltimore, come and visit!

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