Accepted paper:

Ambivalent dispossessions - complicity, critique and longing to be commodified in Greece


Andreas Streinzer (Institute for Social Research Frankfurt Main)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores the interrupted quest for conspicuous commodification of young adults in Volos, Greece and their ambivalent critiques resulting from it. The aim is to contrast their experience with austerity and recession and their abstract thoughts, and longings for others' dispossessions.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores ambivalence towards dispossessions through an analysis of young adults' social critiques in Volos, Greece. It focuses on interlocutors born around 1990 to show how they grew up in a political climate in which alternatives to market fundamentalism seemed neither attainable nor desirable. When "crisis" hit Greece, these young adults had just finished school and were about to transition to the conspicuous commodification of their labor power to acquire necessary income, find recognition, and to live a good life in capitalism. Throughout 2014 to 2017, I followed their increasingly exhausted efforts to find jobs, hunt for certificates, teach themselves foreign languages and countless days practicing job interviews in a "cruel optimism" (Berlant 2011) for their inclusion into capitalist labor markets. I aim to analyse how, in this condition of ambivalence and exhaustion, the Market (Carrier 1997) functioned as an idealized conception that justified the dispossession of others, the slashing of public service jobs, and the expropriation of debtors. Yet, as their hopes for jobs waned, their parents lost their jobs, friends went abroad, and their grand-parents could not afford hospital treatments, they were confronted with the contradictions of their thoughts, experiences and longings. The aim of the paper is to analyse these three dimensions of "dispossession" as 1) feelings of being dispossessed by earlier generations living "beyond their means", 2) the wish for their dispossession and the public arrangements around them, and 3) the ambivalent confrontation between such abstract wish and the concrete harm experienced by significant others.

panel P012
Ideologies of dispossession along the private/public conundrum [Anthropology of Economy Network]