EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010

(Plenary B)

Economic crisis or the crisis of an imagined economy

Location John Hume Lecture Theatres 1, 2, 3 and 4
Date and Start Time 26 Aug, 2010 at 09:00

Convenor

Susana Narotzky (Universitat de Barcelona) email
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Long Abstract

The present global economic crisis is predicated upon a particular notion of the economy which is historically and politically situated. For many people in the world there is nothing new or exceptional about the precariousness of their lives. A variety of gender, class, race, ethnic, religious and other historically constructed factors have positioned the large majority on the wrong side of the ebbs and flows of exchange. Many have never managed to experience the positive ‘growth’ effect of expanding capitalist (and socialist) modernities. The hegemonic imaginations of the various mainstream economic models (Keynesian, neoliberal, planned socialism, market socialism, etc.) supported by powerful institutional arrangements undoubtedly affect the lives and strategies of ordinary people. This will either inhibit or, on the contrary, enhance their ability to produce alternative economic imaginings that would provide for better futures.

The present panel seeks to address the potentiality of these alternative imaginations in practice. How do local practices of survival –marginal, informal, traditional - get reconfigured as social innovation? What transformative impact do the social sciences have through producing or reviving concepts such as social, solidary, alternative, third sector, and care economies? What potential for long-term change of the economic order affecting ordinary people do these new imaginative constructs hold? The panel hopes to provide the basis for a reflexive debate on economic imaginations and their practices.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

The imagination of tradition: pawnshops and anxiety on the edge of the global

Author: Niko Besnier (Universiteit van Amsterdam)  email
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Long Abstract

Many people around the world mobilize the imagination as a resource to deal with the anxiety and materiality of ongoing crisis. Entrepreneurs in Tonga have set up pawnshops that offer monetary loans to needy customers but only accept traditional textiles as collateral. The demand for these textiles is increasing, as fewer women produce them and people are under pressure to provide larger and larger quantities in exchange ritual, but so is the need for money. Pawnshop owners, predominantly men, convert valuables into commodities and transform the social logic of prestation, but these transformations are suffused with anxiety revolving around gender, prestige, and shame. While representing an imaginative elaboration of tradition at moments of crisis, Tongan pawnshops are not good candidates for the usual celebration with which anthropologists generally approach the imagination, but they demand that we focus equally on the materiality of need and the intersubjective play of emotions.

Social innovation, social economy and economic imaginations in Quebec

Author: Manon Boulianne (Université Laval)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper is divided in three parts. In the first one, I frame the questions raised in this panel's abstract around the transformation of accumulation regimes, in which technological and social innovation are inevitably embedded. In the second part of the paper, I address social innovation as social practice and as a subject for social research, as well as its transformative impact, using the example of the social economy as it has developed in Quebec since the end of the 1960's. In the last part of the paper, ethnographic material related to my own research on local exchange trading systems and collective urban agriculture, two types of social innovations that appeared in Quebec in times of economic crisis and continued to grow thereafter, although at different paces and to different degrees of institutionalization, is used to illustrate how local practices relate to economic and social imaginations and social change.

Vis Vitae: the path not taken

Author: Stephen Gudeman (University of Minnesota/ Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)  email
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Long Abstract

The idea of vital energy underpins social life and the economy in rural Latin America. Locally known as strength, vis vitae is assembled from the environment, consumed in food, and expended to gather more. By sharing in its production and consumption, and by offering vital energy in festivities and gifts, people distribute and receive strength, and become connected in families, houses, and community. Strength, which resembles the notion of energy in thermodynamics, is the shared current if not the currency of rural economies. But this biosocial current must be managed and used parsimoniously to have a sustainable economy. Given our contemporary economic crisis, with its heightened unemployment, widening wealth gaps, and unrelenting carbon pollution, I shall use the rural idea of vis vitae, seen as energy, current, and currency, to re-imagine a market economy.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.