WORKSHOP SERIES – Precarity: Poetic and Aesthetic Explorations – Workshop 5: 25 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: Samson Okoth Opondo

Newcastle, NSW, Australia: 00.00 26th March
Hyderabad/Delhi, India: 18.30 25th March
Germany: 14.00 25th March
UK: 13.00 25th March
Rio de Janeiro/Minas Gerais/Bahia, Brazil: 10.00 25th March
Florida/New York/Ontario/Maine: 08.00 25th March
Illinois: 07.00 25th March
Hawaii: 03.00 25th March


1 Jimmy Casas Klausen, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro

The Age of the World Picture after Decolonization: The Global Aesthetics of Three NeoMalthusian Pathologies

In the 1980s and 1990s, varieties of precarity became at once consumable and subject-producing, discomfiting and beautiful in a series of visual cultural productions that developed on the basis of neo-Malthusian aesthetics. The trilogies Koyaanisqatsi (Reggio 1982, 1988, 2002) and Baraka (Fricke 1992, 1985, 2011) and the advertising campaigns of Benetton and the Body Shop invited their audiences not only to visualize “the world” as unity but also to experience that world in a way that positioned them as members of the First World, Third World or Fourth World (of indigenous people) according to the dominant pathologies and precarities of each: respectively, overconsumption, overpopulation, and genocide induced by uncontrolled development. This paper will analyze how “the world” became an object of aesthetic experience and affective investment qua world for the first time through neo-Malthusian pathology and precarity. After decolonization, from the publication of “the Blue Marble” photo in 1972 (the most famous image of Earth from space), through “We Are the World,” to the experimental documentaries mentioned above, global precarity becomes indistinguishable from moralizing, racializing Euro-Atlantic popular culture.

2 Túlio Zille, Bowdoin College

“The River Was My Teacher”: Poetics, Relational Sensibility, and the Belo Monte Dam

In this paper, I reflect with the population displaced by the Belo Monte dam in the Brazilian Amazon to ask: how do people who do not claim a relationship to ancestral knowledges come to embody a relational way of living? While relational ways of living have commonly been attributed to indigenous cosmologies or ancestral traditions, the context at hand complicates this view due to the fact that some of the local population does not identify as indigenous nor have they lived in the Amazon for several generations. When calculating compensation for the displacement caused by the dam, authorities placed a large emphasis on measuring the monetary value of a lost house and the belongings within it. For most people who were displaced however, “home” included their proximity to the river and a rich relationship with it, at times that of a mother and child, at times a teacher or a sibling. Inspired by local forms of resistance to the dam and displacement, such as poetry—which are usually overlooked by scholarship critical of development—I suggest that a poetic sensibility, and not only (or perhaps in addition to) the connection with ancestral knowledges, enables a relational disposition toward what some call the natural world. I then trace parallels between the Amazon and the Caribbean as a region, and the thought of writer Édouard Glissant in particular, who has reflected on what it means for the descendants of enslaved Africans to forge a relationship with a land with which they did not have ancestral ties.


3 Marta Fernández, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro

Peripheral Aesthetic Interventions in postcolonial contexts of precarity

The article aims to discuss the potential of aesthetic practices, as performed by young people from the favelas and peripheries of Rio de Janeiro to disturb and exceed the terms, gazes and places attributed to them. From a decolonial perspective, the article proposes to discuss how “precarity” is expressed in postcolonial societies based on an asymmetric racial pact that dehumanizes expressive segments of its population. How to think precarious lives in contexts such as the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, where the state has always been absent as a public good provider but always present as the main agent of genocidal policies against black youth? From a decolonial and intersectional perspective – which allows to understand the specificity of precarity in social contexts constituted by the coloniality of being, knowledge and power – the article discusses how peripheral artists and collectives perform different aesthetic languages that disturbs on a daily basis existing visibility/invisibility regimes. Looking at the work of Maria and João Aleixo Institute and the Observatório de Favelas, non-governmental organizations based in the Favela da Maré, Rio de Janeiro, the article analyses how artistic experiences put into question the image of the favelas as a space of aesthetic lack, or as a space that produces deviant (and criminalized) forms of aesthetics. In this regard, it discusses how, on the one hand, art produced in these extremely precarious contexts exceeds the meanings originally attributed to it, transgressing colonial stereotypes. On the other hand, it analyses how artistic practices permit that subjects define the terms of their existence against a city that deny their physical and symbolic presence and produce them as disposable.

4 Victor Coutinho Lage, Universidade Federal da Bahia

Brazilianization of the World? Coloniality, precarity, and quilombism

The idea that the globalization of precarity can be understood as a “Brazilianization of the World” or of “the West”, and the diagnostic that this condition has been intensified in the last decades through the so-called neoliberal era, has been constantly raised since at least the 1990s (for an early critical engagement with this literature, see Arantes, 2004; and, for a recent revival of the idea, see Hochuli, 2021). It is not the purpose of this text to thoroughly revise either the literature on neoliberalism or the one on the Brazilianization of the World, but to point out how these two combined often reproduce a spatio-temporality marked by two assumptions: methodological nationalism and presentism. From that statement, I make three moves in this text. First, I revise a certain Brazilian tradition of thought devoted to the center-periphery question as a resource to a problematization of both assumptions. After that, I interact with the notion of “Red Atlantic”, proposed by one of the art exhibitions from the Brazilian artist Rosana Paulino, in order to stress the importance of coloniality to this problematization. Finally, I bring the Brazilian novel Torto Arado, written by Itamar Vieira Júnior, as way to highlight how precarity and coloniality can be differently understood from a quilombist perspective.

5 Hattie Cansino, Newcastle University

Graphic Anxieties: Affective communities of precarious sense in tourist economies of
northeast Brazil

This article argues that a focus on the embodied nature of aesthetics held alongside fantasies of what makes life worth living is a more useful way to understand the formation of political communities in the face of uncertainty than questions of identity. In a paradisial tourist town in northeast Brazil, global economic fortunes and trends might render populations who rely on tourism disposable. Resulting anxieties over the future mean residents turn to unexpected sources of certainty when thinking of what is necessary to ensure the tourist industry survives and their own lives go on with it. Using ethnographic data, I show they draw on multiple enmeshed histories, differently inflected by their relationship to colonial imaginaries and capital exchange to make sense of the unfolding present amid these fears. Residents orientate themselves towards various temporalities when fantasies of paradise make sense as a means of anchoring their own lives amid the deterritorialisations of the tourist economy and in the poetry of doing so, enact and generate their own fragile worlds. What emerges is the way the dissonant, arrythmic presence of certain people and objects come to represent an aesthetic sense of the potential for the continuation of capital exchange through social class, rather than solely an encounter with the other. Tracing with aesthetics the way fantasies lead to modes of power which assuage an embodied sense of precarity gives us a more nuanced understanding of the ways people navigate capital and colony.


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