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Session Overview
RS01_07a_P: (Un)Making Solidarities II
Thursday, 31/Aug/2017:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Miranda Christou, University of Cyprus
Location: PD.4.37
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: D, Level: 4.

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Western promises of solidarity: the objectification of Russian LGBTIQs in neoliberal times of post-homophobic identity formation and homonationalism

Maria Neufeld

Dresden University of Technology, Germany

Ever since the introduction of the “anti-propaganda laws” and the controversies over the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, LGBTIQs are at the epicenter of tremendous international attention to the human rights abuses in Russia. Organizations like the “Russian LGBT Network” or “Выход /Coming Out”, along with several Russian-speaking initiatives in Europe and North-America like “Quarteera” or “RUSA LGBT” enjoyed broad media coverage across the world, which has boosted their image and impact within the local scene.

Echoing the international outcry against LGBTIQ rights violations, North/Western LGBTIQ groups launched various solidarity campaigns to support their Russian peers. Unarguably well intentioned, many of the these solidarity initiatives, however, tended to adhere to a developmentalist rhetoric that constructed Russia as increasingly falling behind the Western (= “European”) ideals of Enlightenment, democracy and tolerance. The discoursive creation of these different geo-temporal entities of an enlightened and tolerant Western Europe vs. a backward and homophobic Russia (and Eastern Europe) did not happen in a vacuum, but was reinforced by historic notions of Russian backwardness in matters of sexuality, freedom and civil rights as well as new tropes of repression and isolation when discussing “Putin’s Russia”. Some solidarity initiatives formed newly on the basis of their political stance towards LGBTIQ issues in Russia, for instance the European-wide network “To Russia with Love”, which was created to inform the public about the situation in Russia, but had little other political inclinations beyond this points. Other much older initiatives took the Russian events as an opportunity to revive their activities and/or to radically re-politicize themselves as in the case of the Berlin Pride festival, which has come under strong criticism because of its increasing neoliberal, consumerist, racist, single-issued “just gay” orientation in the past. In both cases “solidarity” became a buzz-word, often and willingly used by different groups, but rarely discussed in terms of its meaning and scope.

In my paper I analyze some major examples of solidarity actions that happened in Western Europe between 2013 and 2014, their visual language and rhetoric as well as the public and political discourse around them. I focus on solidarity campaigns launched in germanophone and anglophone countries and read them against the broader background of their local context, most importantly the formation of a local consumerist, de-politicized and commercial “gay culture” and its complicity with homonationalism. I argue that some North/Western initiatives took the situation in Russia as an opportunity to “infuse” its political urgency and impetus into their own context: an attempt to re-politicize their local activist scene under the pretext of a global struggle for LGBTIQ rights. In this sense, the production of a Western post-homophobic subject happened through the incorporation of “the Eastern others”, but also through a clear division between the different geo-temporal contexts. Finally, I try to pose questions of agency on the receiver’s end of solidarity and to reflect on missed opportunities of less objectifying and less hierarchical forms of solidarity in the case of Russian LGBTIQ struggles.

Making Solidarities in the Context of Precariety. Grassroots Organising among Low-paid Migrant Workers in London

Davide Pero

University of Nottingham, United Kingdom

Despite migrant workers’ social and economic significance their organizing practices have been overlooked due to disciplinary fragmentation. Through an interdisciplinary and intersectional approach, this paper examines the innovative organizing practices that low-paid and precarious migrant workers in the UK have been articulating to promote their interests and combat their exploitation and exclusion. In examining practices of representation and self-representation of migrant workers, this paper addresses the following questions: What do the organising practices of new migrant workers look like? What do they provide that traditional trade unions approaches do not? What is the role of identity, emotions and non-material rewards in such practices? It will do so by drawing on semi-structured interviews supplemented by informal conversations, participant observation and virtual ethnography conducted with organisers from Latin American workers and community organisations and British civic and labour organizations.

The paper will contribute original insights into contemporary industrial struggles in the service sector revealing how existing ‘opportunity structures’ of representation can be inadequate for these workers who then often have to develop bottom-up alternatives to be better represented. Indeed, the paper will outline how migrants’ labour initiatives can have crucial representational functions that mainstream British unions are not always able or willing to provide. It will illustrate how migrant workers’ industrial agency and organizing practices can be rewarding both in material and non-material terms providing a sense of how identity, subjectivity, culture and emotions all play a key role in labour organizing practices.

Solidarity by social entrepreneurship

Nesrien Abu Ghazaleh, Eltje Bos

University of applied sciences Amsterdam, Netherlands, The

In recent years, the government of many European nations has been shifting from the notion that welfare services are the responsibility of the state to the responsibility of more local development or private enterprises regulated by the state. Kisby (2010) calls it a shift of “smaller government” and “bigger society”. This is mostly due to the cut in public sector budgets caused by the financial and economic crisis, cutbacks in governmental spending, the governmental decentralization processes and political ideology ( e.g. Healey, 2015). Since the arrival of refugees, authorities have also tried to manage the influx through changes in governmental (central and local) strategies, policies and guidance in the already changing state.

Consequently, with the arrival of the refugees and the government withdrawing, in many cities such as Amsterdam, local citizens have decided to set up social initiatives to have impact on refugee settlement and social community cohesion. Not much research has been conducted that focuses on the interaction of members of different backgrounds, such as refugees, and the experiences at a community level (Daley, 2007). Therefore, this contribution explores the relation of citizen initiatives and the refugee settlement in Amsterdam. We investigate how these initiatives grow into social entrepreneurs and how they influence the refugee integration. It contributes to the existing knowledge on social entrepreneurship as well as knowledge on refugee integration, which results in benefits for society and the creation of public value.

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