Care in Trouble: Ecologies of Support from Below and Beyond

In 2018-2019, my colleague Vincent Duclos and I worked on different versions of an essay that was given green light by the Medical Anthropology Quarterly last August and has now been included in the 34(2) issue. It was a hard process, but also a wonderful occasion to learn from the inspiring work of many colleagues and a joyful opportunity to experiment together with a conceptual writing repertoire.

Titled “Care in Trouble: Ecologies of Support from Below and Beyond” the article wishes to map out how care has proliferated as an analytical and technical term aimed at capturing a vast array of practices, conditions, and sentiments. As we argue in our exploratory orienting essay–rather than a deep dive ethnography–care seems to have also expanded to many other reproductive domains of life, where it has been mobilized as a conceptual lens that affords privileged access to the human condition.

This essay is premised on the conviction that, in spite of and perhaps also because of its rising popularity, the analytics of care is in trouble. Drawing inspiration from STS, “new materialist” work, and the writings in black, Indigenous, anticolonial, feminist, and crip studies, we suggest that discussions within anthropology might benefit from opening care from both “below” and “beyond” in what we are calling “ecologies of support.”

Ecologies of support are not to be mistaken for all-encompassing environments. Their protective effects more often than not are discontinuous and unevenly distributed. Thinking about ecologies of support entails placing a new focus on how different kinds of bodies are differentially supported, cared for, and capable of influencing their own conditions of support. Because spaces of care and safety can also easily morph into forms of containment and exclusion, what is needed are more accurate cartographies of the many intersections and frictions between the enveloping and the diverging, the protecting and the containing, the enduring and the engendering, as they play out in care practices.

Our proposal is for anthropology to not simply seek to represent or bear witness to these practices, but also to reinvigorate care by experimenting with modes of inquiry and intervention that operate along new axes of movement and new relational possibilities—a dynamic ecosystem if you will.

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We would be happy and eager to learn from your comments and reactions to it, if you had any.

Picture CC BY 2006 Vladimer Shioshvili

Abstract

Over the last decades, care has proliferated as a notion aimed at capturing a vast array of practices, conditions, and sentiments. In this article, we argue that the analytics of care may benefit from being troubled, as it too often reduces the reproduction of life to matters of palliation and repair, fueling a politics of nationalism and identitarianism. Picking up the threads of insight from STS, “new materialisms,” and postcolonial feminist and indigenous scholarship, we discuss care from “below” and “beyond,” thus exposing tensions between the enveloping and the diverging, the enduring and the engendering, that play out in care practices. We propose “ecologies of support” as an analytic that attends to how humans are grounded in, traversed by, and undermined by more‐than‐human and often opaque, speculative, subterranean elements. Our proposal is for anthropology to not simply map life‐sustaining ecologies, but to experimentally engage with troubling modes of inquiry and intervention.

Published as Duclos, V., & Criado, T. S. (2020). Care in Trouble: Ecologies of Support from Below and Beyond. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 34(2), 153–173 | PDF

The Method of Telegrammatic Correspondence: A Digital Mode of Inquiry during ‘Lockdown’

Logo. CC BY 2020 Cor on Collaboration

Ever since the COVID-19 outbreak unfolded into a major health and social crisis in Spain Adolfo Estalella and I have been taking part in a peculiar Telegram-based messaging group. ‘Cor on Collaboration’, as the space was named, turned into our main source of news, links, experiences, appreciations, reflections and collective debates. It was originally set up by some of our ethnographic acquaintances in the last years, a loose group of architects, designers and cultural workers with the goal of developing a version of a podcast radio show based in Madrid, devoted to exploring manifold forms of urban collaboration. From 20 people by mid-March to the actual 84, the group soon became a frantic and lively space where all participants have been sharing personal experiences, commenting media articles, discussing specialized papers and pre-prints or analysing collectively anything relevant to understand the unfolding of the COVID crisis. From its onset the convening team encouraged us to send audio messages to compile and edit them, together with other material, as podcasts that could reach out to a wider public beyond the group. Here we reflect on the methodological inspiration we could draw from this peculiar use of a regular off-the-shelf collaborative digital platform for our work as social scientists. Shocked and perplexed by the present situation, we (as the rest of our companions) have found in ‘Cor on collaboration’ a resource to navigate uncertain times: Not just a place for solidarity, debate and contact, but a place driven by the shared effort to problematize the present situation. Contributing to the rising debate on how to undertake ethnographic work in times of lockdown we would like to intimate the affordances of this particular ‘telegrammatic’ correspondence that has allowed us (and our counterparts in this conversation) to inquire into the uncertainty of these strange times.

We have written a small piece, published as part of the Sociological Review’s Solidarity and Care series reflecting on the experience:

[EN] The Method of Telegrammatic Correspondence: A Digital Mode of Inquiry during ‘Lockdown’

[ES] El método de la correspondencia telegramática: Un modo de indagación digital para tiempos de confinamiento

Constitutional graffiti: Emergent landscapes of Corona protest in German cities

(French version below)

Munich, Germany – Only seldom do constitutional debates take the streets. However, these bureaucratically heated disputes–regularly discussed in the secluded spaces of courts–sometimes catch media attention and stir political debate. After the implementation of stark public health measures to fight against the expansion of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in Germany, a mounting controversy has opened up in the last weeks. Federal states like Bavaria have issued public space use guidelines to prevent the virus to spread: these recommend not only a safety distance of 1,5m, but also include bans affecting many institutions and big shops, which have closed or been reduced to essential-mode only; in the streets and parks groups of only 3 people are allowed, with the sole exception of larger groups living in the same household. When appreciated in a comparative gaze, these measures are far less strict than most of the neighboring EU countries. However, different political factions in Germany consider that they affect the rights of free protest and the freedom of assembly.

In the last weeks there have been scattered protests all over the country, having some support across the political spectrum, against what some have called a ‘Demoverbot’ (ban of demonstrations). Some wonder: What should go first, fundamental rights or health? The debate, of course, takes different connotations, left or right. And there are different expressions related to it. Some weeks ago, a man was photographed in Karlsruhe carrying a makeshift book copy of the Constitution tied to his back. On May Day several ‘Spontis’ (spontaneous demonstrations) took the streets in the popular districts of Berlin in protest for the ban. Walking by the Isar – Munich’s river – some days ago, I found another modality: a graffiti fight painted on the pavement in a bike lane from the green spaces running parallel to the water in the Glockenbachviertel’s embankment. A collision of political views in yellow and white. In yellow someone had painted a statement whereby ‘Corona’ came to stand as the ‘Demoverbot’ in itself. In white, someone felt compelled to correct this: ‘Corona’, that person thought, is a ‘virus’, whereas ‘capitalism’ would be ‘the problem.’

[FR] Munich, Allemagne – Il est rare que les débats constitutionnels se déroulent dans la rue. Malgré tout, il arrive que ces disputes bureaucratiques de haute volée — habituellement réservées aux espaces confinés des tribunaux — attirent l’attention des médias et suscitent un débat politique. Ces dernières semaines, après la mise en œuvre de mesures de santé publique draconiennes pour lutter contre l’expansion de la pandémie de SRAS-CoV-2 en Allemagne, une controverse grandissante a émergé. Des États fédéraux comme la Bavière ont publié des directives sur l’usage de l’espace public pour empêcher le virus de se propager : celles-ci recommandent non seulement que soit respectée une distance de sécurité d’1,5 mètre, mais comprennent également des interdictions touchant de nombreuses institutions et de grands magasins, dont la plupart ont fermés ou ont été réduits à un service minimum ; dans les rues et dans les parcs, seuls les groupes de 3 personnes sont autorisés, à l’exception des collectifs pour peu nombreux qui vivent sous le même toit. Lorsqu’on les compare, ces mesures sont beaucoup moins strictes que dans la plupart des pays voisins de l’UE. Cependant, différentes factions politiques en Allemagne considèrent qu’elles affectent les droits de manifestation et la liberté de réunion. 

Au cours des dernières semaines, quelques manifestations ont été organisées dans le pays, avec un certain soutien de l’ensemble du spectre politique, contre ce que certains ont appelé un « Demoverbot » (une interdiction de manifester). On s’interroge : qu’est-ce qui devrait passer en premier, les droits fondamentaux ou la santé ? Le débat, bien sûr, prend différentes connotations, à gauche ou à droite. Et différentes expressions y sont associées. Il y a quelques semaines, un homme a été photographié à Karlsruhe avec un exemplaire de la constitution fait maison attaché dans le dos. Le 1er mai, plusieurs « Spontis » (cortèges spontanés de protestation) sont descendus dans les rues des quartiers populaires de Berlin pour contester l’interdiction. En me promenant le long de la rivière Isar-Munich, j’ai découvert il y a quelques jours une autre modalité d’expression : un combat de graffitis peints sur une piste cyclable du Glockenbachviertel, au niveau des espaces verts qui longent l’eau. Une confrontation de points de vue politiques en jaune et blanc. En blanc, quelqu’un avait peint une équation dans laquelle le « Corona » se substituait au « Demoverbot ». En jaune, quelqu’un s’est senti obligé d’en rectifier les termes : Le « Corona », selon cette personne, est un « virus », tandis que le « capitalisme » serait « le problème » (kindly translated by Jérôme Denis)

Publication and rationale

This short picture & text is a guest contribution to Scriptopolis (11 May 2020), the wonderful archive documenting material approaches to writing phenomena curated by Marie Alauzen, Jérôme Denis, David Pontille & Didier Torny.

Although the brief accompanying text provides contextual info on the picture, some relevant phenomena (like the 9pm clapping & the vast support of the measures) are obviously missing in this attempt at charting out landscapes of protest in German cities under Corona public health regulations. However, I wanted to document this to reflect how different liberal versions of ‘exposure’ might be emerging…

Interestingly, there are also newer landscapes of protest operating with an idea of ‘shared protection’: Disability rights movements like AbilityWatch have been exploring forms of demonstrating ‘at a distance’, particularly at a time when they feel even more exposed by a re-enactment of eugenic-like measures in health care using the hashtag #UNsichtbar. +info here: https://maiprotest.de/

Come what may, and beyond the more or less spectacular display of street protests, a looming question seems to linger: even if might sound like a minor issue, a too-civil concern, appreciating the constitutionality of these measures has become also a debate between jurists, given that they might have a jurisprudential value – hence, exploring their juridical and scientific grounding becomes quintessential, since they might be having a future impact.

Some background references

Jan Fährmann, Hartmut Aden, Clemens Arzt (15 Apr 2020). Versammlungs­freiheit – auch in Krisenzeiten!. Verfassungsblog: On matters constitutional.

SZ.de (18 Apr 2020). Verfassungsrichter kippen Stuttgarts Demoverbot. Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

Reuters (26 Apr 2020). Coronavirus: dozens arrested in Berlin protesting against lockdown. The Guardian.

Walther Michl (28 Apr 2020). Die Kohärenz als Begleitmusik zum infektions­schutz­rechtlichen Tanz. Verfassungsblog: On matters constitutional.

Felix Bohr, Uwe Buse, Anna Clauß, Markus Feldenkirchen, Barbara Hardinghaus, Wolfgang Höbel, Guido Kleinhubbert, Martin Knobbe, Julia Koch, Dialika Neufeld, Christopher Piltz, Max Polonyi, Andreas Wassermann and Alfred Weinzierl (1 May 2020). Germans Split Over Lifting of Lockdown. Der Spiegel.

rbb24.de (2 May 2020). 1. Mai in Berlin – Tausende Menschen ziehen dicht an dicht durch Kreuzberg. rbb24.de

Maik Baumgärtner, Felix Bohr, Roman Höfner, Timo Lehmann, Ann-Katrin Müller, Sven Röbel, Marcel Rosenbach, Jonas Schaible, Wolf Wiedmann-Schmidt und Steffen Winter (8 May 2020). Sturm der Lügen. Der Spiegel.

Thomas Anlauf (10 May 2020). Ohne Masken, ohne Abstand. Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

‘Welfarocene’ or ‘Medicene’? A provocation to rethink the future of care

How to care for the opening of care infrastructures?

[EN] How to care for the opening of care infrastructures?

(Versión en castellano más abajo)

The mess we’re in has accentuated two recurring concerns, perhaps with newer nuances: (1) the importance of tinkering and opening up care infrastructures and equipment; (2) the relevance of experimenting with their documentation (precisely in the distance of a remote confinement)

(1) Here we are again in an austerity crisis, again care as the main mode of response, and yet again in need of proprietary equipment, closed down by patents and strict rules of circulation (where the health expertocracy & free market meet). But there are also mismatches…

The previous crisis brought out a wealth of forms of tinkering and inventiveness, DIY hacks and 3D printed contraptions in all kinds of initiatives. That crisis deeply impacted architecture and design, but health systems protected themselves from what was though to be a dangerous experiment …

Health struggles revolved around supporting public infrastructures, but beyond a discussion around generic drugs, the ‘question concerning technology’ did not seem to pop up much, even though its importance was highlighted (e.g. open orthopedics and technical aids)

The urban experimentation of many DIY urbanism, collective architecture and handmade urbanism… made emerge a context to explore other ways of opening up the city’s infrastructures and their rights. All of this has been sadly crumbling: too much personal – and too little institutional – an effort

Now a new techno-political field seems to emerge, even more closed than the previous one: Will this situation of health infrastructural collapse allow for an experimentation with seizing the means of care, opening up an inquiry on how this might be supported by public infrastructures? Time will tell

(2) Now, as it happened, those findings and practical solutions need to be traced and circulated, knowledge of an expert and experiential kind sprout and turn ideas that come and go. We document to share, but also not to forget…

And, also, a great variety of digital platforms erupt, wishing to centralise the archiving of such experiences, their tagging and categorization: websites, telegram channels, but also Twitter as an archive of a tinkering society in need of auto-inscribing to endure, when not just to be…

With a big difference: ten years ago, online presence was treated as a mere support, an aid, main-staging embodied togetherness. However, in the distance of a remote confinement digital documentation takes on a different – and greater – relevance

Many of the insurgent archives documenting the critical experiences of years ago have now disappeared: we didn’t have the time, the will, the conditions to work to maintain and care for all of them – some have survived, many thanks to the use of commercial platforms whose servers are still intact

Will we forget and obliterate what we have learned, the traces of the new that emerge, the timeless solutions that always reemerge, the dramas of the moment? Sure, we need to forget in order to go on, but digital records are deeply fragile. Will we let the same thing happen to us again? What to do?

P.S. This thread is a testimony of many conversations in the last years with @entornoalasilla @adolfoestalella @acorsin @cboserman @jararocha @blancallen @birrabel @dlopezgom @ CareNet_IN3 @zuloark @Makeatuvida @Alephvoid @autofabricantes @ alafuente @ janinakehr @SaraLF @crinamoreno

P.S.2. But also a reflection after witnessing what @frenalacurva @ItaliaCovid19 @CovidAidUK @nwspk are making emerge, together with the great number of health practitioners and makers documenting their inventiveness – here on Twitter, for instance – around the globe

**

Slightly amended version of a thread published on Twitter

[ES] ¿Cómo cuidar de la apertura de las infraestructuras del cuidado?

Este momento delirante ha acentuado dos preocupaciones recurrentes, con nuevos matices: (1) la importancia del cacharreo o la apertura de infraestructuras y equipamientos del cuidado; (2) la experimentación con su documentación (en la distancia de un confinamiento a distancia)

(1) De nuevo una crisis por austeridad, de nuevo la centralidad del cuidado como respuesta, de nuevo la necesidad de equipamientos cerrados por patentes y reglas estrictas de circulación (donde cruzan la expertocracia sanitaria y el libre mercado). Pero con algunas diferencias…

La anterior crisis sacó la inventiva cacharrera, un despliegue de ñapas, makeos, impresión 3D e iniciativas do-it-yourself para todo tipo de actividades. Esa crisis afectó de lleno a arquitectura y diseño, pero el mundo de la salud se protegió: era una experimentación peligrosa…

La lucha de la salud se centró en torno a su sostenimiento público, pero más allá de la discusión sobre los medicamentos genéricos, la pregunta por la tecnología no parecía abrirse, aun cuando se planteó su importancia con fuerza (e.g. ortopedias y ayudas técnicas abiertas)

La experimentación urbana de lugares como Can Batlló o el Campo de Cebada, el handmade urbanism… generaron un contexto para explorar otros modos de hacer ciudad con infraestructuras abiertas. Todo eso ha ido cayendo tristemente en desgracia: mucho esfuerzo y poca institución

Ahora se abre un nuevo campo tecno-político, todavía más clausurado que el anterior: ¿Permitirá esta situación de colapso sanitario abrir a indagación y sostenimiento con infraestructuras públicas la experimentación con la reapropiación de los medios del cuidado? El tiempo dirá

(2) Ahora, como entonces, eso hallazgos y soluciones prácticas necesitan abrirse y circular, saberes y conocimientos experienciales que brotan y se convierten en ideas que vienen y van. Se documenta para compartir, pero también para no olvidar

Y, de nuevo, comienza la panoplia de plataformas digitales para su archivado centralizado, su etiquetado y categorización: webs, canales de telegram, pero también Twitter como archivo de una sociedad cacharrera que busca auto-inscribirse para subsistir, cuando no existir…

Con una gran diferencia: hace diez años, lo online era un apoyo o soporte, quedando el vínculo corpóreo en una centralidad; en la distancia de un confinamiento a distancia, sin embargo, esa documentación digital cobra una importancia nuclear

Desaparecieron muchos de esos archivos insurgentes de la experiencia crítica de hace años: no les pudimos meter ganas, esfuerzo, manutención y cuidado a todos ellos – algunos han subsistido, muchos gracias al uso de plataformas blog cuyos servidores siguen en activo

¿Olvidaremos y haremos caer en el olvido todo lo aprendido, los trazos de lo nuevo que emerge, las soluciones atemporales, los dramas del momento? Cierto, necesitamos olvidar para vivir, pero el registro digital es frágil ¿Dejaremos que nos pase lo mismo otra vez? ¿Qué hacer?

PD. Aquí acordándome mucho de cientos de conversaciones con @entornoalasilla @adolfoestalella @acorsin @cboserman @jararocha @blancallen @birrabel @dlopezgom @CareNet_IN3 @zuloark @Makeatuvida @Alephvoid @autofabricantes @alafuente@janinakehr @SaraLF @crinamoreno

PD2. Pero también pensando en todo lo que están abriendo @frenalacurva @ItaliaCovid19 @CovidAidUK @nwspk y la cantidad de profesionales del mundo sanitario documentando su inventiva

PD3. Y también muchas de las conversaciones recientes con @janinakehr @SaraLF @crinamoreno – fuente de tantas reflexiones interesantes

Adaptación de un hilo publicado originalmente en Twitter

Picture credits: Patent spec of Le Prieur regulator (1946-47) (Wikimedia Commons)

4.02.2020 – DIE ZUKUNFT DER STADT(FORSCHUNG) | HCU Kultur der Metropole

Das Studienprogramm Kultur der Metropole an der HafenCity Universität Hamburg feiert zehnjähriges Bestehen auf Kampnagel

Das Wissen der Stadt in Bewegung halten – dazu diskutieren diverse Stadtforschende und -machende am 4. Februar 2020 auf Kampnagel.

Die Diskussion ist Teil eines abendfüllenden Programms anlässlich des zehnjährigen Bestehens des Studiengangs „Kultur der Metropole“ an der HafenCity Universität Hamburg. Den Auftakt macht die Schweizer Kulturwissenschaftlerin Monika Litscher, die einmal mehr anschaulich macht, dass die aktuellen gesellschaftlichen und vor allem in Städten zu verortenden Herausforderungen und Krisen nicht ohne die Geisteswissenschaften zu meistern sind.
Studierende präsentieren in Form von Werkstattberichten ihre Projektarbeit zum Deutschen Hafenmuseum, zu den Rändern des Urbanen und zu neuen Mensch-Tier-Verhältnissen in der Stadt.
Eingeladen sind Stadtinteressierte, städtische Akteur*innen, Projektpartner*innen, Studierende und Studieninteressierte. Der Eintritt ist frei.

Seit seiner Gründung 2009 ist das Studienprogramm „Kultur der Metropole“ mit seinem Profil einzigartig in der deutschsprachigen Hochschullandschaft und steht für kulturwissen-schaftliche Stadtforschung und kreativ-angewandte Kulturarbeit im urbanen Kontext. Im Mittelpunkt stehen die kulturellen Dimensionen von Stadt (und ihre Wirkung auf alle Handlungsfelder des Städtischen). Gelehrt werden Grundlagen in Kultur- und Raumtheorie, Stadtethnographie, historische Stadtforschung, Museologie sowie künstlerische Forschung – und der Transfer in verschiedene Anwendungsfelder wie städtische Kulturarbeit, aktuelle Stadtentwicklungsprogramme bzw. partizipative Stadtgestaltung, Quartiersmanagement u.v.m.
Absolvent*innen von Kultur der Metropole arbeiten heute erfolgreich auf vielen Feldern der Stadtkultur: in den Deichtorhallen, bei der Behörde für Stadtentwicklung und Umwelt, bei der Kreativgesellschaft, sie promovieren, gründen Modelabels, werden Filmemacher*innen, und Journalist*innen u.v.a.

Wann: Dienstag, 04.02.2020, 19:00 Uhr

Wo: Kampnagel | Jarrestrasse 20 | 22303 Hamburg Veranstaltungsprogramm

DIE ZUKUNFT DER STADT(FORSCHUNG)

19:00 Uhr BEGRÜSSUNG UND VORTRAG
Monika Litscher (Kulturwissenschaftlerin, Zürich) über die »Values of Humanities« und kulturwissenschaftliche Stadtforschung

19:45 Uhr PODIUMSDISKUSSION
Es diskutieren u.a. Tomás Sánchez Criado (Anthropologe, HU Berlin), Amelie Deuflhard (Intendantin Kampnagel, Hamburg), Lisa Kosok (Historikerin, HCU Hamburg), Alexa Färber (Stadtanthropologin, Universität Wien); Moderation: Kathrin Wildner (Stadtethnologin, Berlin/HCU Hamburg) und Laurenz Gottstein (Student Kultur der Metropole /HCU Hamburg)

ab 21:00 UHR PROJEKTPRÄSENTATIONEN VON STUDIERENDEN UND GET TOGETHER

DIY Anthropology: Disciplinary knowledge in crisis

Adolfo Estalella and I take part in a thematic section of the ANUAC. Journal of the Italian Society of Cultural Anthropology, titled Changing margins and relations within European anthropology. In it we shift from a discussion around the geo-political identity of anthropology to its status as a scholarly discipline.

Ours is a situated account of how a particular setting and moment in time affected our anthropological practice: The beginning of the 2010s was a period of political unrest in Spain. Like many other countries, it suffered the harsh effects of the 2007-2008 global financial crisis. However, despite the crisis (or maybe because of it) cities experienced a moment of political creativity and urban inventiveness: People occupied empty buildings and unused plots of vacant land to create all kind of projects, refurnishing the city with an impulse to reanimate collective forms of life. All kind of knowledges blossomed in these initiatives. Our several-years-long ethnographic investigations were carried out in this period in Spain’s main two cities (Madrid and Barcelona)

Thrown into an urban landscape left behind by a policy of financial austerity, we worked intimately with architects, activist designers, and bodily diverse people. Singularly and unexpectedly for us, we found in them the companions we lacked in our local institutional academic contexts. They turned into epistemic partners: companions in the shared endeavour of producing anthropological problematisations. Under these circumstances, the knowledge we produced at the time emerged out of a moment of crisis: knowledge in crisis

We do not intend to argue on the European condition of our anthropological practice, neither we are interested in tracing geo-political frontiers of disciplinary imaginations. Instead, drawing on our ethnographic experience – and the collaborations we established with our epistemic partners in the field – we feel urged to problematize the disciplinary boundaries anthropology conventionally tends to assume

Hence, in the article we offer an account of the interstitial spaces that we both inhabited “in the vacuum of tradition” in the recent Spanish crisis, and how that enabled us to articulate singular relations with variegated epistemic partners with whom we set up distinct ambiances of care. In our ethnographic description we pay attention to the blurring of institutional and scholarly infrastructures and modes of togetherness. In describing the particular transformations – or “intraventions” – that these joint spaces enacted, we would like to intimate a different figuration anthropology took in our practice: Not a disciplinary field but a field of experimental collaborations.

As we show, treating our ethnographic counterparts as epistemic partners has the potential to retrofit our institutionalized settings and disciplinary practices. The anthropology we describe, hence, is one assembled from scratch, caring for the mundane issues that very often are forgotten and rendered invisible: an anthropology done with others, a DIY anthropology?

El Campo de Cebada CC BY 2014 Manuel Domínguez Fernández

Abstract

This is an account of the transformations in our anthropological practice derived from working in the many interstitial spaces that opened up in the wake of the recent Spanish economic crisis. Ambulating in void spaces of Madrid and Barcelona, our anthropological practice was there re-built in ways that blurred our disciplinary boundaries. What there emerged was anthropology not as a disciplinary field, but as a field of experimental collaborations. A practice that re-learnt its ways treating counterparts as true epistemic partners, and setting up distinct ambiances of care with them: not only to care for one another in situations of great difficulty, but mostly to care for our different forms of inquiry, addressing the very situations we were under. An anthropology done together with others, assembling from scratch a conceptual body, caring for the mundane issues that are very often forgotten and rendered invisible by disciplinary fields: A DIY anthropology?

Published in Anuac. Journal of the Italian Society of Cultural Anthropology, 8(2): 143-165 (co-written with Adolfo Estalella) | PDF

Repair as repopulating the devastated desert of our political and social imaginations

Drawing together a wide variety of contributions and approaches to different strategies of repair and recovery in post-crisis Portugal, Francisco Martínez has compiled the volume Politics of Recuperation, a comprehensive anthropological approach to the meanings of the crises in Southern Europe. As explained in the back cover:

How did Portuguese society recover after the economic crisis? Through a range of ethnographic case studies focusing on the Portuguese recovery, this book begins a conversation about the experience of recuperation and repair. It addresses how the recovery of relations creates something transcendental, adds a human dimension to the public sphere and expands our conception of what constitutes the political.

Located in the cracks and gaps between the state and society, recuperation appears as a social and infrastructural answer linked to reciprocity, critical urbanity, generational interweaving, alternate ordering and reconnection of different bodies and histories. With chapters looking at public art in Lisbon and recuperative modes of action, this collection takes a thorough look at a society in crisis and shows how the people of the community create micro-politics of resistance. Ultimately, Politics of Recuperation reflects on the meaning of personal and collective resilience in Europe today, as well as on the limits and interstices of contemporary politics.

Repair as repopulating the devastated desert of our political and social imaginations

In my contribution––originally conceived as a comment in a workshop where the different chapters were discussed, and here framed as a conclusion to the volume––, I reflect on how the different works resonate with a growing series of recent works addressing Southern Europe in/as Crisis. Indeed, the recent post-2008 crises have rekindled the fear of ‘going backwards,’ still very vivid in migration tropes from the 1960s–70s. However, this assessment of ‘backwardness’ unfolds a wider European genre of telling ‘what the problem is’, with peculiar connotations for Southern Europe: where ‘modernity’ and its alleged univocal drive towards ‘progress’ comes centre stage: Europe, here, appears as a particular poetics of infrastructure.

But these crises have also rekindled a ‘slight orientalism’ of Southern Europe: a nearby place conjuring images of the far away or, more precisely, a slightly far away nearby place. This slight orientalism has been over the years conveniently mobilised over and over again in the ways in which tourism is branded and marketed. Interestingly, it has also served later on to underpin the ‘exceptionality of Europe’ trope and its violent incarnation in the perceived threats of non-European migration: fierce – when not most of the time overly brutal – border and sea control, detention and containment or racialised police checks. Southern Europe as both leisure resort and boundary-maker of ‘Fortress Europe’.

However, beyond these tropes, and in a context of experimentation with ‘neoliberal’ forms of government the financialisation of life and the expansion of indebtedness have also brought with them other explanations for what the problem was and what to do about it. Indeed, to many, the Common Market, and later the European Union, have been quintessential mechanisms for that economic transformation. One in which the developmental issue of Southern and Eastern Europe was addressed beyond explicitly racialised terms, yet forcefully reinstating a particularly modernist ontology of the social: a scalar one, which not only classifies actors in terms of a grid of the big and the small (macro and micro; the state and the people; society/group and the individual), but also creates concomitant orders of worth and causality with regards to what it might mean to take political action.

Against this background, the works here compiled offer alternative accounts. Notably, the Portuguese verb reparar has a nuance that the English ‘to repair’ does not have: one that goes beyond ‘to fix something that is broken or damaged’ and ‘to take action in order to improve a bad situation’ (the two main definitions found in the Macmillan English Dictionary). Reparar also means ‘to observe’, ‘to pay attention’. The descriptive repertoire that this anthology brings forward would thus help us shed light on the distinct nuances that different groups, people and collectives might be bringing about, unsettling unified narratives around what might have happened and what to do with it. Observing, paying attention to the forms of repair, hence, might be the best antidote to ready-made explanations of the ‘what’ and ‘why’, and any ready-made concepts or frameworks suggesting what should be done and how: an unsettled response to an unsettling condition, perhaps?

In my opinion, what is at stake in the particularly reparative practices and relations beyond scale, assembled in this anthology (dances, moneylending, the retrieval of ancient legacies, caring for discarded goods or engaging in different forms of urban activism) is a dispute of the actual definition of ‘welfare’. In other words, the works here compiled might portray a reinvention of ‘welfare society’ that does not bear the mark of
disaster, but of hope: a hope that in these particularly disastrous times
of ours – when crises do not seem to have an end – they might be ‘repopulating the devastated desert of our [social and political]
imaginations’, to say it with Stengers.

As I see it, the allegedly small has never been more important to recasting our hopes, to repopulating our imaginations of the greater good, devastated by austerity and the path-dependency of neoliberal rule. Especially when everything seems lost, these modes of repair show the hopeful character of how things might be created anew: not going back to ‘what we were’, but
experimenting with modes of togetherness yet to be defined.

Published in Politics of Recuperation (pp.207-220). Oxford: Bloomsbury (2020, F. Martínez, ed.) | PDF

Diseño y Diáspora #79: Diseñando para la diversidad funcional

Estando en Helsinki para el NORDES tuve el placer de charlar con Mariana Salgado en Diseño y Diáspora sobre el cuidado como una activación de otros diseños posibles: aquellos que aparecen pensando desde la diversidad funcional en En torno a la silla o desde el re-aprender a diseñar para todxs.

Diseño y Diáspora: El podcast de diseño social en español y portuñol. Conversaciones entre una diseñadora y Otros: a veces amigos, a veces investigadores en diseño, la mayoría de las veces diseñadores trabajando en innovación social o en practicas de diseño emergentes. Desde Helsinki, con ganas por Mariana Salgado.

#79: Diseñando para la diversidad funcional

En esta charla Tomás Criado nos cuenta sobre su trabajo en el ámbito del diseño desde la antropología. Él es antropólogo con especialización en STS (estudios de ciencia y tecnología). Trabaja en la Universidad de Humboldt en Berlín (Alemania). Nos explica conceptos como el cuidado, la diversidad funcional y las tecnologías de la amistad. A la vez describe algunos proyectos de diseño concreto en los que se comprometió luego del 15M, en España. Nos convoca a pensar el diseño desde la incertidumbre y entender los vínculos que se producen en procesos de diseño colaborativos. Al final de la entrevista también hablamos de la enseñanza de diseño a partir de un proyecto donde exploró con alumnos el diseño en situaciones de crisis. 

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DGSKA 2019 Konstanz – Plenary ‘Envisioning Anthropological Futures’

Under the theme ‘The End of Negotiations? / Das Ende der Aushandlungen?‘ the DGSKA (German Association of Social and Cultural Anthropology) celebrated it’s 2019 conference from September 29th till October 2nd at the Universität Konstanz.

Kristina Mashimi and Thomas Stodulka (on behalf of the DGSKA board) organised and moderated the following plenary session, to which they invited some of us “mid-career scholars” – Janina Kehr (Universität Bern), Sandra Calkins (FU Berlin), Michaela Haug (Universität zu Köln) and yours truly – to envision anthropological futures departing from our own experiences engaging in public, inter and transdisciplinary settings, their epistemic and methodological opportunities and limitations.

Below you could find further information on the session, as well as links to the videos / audio files of our interventions. Hope you enjoy it.

Plenary session IV: Envisioning anthropological futures

Tuesday, 1.10.2019, 9.00-11.00h, Audimax

In the wake of political, economic, and ecological transformations of the contemporary world, and the far-reaching impact of digitalization and mediatization, social and cultural anthropologists are challenged to continuously rethink their theoretical, methodological, and professional practices. Not only are they required to respond to the emerging topical challenges of globalizing, postcolonial research settings by engaging the expertise from other social science and humanities’ disciplines, the wider field of area studies, and the natural and health sciences. They also face growing expectations from their interlocutors, funding organizations, and their immediate professional environments in regard to shifting standards of research ethics and data management, the engagement in various modes of collaborative research, and meeting their responsibilities to society and the public.

This plenary assembles presentations from 4-5 early to mid-career scholars who discuss the challenges and tensions they face when doing anthropology today. They will outline their visions for future positionings of the discipline regarding its epistemological and methodological opportunities and limitations in inter- and transdisciplinary research settings. Furthermore, the panelists will discuss the discipline’s engagement in academic teaching and the move towards open access publishing, as well as its intervention in public debates. As a forum for innovation, the plenary session is less concerned with systematic reviews of previous disciplinary discussions than with the articulation of future visions for practice and collaboration in and beyond the context of anthropology (or, in the German-speaking context, Ethnologie or Sozial- und Kulturanthropologie). The contributions will be published in the upcoming 150th anniversary issue of the Zeitschrift für Ethnologie (ZfE, 2019) which will be edited collectively by the DGSKA board and is due to appear in time for the 2019 conference.

Videos / Audio files

Janina Kehr (Universität Bern): Crafting the Otherwise in Medicine and Anthropology

Tomás Criado (HU Berlin): Anthropology as a careful design practice?

Sandra Calkins (FU Berlin): Writing planetary futures: Plants, loss, and intersections of STS and anthropology in Germany

Michaela Haug (Universität zu Köln): Looking into the future through the lens of hope: environmental change, diverse hopes and the challenge of engagement