Accepted Paper:

Anti-capitalist activism in Madrid: challenges of urban ethnography  
Michelle Higginbotham (The University of Adelaide )

Paper short abstract:

During 10 months of fieldwork in Madrid with Spanish activists, I witnessed their anti-capitalist entrepreneurship in the fight for sustainable social, economic and political alternatives for themselves, their barrios, and their neighbours.

Paper long abstract:

A participant once said to me, "I think Spain is always a few steps behind other countries in Europe … this is like our 'crack of opportunity'." He was referring to the capitalist model that Spain has been following, which he, and most of my participants, believe is unsustainable.

I have recently completed 10 months of fieldwork with anti-capitalist activists in Madrid. Against the backdrop of rapidly gentrifying, or "dying" barrios (neighbourhoods), I witnessed the entrepreneurship displayed by my participants through their involvement in Okupas, collectives, or grupos de consumo (consumer groups). These entrepreneurs were actively creating and supporting small-scale alternatives to capitalism.

Anti-capitalist entrepreneurs in Madrid did not, in my experience, limit their concern to just one facet. Rather, many issues were engaged with, and thus were weaved together to create complex identities and ideologies. For example, participants who were proponents of an anti-capitalist view also tended to engage in broader debates about neoliberalism, securitization, feminism and environmental sustainability.

The broad range of anti-capitalist engagement of my participants, as well as their high degree of mobility, made "doing ethnography" in this field quite challenging. I soon found it impossible to at once keep up with my participants, and also to restrict myself to specific locations within the city. If not impossible, it at least felt incongruent with the lives of these participants. Limiting or 'bounding' the field during ethnographic research with activists in contemporary settings may be a key challenge facing anthropologists going forward.

Panel P02
The economy is dead. Long live the economy? Towards an anthropology of radical entrepreneurship