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World Solidarities: IUAES 2019

On August 27 – 31 I participated to the IUAES 2019 Inter- congress in Poznan, Poland entitled "World Solidarities". It was a great experience to learn more about various approaches to the study of solidarity in very different contexts. As the theme of solidarity is a key dimension of the ‘Food Citizens?’ research project, I would like to share some of the insights from presentations I have attended and found particularly relevant to the project.

Solidarity in Anthropology


But first, a few general considerations on solidarity in anthropology, a theme that was extensively discussed during the Inter- congress. How are anthropologists working to sustain solidarities in contemporary society? How to expand the intellectual and social power of anthropology? These questions were introduced during the opening ceremony but also recurrently debated all along the conference. They were discussed in relation to the particular historical phase we are living and researching in, but also in connection to other themes such as neoliberal academia and precarity - this issue was particularly raised in the plenary session Anthropological Solidarities: lines of division and collaboration within academia and the round table What is academic precarity? Meanings, experiences and insurgences. While most voices were encouraging anthropologists to do more for society and continue engaging in many different collaborations (with scholars and with other societal actors), see the speech of Alisse Waterston, for example, more critical voices were sceptical about the power “to do good” of anthropology, especially considering the colonial history of the discipline.

On Solidarity and the state

Several of the presentations I attended discussed the role of the state in relation to solidarity practices. A very interesting contribution came from the researcher Regev Nathansohn, who presented about the encounter between “ the hegemonic discourse of separation” and local practices of solidarity in a mixed neighbourhood in Israel. Other presenters recalled the importance of looking at the solidarity of the state, such as its wealth redistribution mechanism and social protection schemes. In a similar perspective, Peter Mancina presented about solidarity in terms of “a strategy of a mode of governance” in US Sanctuary Cities. In a more critical perspective, an entire panel was organised about states of exception (as defined in Agamben thought), discussing ethnographic examples of the dangerous consequences - and threats to practices of solidarity - these often entail.

On the labour of solidarity

Many presentations in the panels organised by the Commission on global transformations and Marxian anthropology discussed about solidarity and labour. However, few also pointed to the importance of thinking about “the labour of solidarity”, meaning all the processes and efforts required to produce solidarity. Sharryn Kasmir , for example, presented about how different urban activist movements are working to find ways to collaborate together, developing interesting considerations on the making of solidarity across movements. 

Performing solidarity

To conclude, I would like to mention some preliminary reflections on my encounters with performances of solidarity in Turin, which I have presented within the panel Imagining and Practising Solidarities in Urban Contexts convened by Hana Cervinkova and Giuliana Prato. More precisely, I have started analysing the figures of the “volunteer” and the “active citizen”, namely two roles that people associate to themselves when engaging in some collective food procurement activities I study. My intent is to explore the implications of these new models that have generally replaced forms of class-based solidarity and mutual aid, which characterised the era of workers’ movements and the industry- centered economy. Their development is surely linked to larger structural transformations of the economy and state – civil society relations, but is also reproducing specific ways of understanding citizens’ participation and solidarity, and playing a specific function in urban contemporary issues and debates.

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