EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution
Crisis, intimacy, and the European subject
Date and Start Time 02 August, 2014 at 09:00
This panel explores the historical association of Europe with whiteness and civilization in the context of contemporary economic crisis. We invite critical examination of the historically formed and emerging European subjectivities, especially as engaging with intimacy within discourses of crisis
The recent financial crisis has brought into focus the multiple differentiations that constitute contemporary Europe. The contours of the crisis in specific national contexts, as well as the public and political responses to the crisis, have become important criteria for locating national subjects in relation to the normative European subject. In this panel, we explore how the historical association of Europe with whiteness and civilization is re-envisioned or contested in the context of contemporary economic crisis. The panel invites critical examination of the effects of the economic crisis on both the historically formed figure of the European subject and on multiple and emerging European subjectivities. We take Europe to be a contested space with plural histories. We therefore counter the ideal-typical image of Europe as homogenous and fixed in time and space that permeates hegemonic and counter-hegemonic discourses alike. We invite contributions that focus on how intimacy—cultural or otherwise—is constituted and contested within contemporary discourses of crisis. What kinds of intimacies are encouraged and what kind are discouraged in attempts to approximate the European subject? How are spaces of distance and intimacy created in the context of intensified human mobility? How does memory work to facilitate the handling of the crisis, and how are racialized conceptions of difference reconstituted in the process? How do neoliberal forms of government fare in relation to the crisis, and how do they work to mobilize or silence particular sensibilities and subject positions?
Discussant: Michal Buchowski (Adam Mickiewicz University) and Daniel Knight (Durham)
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Spain's residential tourists and the half life of European cosmopolitanism
This project analyzes the fading sense of European cosmopolitanism amongst residential tourists in two Spanish provinces as well as the ways in which the Spanish real estate crisis is often discussed by UK homeowners as a pathology of the 'Mediterranean mentality.'
This project uses participant observation and interviews with 'residential tourists' living in two Spanish provinces to determine how the economic crisis of 2008 forced a revaluation of European cosmopolitanism. The crisis disproportionately affected Spanish tourism centers and the second home market because of years of over-development. The appropriation of blame became an important issue amongst semi-permanent residents who took a keen interest in the politics of real estate development, governmental corruption, and the underlying causes of the Spanish financial crisis. Many found themselves reclassifying Europeans as members of the 'center' or the 'periphery' and assigning negative cultural attributes, such as venality and laziness, to the Mediterranean periphery. Subjects, who were predominantly retirees, had varying degrees of success navigating the troubled real estate market and asserting their collective interests in local disputes involving the Spanish legal system. Generally, they used the failure of cosmopolitan Europe as a strong rebuke to the idea that cohesion policies produced fair and uniform legal systems. Cosmopolitanism was often spurred at the level of changed identity and many affirmed their renewed appreciation for their home country which, in most cases, was the UK. However, cosmopolitan practices were often subtly affirmed to delineate between those who had agency and were successfully dealing with the crisis and those who seemed to be floundering. In this sense, cosmopolitanism was a class-specific attribute that was uniquely available to residents with better education, financial resources, and linguistic skills who took active roles in defending their property rights.
Crisis, transition temporality, and the subject of endurance
Drawing on long-term fieldwork on postsocialist transformations in Latvia, this paper considers whether and how the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath interrupted the transition temporality that has prevailed in public and political life of the formerly socialist Eastern Europe.
As elsewhere in the region, the last twenty years of postsocialist transformations and European integration in Latvia have produced what some have referred to as ignorance about the present. For most of that time, the present was characterized by continuous efforts to overcome the socialist past and to arrive at a European future. As a result, the present became invisible and unknowable on its own terms. The onset of crisis in 2008 seemed to propel the past and the future into the present insofar as life became unlivable for many Latvia's residents, exacerbating the already ongoing outmigration. In a short period of time, however, Latvia became exemplary of both—the worse case of crisis and the best solution to it. The government implemented decisive and harsh austerity policies, demanding that Latvia's residents tighten their belts in solidarity with the suffering state and nation. The interplay between the socialist past and the European future that for long characterized public and political life gave way to a present of endurance. In this paper, I will trace the contours of the subject of endurance alongside the fleeting appearance of revolutionary subjects in the post-crisis political landscape in Europe. I will focus in particular on the relationship between post-crisis European subjectivities currently in-formation and the racialized normative European subject that has animated postsocialist transformations.
"Not crying because of the money": creating an Icelandic subject in boom and crisis
My paper focuses on the construction of Icelandic subjectivity during the boom period and the first years after the economic crash in 2008, emphasizing how these periods involve engagement with Iceland’s historical past to create a sense of intimacy.
In the early 2000s, Iceland enjoyed a prosperous boom period, which ended abruptly with a historical economic crash in 2008 when the three main banks became technically bankrupt. My paper focuses on the construction of Icelandic subjectivity during the boom period and the first years of the crisis, emphasizing their involvement with Iceland's past and creation of intimacy. As I show, Iceland's past history as a Danish dependency was particularly revisited during the economic boom in the early 2000s, being instrumental in creating Icelandic subjectivity within an increasingly neoliberal environment. Iceland was a Danish dependency until 1944 and based its claims of independence from Denmark on claims to be recognized as a 'true' nation, directly and implicitly stressing that Iceland belonged to a civilized 'white' Europe. Nationalistic rhetoric in the boom mobilized this social memory, emphasizing Iceland as finally gaining the status it deserved as being on pair with Europe. Simultaneously, the Icelandic subject was seen as distinct from the rest of the world, revolving around ideas of Icelandic exceptionalism. During the economic crash, the notions of Icelanders as a European subject were disrupted and questioned. I will show how they were reinstated through various social discourses concerning Iceland's position as a nation among nations.
Social dynamics and transformations of subjectivities in a post-industrial urban context: an ethnography of Mirafiori, Turin
The paper provides an ethnographic outline of post-Fordist predicament and of the recent economic crisis, based on fieldwork conducted in a working-class neighbourhood in Turin, strongly affected by these economic and social processes.
One major issue in the anthropological as well as social and political discourse today concerns the effects the long transition from Fordism to Post-Fordism exerts on the social life and subjectivities of the working and middle classes. Few cities are better than Turin to observe this historical passage. And few neighbourhoods of this city are better than Mirafiori, a working-class area which grew under the shadow of the greatest Fordist factory in Europe, now largely dismantled.
In this paper we propose to present and discuss the first results of an ethnographic investigation we are conducting in this part of the city. The research focuses on the social dynamics pertaining families and relational networks; on the everyday-life and cultural intimacy of the local subaltern classes; and on the transformations of local subjectivity, from a sound and well-defined working class identity to a new, more uncertain one. Working within the intimate spaces and the associative networks of the neighbourhood, we want to explore the different, emerging ways of coping with the long transformation and the more recent economic crises.
Our aim is chiefly to provide an anthropological picture of processes often debated in the literature, but rarely analysed from an ethnographic perspective.
Aberrant subjects? Roma migrants as EU citizens and racialised others
Drawing on research among Slovak Roma migrants from Slovakia to Great britain, this paper examines the category of Roma migrant in relation to the re-configuration of political space of Europe from historical and ethnographic perspectives.
One of the recent controversies surrounding the idea of 'free movement' and re-bordering of Europe evolved around the issue of Roma migration. The Roma have been figured by EU and nation-state politicians as the Europe's iconic Others in redrawing of political space of Europe. Despite the plurality of Roma and their particular histories within nation-states, they are often categorised by NGO, state, EU institutions as monolithic, 'largest ethnic European minority.' They occupy the ambiguous space of being EU citizens and yet constantly racialised and orientalised as its internal others. Drawing on examples from a long-term ethnographic fieldwork among Slovak Roma migrating between Slovakia and Great Britain, I will explore what kind of subject positions do the Roma migrants occupy in the context of recent economic crisis, state reforms and shifts towards disciplinary workfare and punitive penalisation framed in conjunction with neoliberal forms of governing poverty and minority relations in Slovakia and in European space. While the everyday experiences of most Roma within the space of Slovak nation-state has always been marked by their racialization as non-white, their movement within the enlarged EU have initially allowed them to re-negotiate their subject positions. And yet their positions have been demarcated by racialised classification in relation to other migrants and minority subjects. Animated by historically sedimented differentiations within 'Eastern European migrants,' nation-state projects and European subjectivities, this paper locates the ambiguities surrounding the aberrant figure of Roma within the struggles of re-inscribing the political space alongside the nested hierarchies of whiteness and civilisation.
Intimacy and European social imaginary in Austrian TV police series
This presentation will explore the representation of crisis in Austrian TV police series and discuss this as examples of cultural intimacies that support a European social imaginary fuelled by old ways of coping with crisis.
TV crime fiction and police series have become one of the most popular genres on television. The presentation claims that they are not only examples of continuous repetitions of scenarios of crisis, but also of cultural intimacies in the sense that they represent "that part of a cultural identity that insiders do not want outsiders to get to know yet that those same insiders recognize as providing them with a comfort zone of guiltily non-normative carryings-on" (Herzfeld 2013, 491). A close reading of one highly acclaimed example of the most popular TV police series in the German-speaking context, TATORT, shows an 'othering' of crisis: Crisis is located elsewhere and gets transported into Austria through migrants and through trafficking. In this case, (Angezählt, 2013), it is Eastern-European countries like Bulgaria that are constructed as defined by economic turmoil and patriarchy, exemplified by the victimized female migrant forced into prostitution. I argue that this construction fuels cultural racism where the migrants' cultures are seen as less civilized and women are automatically oppressed. I claim that examples of popular culture like this particular TATORT episode do not contribute to a new European social imaginary that overcomes the fortress Europe mentality nor does it go beyond current ways of coping with crisis defined by strategies that have been successful in the past.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.