As we’ve become more dispersed geographically, now spanning three continents, and temporally, with different rhythms of everyday life and precarity and different care and community responsibilities, we often find it hard to work together on big projects. But our collective thinking still informs work that we are all doing and we continue writing and theorizing about maps and counter-maps, precarity, migration, care, and militant research, among other things…Continue reading
Last May, 3Cs facilitated a workshop on mapping spaces of precarity and spaces of care at the Feminist Geography Conference in Chapel Hill.
In the Counter Cartographies Collective, we have long been concerned with increasing precaritization in the university, not only in terms of working conditions but also the precaritization of other facets of life and knowledge production. Yet more than a description of current trends, we have understood the concept of precarity as a tool that might allow for remapping new ties of solidarity and the emergence of an ethics of care. In this workshop, we will be collectively mapping out how the university both produces precarity and also serves as a site of resistance to it. We will look at spaces where we feel threatened, isolated, marginalized, or precarious, as well as the spaces of possible or already existing alternatives, spaces where we feel cared for, where community is being built. While we will particularly look at the campus space, we also hope to focus on the connections between the university and other places, such as the home and the city.
Each group took the prompt in a different direction, deepening our original questions about precarity and care in unexpected ways. One group started by tracing their hands and mapping out their experiences of precarity starting from their hands – arthritis, women typing for men, so many emails – but also of care – painting nails, swimming, yoga, caring for others. [This reminds Liz of her experience of shattering two fingers in a bus accident and being unable to write, cook, open doors or wine bottles, and needing so much care!]
A second group made a concept map linking spaces and experiences of precarity, also showing how different people can experience different places differently — the gym, the forest, the coffee shop, are spaces where some people feel cared for an others don’t. Another group mapped spaces where people feel support and cared for versus spaces of precarity, also highlighting the role of the internet and virtual spaces.
We can draw some initial conclusions from this mapping… First, the importance of bodies/embodiment – both in how we feel and experience precarity and lack of care and bodies carrying out the material labor involved in “immaterial” academic labor, as well as the specificity of different bodies in experiencing different spaces differently.
Second, that the university is routinely experienced as a space of precarity, albeit in different ways, and there seems to be very little opportunity for constructing any lasting spaces or infrastructures of care within the university. What there might be, however, are moments or tactics of care and links to spaces of care outside of the university.
And finally, that care is a lot of work!
3Cs’ Maribel Casas-Cortés on Against the Grain talking about precarity
From the show’s description:
To many people and activist networks in Europe, “precarity” denotes the insecurity and vulnerability experienced by workers, immigrants, tenants, unemployed people, and others as attacks on labor protections and welfare supports continue. Maribel Casas-Cortés views precarity as a toolbox concept capable of uniting diverse struggles.
And, check out Maribel’s article “A Genealogy of Precarity” here
(The first in a series about the protests in Spain. Disclaimer: I’m in Madrid, therefore my posts are from the perspective of Madrid. There are marches, camps and assemblies in cities and towns across Spain – I would love to hear reports from more of them. Also, the pictures are not mine but have borrowed from other sources.)
I had the good luck to arrive in Spain on May 14, the day before the “#spanishrevolution” was to begin. Of course, it wasn’t entirely luck, I had been inundated with tweets and FB posts about May 15 for months, mostly by friends from Barcelona. That was enough to get me to pay the $40 extra and very quickly move out of my apartment to get to Madrid by the 15th. (point 1 about social media: if it got me to go to Madrid from the US, think how many people were encouraged by social media to travel much shorter distances.)
When in London recently, Liz met with the Carrotworkers’ Collective – a collective of ex-interns in the cultural sector, working largely around issues of free labor. Their work counters some of the myths surrounding free labor in the cultural sector, which are very similar to some of those that we’ve encountered in graduate school – it’s a rite of initiation (you have to suffer as a grad student to eventually make it into the ranks of tenured faculty), we do this work out of love (therefore we don’t need to get paid a living wage), etc.
We talked about different forms of militant research, including mapping and graphing, and ways of doing both quantitative and qualitative research. They emphasized the importance of having at least some quantitative data on the cultural sector, as well as documenting the subjective experiences of interns. One technique they’ve used is to have folks graph how they spend their time in terms of unpaid vs. paid labor and the trends and transformations over time and how people would ideally spend their time.
They are currently working on a Counter Internship Guide
We’re planning on doing a collaboration with the Carrotworkers and students at Queen Mary University in April and May of this year, more coming soon…
Liz recently got back from a visit to Bologna…
My first night in Bologna I gave a talk at Bartleby – an occupied space at the university and spoke about university struggles in the US and the edu-factory project. The talk was part of a week of events leading up to the strike on Friday that included other talks, meetings, music and parties. Some themes that came up in the discussion during my talk were:
– the relationship between autonomous movements and major trade unions
– the effects of student debt (universities in Italy are now beginning to charge tuition fees, forcing students to go into debt in order to study – like the US!)
– the effects of the Bologna Process and other efforts at standardization of university curriculum
Back in NC, our discussions focused on the importance and the pragmatics of having a space – in Bologna, as many other places around the world, taking over a space, not only as a temporary tactic, but to create a more permanent presence, an alternative space. These spaces are used for talks and discussions like the one I participated in, and also more generally as meeting places, spaces to enact the kind of university we want. Could we do this? It seems much harder to permanently occupy spaces within our university campus. For one, there is much less unused space to occupy and secondly, the administration is much less willing to negotiate with students for the control of a space. Yet this shouldn’t serve as discouragement, but rather open up new lines of inquiry and action. In Italy and other places, it is the strong base of student power that forces the administration to negotiate with students – building this power from below must be one of our starting points. Some questions that might merit further research – how are spaces used and controlled on our campus? What would we like that to look like? How might we begin to go about occupying university spaces differently? What about creating alternative spaces of knowledge production outside of the university?