WORKSHOP SERIES – Precarity: Poetic and Aesthetic Explorations – Workshop 4: 18 March 2022

Online Rolling Series of Workshops Convened by: Louiza Odysseos, University of Sussex & Ritu Vij, University of Aberdeen

Workshops will last approx. FOUR hours and will take place on Zoom (links TBC). Please email the co-organisers at and to be added to the list for zoom link circulation.


These workshops offer critical-reconstructive avenues into thinking about precarity, disposability and fungibility. Contributors aim to pluralise and re-orient scholarly and activist analyses into realities, categories and analytics of ‘precarity’ and ‘precarisation’ – the always-differential governing of populations through precarity – away from conventional labourist and governancecentric approaches that centre the loss or re-inscription of sovereignty (of state, self, and capital) as their primary object(s) of inquiry. Conventional analyses re-establish being-in-secure-work as normative, whilst failing to consider the post/colonial and slavery specificities of historical and ongoing disposability and fungibility, which unwittingly erases diverse global experiences of permanent insecurity, obscuring the historical geopolitical and subjective conditions of enslavement and colonialism that enabled Euro-American conditions of work/er security through regimes of extraction, land expropriation and native genocide. Drawing on poetic and aesthetic archives and methods produced in the midst of being epistemically known and ontologically constituted as precarious life, they engage wide-ranging artistic production and practices of sociality that rupture precarity’s grammar of representations. Working in co-production with artists and communities, contributors take precarity/disposability/fungibility as generative sites for reimagining life, politics and resistance and recuperating the psychic-social lives of non/postliberal subjects beyond normative sovereignty of self, state and capital.


Chairs: Louiza Odysseos / Ritu Vij |Discussant: Zeynep Gülşah Çapan

Newcastle, NSW, Australia: 20.00 18th March
Hyderabad/Delhi, India: 14.30 18th March
Germany: 10.00 18th March
UK: 09.00 18th March
Rio de Janeiro/Minas Gerais/Bahia, Brazil: 06.00 18th March
Florida/New York/Maine/Ontario: 04.00 18th March
Illinois: 03.00 18th March
Hawaii: 23.00 17th March


1 Sara C. Motta, The University of Newcastle (NSW)

Black Genealogies of Precarity: Enfleshed Reason and/as (Political) Life

My engagement begins from non-being of raced and feminised subjects of the South, in my work in Colombia and in dialogue with my work in the so-called lands of Australia. For us, fungibility and disposability is the constitutive logic of (dis)appearance and (non)being in modernity/coloniality. A Black genealogy of precaritisation thus begins 500 years ago, and not since the decline of Fordist state-market-society logics of (un)freedom and liberal (non)being. As Lugones (2006, 78) described we are constructed: ‘as either invisible, not within the bounds of normalcy (that is without structural description or one as insane or deviant), as inferior, or as threatening because not rule from within by modern rationality’. It is thus that our (political) speech necessarily ruptures and overflows the modern/colonial logics of (un)reason and moves towards multiple tongues of the poetic-political in which enfleshment of reason and healing embrace of the territories of/as land and body are centred. I will explore this enfleshment of reason and (political) speech of raced and feminised women and kin in movement in Cali, Colombia and Mulumbimba, unceded lands of Awabakal and Worimi and weave my own coming to knowing being as a thread in this yarn.


2 Louiza Odysseos, University of Sussex

Against Archival Abjection: The Sociopoetics of ‘Wake Work’, Aesthetic-Poetic Methods and Reparative Epistemological Justice

Demands for a reparatory ‘accounting’ of connected colonial histories (Bhambra) have recently problematised and expanded earlier calls for narrow testimonial/hermeneutic epistemic justice (Fricker). However, the violences of the colonial and slavery/indenture archives demand a reckoning with the question of what methods may both acknowledge and un-work the reductions of the colonised to lesserly human and of enslaved populations to fungible ‘cargo’ (Hartman, McKittrick). This paper draws on the sociopoetic practices of those who are the afterlives of circum-Atlantic slavery and explores the possibility of a critical, disclosive practice of ‘black annotation’ (Sharpe) whose aesthetic comportment with the slavery archive writ large forges new ways of making these histories sensible and their legacies accountable within everyday life. Interrupting the containment of the past, such artistic endeavours, however, aim simultaneously to reparatively annotate these silences through ethical viewing, writing and reading. Hank Willis Thomas’ art collections ‘Branded’ and ‘Strange Fruit’ and Katherine McKittrick’s efforts at writing‘mnemonic black livingness’ form the aesthetic archive of ‘wake work’ (Sharpe) through which these questions are discussed. Do their efforts evade masterful and extractive visibility, however, or do they beg the ongoing question of the need for fugitivity and opacity long demanded by the colonised (Glissant)?


3 Aya Nassar, Royal Holloway, University of London

“Giving up on the Idea of Home”: a geopoetics of home and ruination in contemporary Cairo

In this paper I turn to geopoetics to probe the inscription of self in, and out of the space of the city. I focus on the geopoetics of home in the work of the Egyptian poet Iman Mersal (b.1996). In particular, I attend to geopoetics of clutter, architecture, and archival rag-picking as practices of storytelling the mundane as well as the worldly. I attempt to situate the unmaking of domestic and urban space in her poetry and prose within the poetics and aesthetics of the Arab city in the contemporary representation of the Arab World. I am also keen to bring these poetics in conversation with feminist IR and Geopolitics. My aim is to investigate the poetics that mediate physical ruination and affective disillusionment with the postcolony’s promise of the good life. This disillusion gains saliency in the post-2011 urban condition of Egypt, wherein the ruin has become the dominant poetic of relation. In doing this, I harness an understating of geopoetics as an intersection of world, word and materiality. Drawing on Angela Last’s and Katherine McKittrick’s readings of Edouard Glissant, I adopt geopoetics as a disruptive aesthetics of errantry — a methodology committed to resisting capture and mastery of the world we seek to understand.


4 Ritu Vij, University of Aberdeen

Slum Aesthetics in a Global Frame: Second Thoughts

In a paradoxical reversal of what were once deemed zones of abjection, slums have recently emerged as sites of renewal for critical thought. Celebrating what Mike Davis has described as practices of ‘informal survivalism’, strategies of jugaad (making do) in favelas, bastis, jhoppad pattis and shanty-towns across the Global South, have gained visibility as slum artefacts and architectural styles, generating a new global aesthetic of the slum. The contingency and fragility of precarious life in the slum, recursively encoded in the materiality of broken and found objects of mud, metal, plastic and clay that characterize jugaad are recuperated in critical re-tellings of the slum as, inter alia, futurity (Rem Koolhaas); counter class (Žižek); or creative, vulnerable subjects with ‘lateral agency’ (Berlant). Jugaad aesthetics, in these accounts, contest dominant codes of legibility creating alternative communities of sense that disrupt the ‘regime of the sensible’ (Ranciere). This paper questions this emerging sentiment by calling attention to processes of onto-epistemic capture inscribed in aesthetic approaches to apprehending precarious modes of living and being. These approaches, the paper contends, occlude the geopolitics of the aesthetic turn, but especially those colonial histories of expansion and slavery that created the “borders, lines and distinctions” (Walker) between the (Euro) modern international and the world outside in the first place. The aestheticization of non-sovereign precarious life in the slum enacts the erasure of the slum-dweller as a desiring subject of modernity, inadvertently reinscribing the very lines of distinction that constellate the Euro-Modern and its regulative ideals (sovereign subjectivity, security etc.) albeit now in a new guise. Drawing on a close reading of artefacts included in exhibitions in Dharavi, Mumbai, ‘Jugaad Urbanism’ in New York City, and the Pritzker prize-winning architect B.V. Doshi’s jugaad inspired low-cost housing complex ‘Aranya’ in Ind

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