Individual Paper: The politics of solidarity economy : how government affects Thessaloniki’s self-organised experiments in food autonomy
Since the economic crisis hit Greece, self-organised collectives made up of food producers and activists, have created diverse, decentralised experiments in self-governance and autonomy. A group of food activists and members of alternative food initiatives in Thessaloniki participated in a participatory video inquiry into food autonomy and solidarity economy between 2016 and 2018. From this research, we found that alternative food initiatives struggle to take back control of their food through production, processing, distribution and retail in the creation of, direct and local markets. At the same time that their existence and activities challenge corporate control, these initiatives aim to create more democratic forms of governance and collaborative relationships between members. This process is much like what Friere (1970)’s idea of ‘conscientisation’ through praxis, and changing subjectivities discussed in post-capitalist literature (Gibson-Graham, 2006, Wright, 2010).
Yet, post-capitalism is not a structural reality. Since their genesis, these initiatives have faced a series of challenges as a result of the constantly shifting political context in which they exist, due to crisis – related factors such as austerity, blanket taxation, and concentration of neoliberal interests. In addition the Syriza-led coalition government's victory has led to constant law changes, and has caused a distancing from and distrust of formal political powers by grassroots actors. This paper aims to discuss the effects on alternative food initiatives, and their members, of their (perceived) marginalisation and repression by politicians, injustice in law-making and the effective loss of political legitimacy. In this respect the research aims to highlight the difficult and contradictory decisions initiatives are faced with, and the constraints on creating internal democratic processes, barriers to solidarity-making and movement building in the political context of crisis. As an overall objective the research exposes common politics-related problems found across Thessaloniki’s food initiatives and suggest methodological and practical ways to overcome them.
Start time: 11:00
Room: ABF (Lilla sallen)