ASA14: Anthropology and Enlightenment

(P01)

Enlightenment's third pillar: solidarity and solidarity economies

Location Appleton Tower, Lecture Theatre 4
Date and Start Time 20 June, 2014 at 09:00

Convenor

Theodoros Rakopoulos (University of Bergen) email
Mail All Convenors

Summary

We invite contributions that view solidarity as a grounded practice (based on participants' paradigms) and an analytical prism (reviewing the political legacy in and of Enlightenment). Solidarity is understood in the widest sense, to include moral economies, allegiances and political imagination.

Long Abstract

The submerged reciprocities during crises are coming to the fore in the form of grassroots solidarity economies, the revival of the debate on the moral economy, critical approaches to neoliberalism and an attention to grassroots responses to its localised configurations. Such responses should be taken seriously in order to provide an anthropological prism to a contested notion, largely neglected as Enlightenment's legacy. Fraternity has been the third, underdiscussed, pillar of political modernity, alongside equality and freedom. This is especially current if we consider that such practices are rising during (and, partly, because of) the crisis in places like Southern Europe. Moreover, it is urgent we rethink ideas and practices of solidarity situated in intellectual and ideological trajectories that both diverge from and overlap with political Enlightenment. We invite papers, based on ethnographic fieldwork among participants in diverse official and informal solidarity networks that might intersect with or contest the historical welfare state or provision routes alternative to that (such as philanthropy and charity). Contributions considering networks that arrange the distributions of food, or the offering of services are expected to tackle the anthropological discussion on crisis and uncertainty and should retain the ability of scale to revisit larger questions about Enlightenment's political legacy, reviewing local people's practices. The panel will critically explore the insights coming from grounded perceptions of solidarity activity and juxtapose these to broader debates on contemporary priorities for economic and political democracy.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Coordinating money flows in rural economies: eighteenth-century England and twenty-first century Nigeria

Author: Jane Guyer (Johns Hopkins University)  email

Summary

Mobilization by “composition” can be a complement to our conceptual repertoire for solidarity. The paper finds temporal aspects of composition, as coordination in response to turbulence in money access, in a Western Nigerian rural community and in classic eighteenth-century works.

Long Abstract

The quality of coordination in time is a component of the more general processes of sharing, cooperation and solidarity which is crucial to the containment of life-threatening risk to people and loss of value to things under turbulent conditions, as well as to the capacity to seize advantage from passing situations. Seasonal surges and retreats, price hikes and collapses, health and illness are all themes in the historical and anthropological study of "solidarity", although the sheer variety of social forms for rapid response may well be under-explored. Working from my earlier articles on "composition", I focus on its specifically temporal features: from field research in Western Nigeria on the seasonality of access to cash money, where the temporal coordination of money managers was a surprising finding (in contrast to expected competition for customers), and working back to the eighteenth century Enlightenment scholars' treatment of price fluctuation in British rural life. Coordination is argued to be an intrinsic quality of the "third pillar" of the Enlightenment aspiration to "fraternity" as "solidarity", also practiced through "social composition" processes, especially significant in times of crisis, large and small.

Economy versus "moral economy" in the slow food movement

Author: Valeria Siniscalchi (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Marseille)  email

Summary

The paper explores ways in which the moral economy is defined and practiced inside the slow food movement. Economic dimensions that are at the heart of Slow Food’s discourse, actions and way of functioning are considered as complementary spaces in the movement political imagination and action.

Long Abstract

The paper explores ways in which moral economy is defined and practiced inside the Slow Food movement. Taking the definition of quality consumption and production, respect of environment, and solidarity with small producers as its core aims, this movement has today become a significant actor in the larger debates concerning the problematic of food, agriculture and fishing. Here the analysis concerns Slow Food's economic dimensions that are at the heart of movement's discourse, actions and way of fonctionning. How a "moral economy" is defined and practiced in the daily life of the movement ? The "moral economy" of food performed and defended by Slow Food is conceived partly as an alternative to neoliberalism and partly as a reform of it. And it cohabit with the "real" economy of producers and with more classical way of functioning, from the economic point of view. From this perspective, it is necessary to analyze the different ways of using economic notions, of imagining a new economic order and doing economy as complementary spaces in the movement political imagination and action. The analysis is based on a larger research on the Slow Food movement and on the movement headquarters in Italy started in 2006.

Mencius said: "The tendency of man's nature to good is like the tendency of water to flow downwards": a solidarity network in water-stressed rural China

Author: Andrea Enrico Pia (London School of Economics)  email

Summary

In rural Yunnan water access is a crucial concern of local villagers due to the limited availability of water. The local state often falls short on delivering sufficiently clean water on time, thus prompting villagers to establish informal solidarity network that can redistribute water autonomously.

Long Abstract

In Yancong, a drought-prone agricultural rural Township of North-East Yunnan, access to water is a crucial concern of local villagers. Irrigation and drinking water comes to the community from a reservoir located fifty km north, and the local Water Bureau - a government office under the Chinese Ministry of Water Resources where I conducted 16 months of fieldwork - is in charge of delivering it to the 27 villages under its jurisdiction, securing that all villages get their share. Developing the water supply network so that the Chinese citizens' right to domestic water can be fulfilled is one of the main objectives sought after by the Water Bureau. This however with ambivalent results. Despite the many efforts to keep the drinking water flowing, Yancong's distribution network has been affected since its completion by severe disruptions. Furthermore, with the construction of a hydro-power station in the late '80s, the old water infrastructures collectively excavated by the local villagers have been definitely encroached upon by the state, being converted to uses which were not supported by or even discussed with the local community. The dispossession of collectively owned infrastructures prompted local villagers to find alternative ways to secure drinking water, creating a network of illegal wells from which anyone can collect clean water without charge. This paper investigates the moral significance and social implications of this water management counter-practice, investigating the local notion of solidarity it enacts and how this directly challenges the state governance of water and the entwined notion of legal right protecting its access.

Understanding the last British civil war? A phenomenological approach

Author: Andrew Dawson (University of Melbourne)  email

Summary

This paper documents the solidaristic practices by which the UK miners’ strike of 1984-85 was maintained, and explains their cultural logics. Drawing on phenomenology, I argue that solidarity was enabled, in part, by perceptions of communality grounded in the bodily experiences of mining work.

Long Abstract

The miner's strike of 1984-85 is regarded as a defining moment in British industrial relations in the twentieth century that heralded the advent of a broader neo-liberalization of the United Kingdom and, commonly, the 'defeat of the working-class'. Less, however, is made of the fact that the strike was sustained for, remarkably, almost a full year. And less still is made of the lessons this may hold for contemporary insurrections. Conventional Industrial Relations, that has monopolized understanding of the strike tends to explain the solidarity underpinning both the strike's length and miners' militancy more generally in terms of a series of structural factors related to either geography (e.g. residential concentration), human capital (e.g. limited skills transferability) or working practices (e.g. relative autonomy of workers from management). Based on long-term ethnographic and oral historical research, this paper documents the solidaristic practices - mutual aid networks and the provisioning of alternative welfare services, etc - by which the strike was maintained, and the cultural logics underpinning that solidarity. Importantly, drawing on Merleau-Pontian phenomonenology, I argue that such solidarity was enabled, in significant part, by perceptions of communality grounded in the particular bodily experiences of mining work.

Escaping solidarity? Mutuality and commercial insurance in South Africa

Author: Erik Bähre (Universiteit Leiden)  email

Summary

This paper examines how commercial insurance affects solidarity and reciprocity among neighbours in predominantly Xhosa speaking townships of Cape Town, South Africa.

Long Abstract

Over the fifteen years South Africa has witnessed the rise of commercial insurance policies for the predominantly African urban poor and lower middle-classes. This paper examines how insurance policies affect solidarity and reciprocity among neighbours in predominantly Xhosa speaking townships of Cape Town. It identifies two consequences of the rise of commercial insurance for solidarity. First, there is a tendency to leave financial mutuals as well as other neighbourhood-based reciprocal networks. Second, solidarity and reciprocity changes as commercial insurance companies increasingly rely on them for doing business. Does this lead to individualisation and is this the kind of individualisation process that has been witnessed in Europe? Or does this lead to other kinds of reciprocal networks and forms of solidarity? The study is based on extensive ethnographic research and a survey among residents in two townships Cape Town as well as open interviews and an online survey among professionals in the world of commercial insurance.

Solidarity and the gift taboo: volunteers approaching refugees in Greece

Author: Katerina Rozakou  email

Summary

The paper focuses on the practices of volunteers who approach refugees in Athens. In particular it explores the gift taboo and its cultural and political significance for the volunteers involved in sociality with refugees.

Long Abstract

The paper is based on fieldwork that was carried out before the outbreak of the crisis in Greece. It focuses on the practices of volunteers who approach refugees in Athens. "Allilegii" (solidarity) is the key notion around which these volunteers define their practices. Moreover, "allilegii" is a highly politicized and culturally vital concept that refers not only to relationships with the "other" but also with and, towards, the state. More than the provision of assistance, the volunteers' aim is to engage with the "other" in relationships based on equality. Giving material objects (clothes, blankets, money etc) as well as immaterial services (escorts to hospitals and NGO offices) is considered a barrier to the equality prospect. My paper aims to address the gift taboo and decode its cultural and political significance for the volunteers involved in sociality with refugees. Drawing upon the anthropological discussion on the gift, as well as a rich body of Greek ethnography, the paper will address the gift taboo vis-à-vis the constitution of sociality on the basis of solidarity.

Within and beyond market allocation systems: cooperative and reciprocal forms of provisioning in present-day Catalonia

Authors: Patricia Homs (University of Barcelona and Aresta Cooperative.)  email
Susana Narotzky (Universitat de Barcelona)  email
Silvia Gomez (Autonomous University of Barcelona)  email

Summary

Market exchange and capitalist production have become hegemonic forms of cooperation. The ongoing crisis has enhanced other forms of cooperation that are re-embedded within social discourses. This proposal analyzes these cooperative practices in food coops and local exchange communities.

Long Abstract

Market exchange and capitalist production have become hegemonic forms of cooperation in Western democracies, supported by a model of optimal allocation of resources through individual transactions. This supposes a disembedded model of social action, where social and cultural meaning will only operate through the psychological drive of utility maximization. The ongoing environmental and economic crisis have enhanced other forms of cooperation that are increasingly thriving in the cracks of the system, sometimes as a result of an ideological positioning, at other times as a pragmatic practice to ensure livelihood resources. These new-old forms are predicated in a strong re-embedding of cooperation within social and cultural discourses.

We aim to address these issues through two ethnographic cases in the region of Catalonia, Spain. The first case analyzes discourses and practices that emerge in proximity food provisioning networks composed of consumers' food coops and small organic food producers where different forms of cooperation and reciprocity articulate socioeconomic exchanges. The second case analyzes personal networks of reciprocity and cooperation that organize local exchange communities (LETS) in the context of the current financial crisis and the failure of the welfare state to provide needed services. New information technologies (IT) have led to their spread, making them more visible and institutionalized. These networks emerge as new spheres of provisioning of goods and services.

Both cases point to reconfigured reciprocity and cooperation networks. At the same time they underline the articulation of these embedded forms of cooperation with the allegedly disembedded system of market allocation.

Local exchange trading systems: a grounded practice of solidarity during the crisis. The example of Greece

Author: Catherine Lamprakopoulou (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens)  email

Summary

Financial crisis in Greece has led to the emergence of practices of solidarity, based on the exchange of commodities and services through social networks. Such activities related to economics amongst the community, seems to play an important role in creating a prosperous and inclusive society.

Long Abstract

The present paper attempts to highlight the development of local exchange networks and the use of local credits as important practices of encouraging solidary social behavior among individuals, especially in times of crisis. Referring to examples of countries, such as United Kingdom, Switzerland, France, Austria, USA, Argentina and Australia, where alternative social credits have been or are still being used, the fieldwork focuses on exchange networks that emerged in Greece as an antidote to financial crisis.

Drawing from the still evolving term "social/ solidarity economy", which demonstrates the moral dimension of using solutions to achieve not-for-profit aims in smaller or bigger communities, the paper analyses: a) the reasons that led to the rise of exchange practices in Greece during the crisis b) the different forms and rules of offering exchangeable commodities and services through networks that developed the last years in Greece and c) the differences of local exchange trading systems from the practices of welfare state and philanthropy.

Based on the research of J.K Graham Gibson and Ethan Miller, and influenced by Silvio Gesell and Gustav Landauer' s monetary and economical philosophy, the presentation delineates the basic characteristics of the practices of solidarity economies. The analysis stresses on: a) the emerging importance of communities, as the main core of satisfying the needs that have been inadequately fulfilled by the private or public sectors b) voluntarism and sharing as the suggested social behavior for overcoming or soothing the impacts of crisis and c) the political correlations of social economy practices.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.