The politics of 'autonomy': Greek university students (dis)avowing clientelism and negotiating party relations
(University of the Aegean)
Paper short abstract:
The paper focuses on the ways university students in Greece, members of a political group affiliated with a political party negotiate their relations with the latter through a discourse of “autonomy” that involves different conceptualizations and evaluations of clientelism.
Paper long abstract:
In a university campus, situated just outside a provincial town in island Greece, students- members of a student collective constitutionally allied to socialist PASOK (a political party with substantial influence in the local context) in everyday rhetoric and in election campaigns emphasize their "autonomy" from the party's politics and criticize the latter's involvement in the use of clientelistic practices. At the same time however, they systematically depend on practices of vote exchanging both to form the collective's internal hierarchy and to enhance its place in the university's institutional context. Vote-exchanging combined with practices that lead to a distribution of job resources in coffee houses or night entertainment spots in town, ensures the collective's numerical (and thus electoral) precedence in the university campus and enables its members to take part in a number of administrative procedures. Furthermore it empowers the students in their encounters with members of the local branch of the party and serves as the basis of a constant renegotiation of the broader relations they constitute with PASOK in local and national context. Drawing systematically from ethnographic fieldwork conducted from 2006-2008 in Rethymno-Crete the paper stands in accordance with recent anthropological approaches that seek the political in daily life and in subjects' interactions. It seeks to highlight the different meanings that subjects attribute to forms of connection or networks of power that have been analyzed as clientelism and to record indigenous conceptualizations and evaluations of them, thus proposing ways of looking at the notion anew.
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