EASA2012: Uncertainty and disquiet

Nanterre University, France, 10/07/2012 – 13/07/2012

(W055)

Slogans: neoliberal formulas in times of uncertainty and change

Location V508
Date and Start Time 13 Jul, 2012 at 11:30

Convenors

Anne-Christine Trémon (Université de Lausanne) email
Sheyla Zandonai (EHESS) email
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Short Abstract

The contributions in this session take slogans as their starting point, exploring how they call for, take part and defy the enactment of neoliberal projects, and how they circulate between different situations and scales, generating continuity in spite of their calls for rupture.

Long Abstract

The papers gathered in this panel examine slogans in post-socialist contexts and accelerated economic reforms, in Greece, Slovakia, Poland, Vietnam, Abu Dhabi and the People's Republic of China. The contributions look at how slogans, verbal and graphic, convey the values and norms that lie at the core of neoliberal ideologies, and how they attempt at normalizing uncertainty and instability. They analyze the ways slogans legitimate neoliberal agendas, champion the construction of new societies or new citizens, and contribute to the marketing of cities in the global economy. Moreover, they examine the uses that are made of slogans and the ways their meanings are changed to contest economic reforms, resist policies and offer counter-narratives to official history. Particular attention is given to the slogans' recycling from one historical situation to another, as well as to their circulation at different scales, city and nation, local and global. Finally, the papers analyze how slogans are used to create a sense of coherence between the past, the present and the future, revealing their ambivalent position in between myths of cities and nation-states, and histories of social change.

Discussant: Don Kalb

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

"Together we ate it!": the politics of the belly of the Greek fiscal crisis

Author: Lois Woestman (Agricultural University of Athens)  email
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Short Abstract

Inspired by work focusing on eating as a central metaphor in the "politics of the belly" of structurally adjusting Africa, this paper analyzes Greeks politicians' and citizens' uses of the slogan "together we ate it" to debate blame and distribute responsibility for paying for the fiscal crisis.

Long Abstract

In Greece, the metaphor "to eat" has long been used to debate crime and punishment for theft/illicit use of resources. Over the past two years, the phrase "together we ate it" has been at the heart of debates about the causes and effects of - and blame and responsibility for - the Greek fiscal crisis. This paper addresses two questions in this regard: (1) Why and how have politicians been successful in using the slogan "together we ate it" to convince many citizens that they carry most of the blame for the crisis, and to accept the structural adjustment programs passed into law to date - even as the same citizens express their growing fears that the programs are making them unable to feed their families? (2) Why and how have other citizens redeployed the same phrase to deflect the blame and burden of payment back to the politicians using it, and to contest the programmes - and to which effect? In short, inspired by work focusing on eating as a central metaphor in what Francois Bayart has termed the "politics of the belly" of structurally adjusting Africa, this paper illuminates part of the metaphorical and literal politics of the belly emerging in fiscal crisis Greece.

'Work pays': Slovak neo-liberalism as authoritarian populism

Author: Nicolette Makovicky (University of Oxford )  email
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Short Abstract

Inspired by Stuart Hall’s analysis of Thatcherism as ‘authoritarian populism’,this paper explores the reception and interpretation of neo-liberal rhetoric of citizenship under the slogan ‘Work Pays’ by Slovak citizens in 2004.

Long Abstract

The slogan 'Work Pays' was coined by the Slovak Ministry of Labour to encapsulate its 2004 reform of the welfare and benefits system. Aimed to 'strengthen the role of the individual and his/her self-support' and reduce the 'welfare dependency and disincentives to work' created by the socialist system, the reforms made any entitlement to unemployment benefits, social welfare payments, and child benefit relative to the participation of the individual in the job market. Participation in the labour market was declared the foundation of responsible citizenship, while constructing the ideal post-socialist citizen as part of a double image with its historical ('socialist') counterpart. While the reforms themselves were deeply unpopular with many sections of the middle and working classes, both the spectre of the 'welfare scavenger' and appeals for greater individual responsibility did find fertile ground in the popular imagination. Using material gathered during long-term fieldwork in Banská Bystrica, Central Slovakia, in 2004, this paper explores the reception and interpretation of neo-liberal rhetoric of citizenship under the slogan 'Work Pays'. Inspired by Stuart Hall's analysis of Thatcherism as 'authoritarian populism', I explore instances of moral outrage to understand how such discourse resonated with pre-existing norms celebrating the performance of productive labour, practical enterprise, and self-sufficiency and how they became re-interpreted within the framework of ethnic and social tensions in Slovak society.

"We are building Poland': on the history and circulation of a 'contested' slogan

Author: Jaro Stacul (Memorial University of Newfoundland)  email
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Short Abstract

The paper explores the uses the Polish neoliberal government makes of the slogan 'We are building Poland', the meanings attached to it in the context of the redevelopment of the Gdańsk shipyard, and particularly the ways it is understood by former shipyard workers who contest the neoliberal project.

Long Abstract

Slogans play a key role in conveying the values that inform neoliberal ideologies, yet the question of how the messages they encode are accommodated to local-level discourses still remains largely unanswered. Drawing upon research conducted in the Polish city of Gdańsk, the birthplace of the movement (Solidarity) that contested the legitimacy of the Socialist regime in the 1980s, the paper examines the uses that the neoliberal governing coalition makes of the slogan 'We are building Poland', and how it is understood by people of different social classes. It illustrates the complex ways in which the concept of 'building' is deployed to convey ideas of urban renewal and to champion the construction of a new society two decades after the demise of Socialism. More importantly, it explores the wide range of meanings attached to the slogan in the context of the redevelopment of the shipyard that was the cradle of the Solidarity movement. In showing how the concept of 'building' is reinterpreted by former shipyard workers for their own requirements, the paper points to a paradox: while the governing coalition deploys it to legitimate its neoliberal agenda, it is by appealing to different meanings of 'building' that former shipyard workers contest the narratives of national history that the government advocates. The paper argues that although slogans attempt to create a sense of participation in (national) history, it is their vagueness that enables those who are excluded from the new narratives of national history to contest the legitimacy of the neoliberal project.

In Macau, the future is now: normalizing political transition and economic rise on the outskirts of the PRC

Author: Sheyla Zandonai (EHESS)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper examines the perceptions of Macau residents to the city's handover to the PRC, and later to the liberalization of gambling, inscribed in a slogan promoted by the central authorities that builds on the place of Macau and Chineseness in contemporary China.

Long Abstract

In 1999, Macau's handover to the People's Republic of China (PRC) put an end to nearly a century and a half of Portuguese colonial rule over the city. As a Special Administrative Region of the PRC, Macau has been granted fifty years of autonomous government, which has inscribed its political future in and out the central Chinese government's jurisdiction. Furthermore, it has allowed for the continuity of Macau's main economic activity, through the liberalization of its gambling industry in 2002. As such, these are political and economic moments phrased in the slogan promoted by the central authorities, "Macau governado pelas suas gentes". While the political handover entails the city's integration into the sovereign sphere of the PRC, administrative autonomy allows the construction of Macau within and beyond the Mainland. This paper aims to analyze the Macau residents' perceptions and identification to place, given both the context of uncertainty and instability that has marked the city's transition to China and the period of economic growth that follows the liberalization. On the one hand, it shows how distinct perceptions of social and political phenomena embody temporalities that reflect the confluence and articulation of global histories in which Macau has emerged and survived. On the other hand, it examines how economic openness and political control have combined in a formula that reframes the place of Macau and the experience of Chineseness on a national scale, inviting further scrutiny towards labeling "neoliberal" the policies that emerge from Chinese politics today.

"It all starts from here": foundational slogans in Shenzhen, China

Author: Anne-Christine Trémon (Université de Lausanne)  email
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Short Abstract

My paper reflects on how slogans in Shenzhen participate in the construction of a narrative of the city as a new place and a laboratory for economic reforms. It adresses the sense of a city without past that they convey, while participating in a history of South China as a frontier region.

Long Abstract

My paper reflects on how various slogans posted in different parts of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone participate in the construction of a broader narrative of the city as a place of new beginnings: a laboratory for China's economic reforms, a place where anyone can start from anew, and a brand new city that prefigures the future. Based on fieldwork carried out in an old village that has been absorbed in the urban sprawl of northern Shenzhen, the paper examines the striking parallel between the foundational statements that are visible in the village's ancestral hall and the lineage's genealogy, and the posters that were everywhere on the city's walls. Both claim: 'it all starts from here'. These slogans resonate with the narrative of pre-Shenzhen history offered in the Shenzhen historical museum, one that depicts the Pearl River Delta area as a region of pioneers.

A focus on these recycled slogans reveals the ambivalent relations between past and present, the here and there, and history and myth. These tensions are intrinsic to the discourse of present-day neoliberal reform in Shenzhen, but they are as well an integral part of the history of capitalism in China. While they convey the sense of a city without past - Shenzhen portrayed as a city that has sprung up ex-nihilo in a few decades - they simultaneously participate in the larger history of South China as a frontier zone - of which the creation of the Special economic zone is only one the most recent instantiations.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.