Accepted Paper:

"The figures are flourishing while the people are dying": currency, commons and aspirations in Volos, Greece  


Andreas Streinzer (Institute for Social Research Frankfurt Main)

Paper short abstract:

The TEM network in Volos, Greece, operates a complementary currency to cope with the effects of crisis and austerity. The paper engages with the constant struggles to navigate towards their heterotopia of a currency as commons. The paper is based on exploratory fieldwork for a PhD thesis.

Paper long abstract:

In Volos, Greece, a heterogeneous coalition of activists are operating the TEM complementary currency scheme as resistant practice to policies of austerity and neoliberalism. Around 800 members, from individuals to businesses and the city council, use the TEM as means of payment for services provided by other members. The network runs a market, an office and several other activities including housing for homeless and refugees as well as an associated cultural centre in a squat. Their resistant spatial and economic practices center on the organisers' aspiration for a future that values solidarity, horizontal organisations and spaces of fear turned into spaces of hope (Harvey 2000).

As resistance to austerity policies, understood as an income generation game for economic elites, the TEM members are renegotiating currency as commons - issued and used by the members of the network. The paper will engage theoretically with the question of currency as commons as well as ethnographically with the struggles of the TEM network to create a sustainable and nonexploitative community. Through the operation of the currency scheme, issues of financialisation, discrimination and the politics of capacities are materialised and subject to debate. The paper will argue for understanding currencies as values in practice and discuss the coalitions of the network as a way of navigating towards the heterotopia of an alternative means of exchange challenging the existing economical regime. The paper is based on exploratory fieldwork and interviews for a PhD thesis.

Panel P026
Governing urban commons