P08
Visions beyond precarity: envisaging and practicing alternatives to neo-liberal modernity

Convenors:
Justine Chambers (Australian National University)
Simon Theobald (Australian National University)
Location:
Chancellery Building, A1-018
Session slots:
1

Short abstract:

This panel explores the multiple ways in which individuals, communities, and societies envisage their lives in ways that sit outside and in opposition to the paradigm of 'precarity'. We ask participants to examine how current anthropological debates on precarity might be reconsidered.

Long abstract:

Since the publication of Judith Butler's (2009) Precarious Life, precarity has become one of the key interpretive metaphors of current anthropology. In conjunction with 'neo-liberalism', precarity is now recognised in countless diverse ethnographic locations, from Japan (Allison 2013), to France (Thorkelson 2016), to Iran (Khosravi 2017), a by-word for an age as much as an explanatory schema. Conceptually, in order for precarity to exist it must necessarily be compared against that which it is not - stability, and for the nearly half of the global population that is under 30 years of age, precarity describes not so much a state of exception, but the norm. This panel seeks broadly then to explore the ways in which individuals, communities, and societies come to envisage and attempt to practice alternatives to 'precarity'. What are the visionary landscapes and ideologies that communities create as they engage with and against precarity? What ethical value are deployed in attempts to overcome (or live with) precarity? How are these enacted at local, communal, and national levels? What variants do these forms take? Taking anthropology not just as a descriptive discipline but one that informs meaningful change, we ask, what do our informants show us about the possibility of other worlds? Probing these questions, this panel provides a forum through which to consider how current anthropological debates on precarity might be reconsidered in conversation with local idioms of being, and what new understanding of so-called precarious lives can emerge as a result.