The origins of the Acervus Project

In early 2020, we began to envision the need for an intergenerational effort to recover the work of Ivan Illich. We thought of “recovering” in a broad sense of the term, not only giving access, but also making intelligible and facilitating the navigation through the complex layers of his thought. Together with Gustavo Esteva and Franco Augusto, we began to outline the idea of providing open access, non-commercial and collaborative access to all of Ivan's work, starting with the original texts. At the beginning we informally called this effort “Illich's Archives”.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we exchanged emails with hundreds of people linked to his work, to CIDOC in Cuernavaca, and we searched every possible corner of the web to put together what began to be an enormous digital collection of works written by Ivan himself, his friends and collaborators. We not only found texts, but also sound material, old documents rusted by time and we began to understand that ours would be an effort of several years devoted to rebuild an intellectual building scattered in several cities around the world.

At the same time, we knew that this was not just an archival exercise. Our search, from the beginning, was guided by the need to find clues that would help us understand the convulsed present, the struggles of those from below, the need to invent here and now ways out of the civilizational crises. Our project would be like that crab that sought to advance with its eyes fixed on the past.

The ideas and hypotheses that we advanced during this year were condensed in a collective text entitled "Towards Illich's 'Legibility': Returning to Ivan through the Mirror of the Past", which was published in Vol. 7 No. 1 of "The International Journal of Illich Studies".