Lara Garcia Diaz – Networks of Subsistence – Precarity and its revolutionary forms

The stimulation of the entrepreneurial self and activity, which non-coincidently concurs with the reduction of the social welfare state and public services (Bröckling, 2015:12), promotes a state of economic, social, mental and political instability through a labour subjectivity based on risk-taking (Sennet, 1998, p.75). This state of restlessness, also known as precarity, has been extensively invading social movements’ discourses, cultural labour studies, and social policy debates, and yet, there has been much less attention on how such a state of vulnerability has become a pivotal role in today’s hegemonic mode of governance (Butler, 2004; Lorey, 2015; Brökling, 2016; Sennett, 1998). Thereafter, popular responses to precarity have not guaranteed to move beyond a neoliberalist system that ultimately relies on dispossession from means of subsistence (Shukaitis, 2006; Federicci, 2004; Mies and Bennholdt-Thomsen, 1999). The `precariat´ (Standing, 2011) presents thus fundamental differences between its predecessor the proletariat, making it unlikely that similar solutions for improving their social position are available. The political challenges that this current moment presents seek new methods of creative, revolutionary and social organization.

This PhD project takes on an exploration into practices that use the artistic field to reclaim control over our life by experimenting with new social formations based on processes of `commoning´ (Mies & Bennholdt-Thoomsen, 1999; Federicci, 2012; De Angelis, 2007). By doing so, it is followed a first hypothesis that art is becoming nowadays a propelling force of experimentation around practices of ‘commoning’, being those able to envision new forms of social organization. The commons, or what historian Peter Linebaugh has popularized as `practices of commomning´ (2008), are thought in this thesis as an antithesis to forms of exploitation and enclosure as it opens the base from which to start practicing social forms others to those defined by capital and the social relations built around it (De Angelis, 2007). Due to the failure of markets and the states to address the precarity in which society is currently embedded, the second main hypothesis of this research is moreover how, in order for these practices to create civil consciousness (Gielen & Dietachmair, 2017), it is necessary to create a network of support around them in which not just material and resources are shared but also experiences, legal loopholes and organizational methods are tested and exchanged. Localized issues are fought or solved thanks to a bigger national, international or transnational network of experience and resources that help its members to act and disobey faster, more operatively and commonly. The construction of a theoretical model around the idea of a `network of subsistence´, based on an autonomist feminist approach to precarity, will be hence one of the main focuses of this research. To do so, this PhD project will continually explore various case-studies in Germany (Berlin), Spain (Seville, Barcelona and Madrid) or Naples (Italy). The aim is to construct a solid study of complex interacting systems based around the idea of `network of subsistence´ to challenge precarious labor theory and their revolutionary forms, bringing a feminist perspective that centers the idea of the commons on issues of reproduction to precisely reconsider the entire world of production.

Lara Garcia Diaz
PhD researcher

Prof. dr. Pascal Gielen (University of Antwerp, Faculty of Arts)
Dr. Stijn Oosterlynck (University of Antwerp, Faculty of Social Sciences)