Panel 27 / Quarto Convegno Nazionale SIAC “Il ritorno del sociale”, Sapienza Università di Roma, 21-22-23 settembre 2023
Proponenti: Antonio Maria Pusceddu (Centro em Rede de Investigação em Antropologia), Antonio Vesco (Università di Catania)
In the past decade, following the 2008 financial meltdown, austerity dominated the scene of macroeconomic and social policy responses towards economic recovery. Far from being a novelty, austerity and structural adjustment already had a long history of economic theorization and painful application the world over. Yet, it was mainly in the past decade that austerity appeared across the anthropological spectrum, stimulating a number of debates on time, the state, social reproduction, debt, dispossession, conflict, solidarity, moralities, political ecology, social engineering, prefigurative politics, populism, the commons and political transformation. Many of these debates were time-responsive attempts to decipher (ethnographically and theoretically) the fast-changing political, economic and social scenarios, and the broader implications of austerity at large. This panel aims to retrieve and discuss past debates on austerity, with the aim of reframing and reassessing their topicality or irrelevance for the present. We invite ethnographically and theoretically informed contributions that address and critically revisit the broad range of issues related to the anthropologies of austerity, to austerity at large, to its persistence or legacies. Our broader aim is to solicit critical reflections on the tension between perdurance and ephemerality of anthropological reflections, thus framing “the return of the social” in the wider social and political tensions that shape our discipline.
Keywords: austerity, crisis, politics, temporality, theorization
Lingue accettate: Italiano / English
Venerdì 22/9/2023, ore 14.30-16.15, aula Nuova Buonaiuti, Terzo piano
Antonio M. Pusceddu (firstname.lastname@example.org) (Centro em Rede de Investigação em Antropologia); Antonio Vesco (email@example.com) (Università di Catania), Whither austerity? Persistent issues and ephemeral debates
In the past decade, austerity dominated the scene of macroeconomic and social policy responses towards economic recovery. Austerity and structural adjustment already had a long history of economic theorization and painful application the world over. Yet, it was mainly in the past decade that austerity appeared across the anthropological spectrum, triggering stimulating debates on a broad range of issues. Many of these debates were time-responsive attempts to decipher (ethnographically and theoretically) the fast-changing political, economic and social scenarios, and the broader implications of austerity at large. This paper provides an introductory discussion to critically revisit the broad range of issues related to the anthropologies of austerity, to austerity at large, to its persistence or legacies. Our broader aim is to solicit critical reflections on the tension between perdurance and ephemerality of anthropological reflections, thus framing “the return of the social” in the wider social and political tensions that shape our discipline.
Marco Di Nunzio (firstname.lastname@example.org) (University of Birmingham), Austerity, entitlement and city building
Austerity is the norm, not the exception, in the ways hierarchies of entitlements have been defined in capitalist economies. This paper explores what produces the correlation between development and exclusion, but looking not just how urban change deprives the poor of resources and opportunities, but what it delivers to them. Exclusion and marginality are often the product of the way the urban poor are integrated in society. This paper will explore the relational arrangements producing and generating existing circuits of value that make a city a site for investment and capital accumulation rest on hierarchies of entitlement that make injustice and inequality a persistent feature of urban development and change. With a focus on theory, this paper will provide a framework for exploring the interaction between the relational foundation of circuits of value and the hierarchies of entitlement that make injustice, exclusion and inequality persist in cities. By taking anthropological studies of value to the city, I will discuss how the politics of austerity in cities is embedded in the way codification of who trades with whom, how and when, and what that trade involves, not only affects economies of city building, but produce that broader and unequal political and moral economy of entitlements on which experiences of urban injustice are ultimately grounded.
Patricia Alves de Matos (email@example.com) (CRIA/ISCTE – University Institute of Lisbon, Portugal), Contested Numbers: hunger, crisis and social change in Portugal
During the austerity conjuncture, Europeans got daily acquainted with a political language grounded on numbers to justify the legitimate causes, effects and solutions for the crisis – e.g. ‘fiscal consolidation’, ‘expenditure contraction’, ‘budget deficit’.The anthropological literature often considers that quantification, in the form of numerical representations and global indicators, acts as a form of biopolitical governance technology erasing context, meaning and history. Yet, recent examples show how the numerical can be mobilised with emancipatory purposes to contest unequal governance forms and economic development models (e.g. ‘we are the 99%’). Drawing from ethnographic research conducted in a post-industrial Portuguese town, Setúbal, this paper compares the politics and historicity of contested numbers during the 1980s, the austerity conjuncture, and the more recent covid-19 pandemic. This paper aims to elicit the mutually constitutive, yet differential use, mobilisation, and deployment of rhetorics of quantification and numerical representations of food deprivation and hunger by governmental agents, local authorities, and ordinary people within different crisis conjunctures. This paper argues that addressing the politics and historicity of contested numbers in various crisis conjunctures enables tracing the interacting frameworks of consensus and contestation shaping social change projects and their underlying categories, classifications, intentions, and exclusions.
Francesca Vaghi (firstname.lastname@example.org) (University of Strathclyde, Glasgow), ‘Investing in the early years’ in times of austerity: ethnographic reflections from an inner-London nursery
‘Investing in the early years’ has been a policy mantra in the U.K., as in the rest of the world, for several decades, and particularly since the New Labour years, during which a rhetoric of supporting ‘troubled families’ through policy interventions mushroomed (e.g. Lambert 2019). This was largely operationalised through the creation of Sure Start children’s centres, an initiative which aimed to tackle poverty and inequality by investing in ‘early intervention’, particularly targeting children and families living in disadvantage (Camps and Long 2012). Almost 20 years later, the rhetoric around early intervention and investment in the early years has not subsided, yet the sector, ironically, continues to be hit by severe funding cuts resulting from ongoing (and, now, deeply engrained) austerity measures. Based on ethnographic fieldwork carried out in an inner-London nursery between 2016 and 2017, this paper will examine the legacy of Sure Start (and similar policies) in the sector, and the contradictions that arise when policy discourse promotes initiatives that cannot be fulfilled on the ground due to material constraints. Drawing from Ruth Levitas’ Utopia as Method (2013), which offers hopeful avenues to respond to the consequences of austerity, this paper ends with a number of utopian suggestions, informed by ethnography, to reimagine what ‘investing in the early years’ could truly look like in the U.K.
Davide Donatiello (email@example.com) (Università di Torino); Valentina Moiso (firstname.lastname@example.org) (Università di Torino), Valore degli immaginari e distribuzione del valore nella viticoltura del Sud Piemonte
Il contributo propone una riflessione sul legame tra organizzazione delle filiere agricole e “messa in scena” dei territori nel frame delle politiche di austerità e delle strategie di risposta alla crisi economica. L’analisi scaturisce da un’attività di ricerca decennale condotta nei territori a vocazione vitivinicola del Sud Piemonte (Monferrato astigiano e Langhe), aree in cui negli ultimi vent’anni sono state adottate strategie di promozione del territorio in riferimento ai valori di autenticità ed esclusività della cultura del vino e che sono state riconosciute patrimonio dell’UNESCO in virtù dell’eccezionale valore del paesaggio culturale, come risultato combinato dell’azione dell’uomo e della natura. Le trasformazioni del territorio del vino, fortemente antropizzato, insieme alla sua rappresentazione selettiva e al suo “impreziosimento” artistico, ci dicono molto delle dinamiche di cambiamento sociale, rivelando i rapporti specifici tra gruppi sociali e territorio, tra ideale e materiale, e anche la distribuzione di valore tra gli attori della filiera nonché le sue fonti di legittimazione. Il territorio del vino diventa così espressione di immaginari sociali che incorporano e riproducono determinate gerarchie: analizzando il sistema vitivinicolo di queste aree rurali emergono segni e ambivalenze di un fenomeno già ben descritto in ambito urbano, ossia la patrimonializzazione del territorio a fini turistici mentre permangono forme di sfruttamento del lavoro.