Accepted Paper:

Exploring limbo: unemployment in the jewellery city of Valenza (Italy)  


Michele Fontefrancesco (University of Gastronomic Sciences)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores the struggle of Valenza goldsmiths for redefining their routines and map of world after the traumatic experience of job loss. Drawing from Deleuze’s philosophy, it explains unemployment as a “limbo”: the ambiguous condition of being and at the same time not-being a goldsmith.

Paper long abstract:

"Every morning I got up and went to the firm. One day, I was told made redundant. The day after, I got up, I went to the firm, but the doors were closed to me. All my life has changed since."

Mario is one of the about 2500 Valenza goldsmiths who have lost the job since 2008. After Credit Crunch and the international slump of jewellery market, the annual net turnout of this city is halved; half of the city goldsmiths lost the job, a third of the firms closed down.

In this scenario of economic crisis, unemployment had become a quotidian challenge for many goldsmiths. For artisans who spent every day more than 12 hours working, unemployment obliged them to redefine completely their public and private daily routines; to re-invent the map (Deleuze, 1997: 322) their everyday life. Unemployment turned into a "limbo": an existential condition underpinned by the ambiguity of being and at the same time not-being a goldsmith.

In this paper, I will explore this limbo, explaining how the transformation of routines led to a redefinition of the sense (Basso, 1996: 54) that goldsmiths associate to the places and social relations. I will read unemployment as an oxymoric process of opening to becoming and un-becoming. In explaining how routines are reinvented, this analysis will offer elements to comprehend the actual possibility of an individual to depart from a community of practice (cf. Lave, 1991) through the redefinition of a new map of the world.

Panel W039
Producing the ordinary in the face of crisis