Courses & workshops

@Ileana Bulgarea


  • OVIDIU ȚICHINDELEANU (Chișinău, Moldova) – An East-European Introduction to Decoloniality and Regional Revalorisation
  • MANUELA BOATCĂ (Freiburg, Germany) – Cheap Deals. Enslavement and Housewifization as Subsidies of Global Capital
  • DANIELA GABOR (Bristol, UK) – Why the Left needs to Dive Deep into Financial Capitalism?
  • CORNEL BAN (Londra, UK/Copenhaga, Dennmark) – The Future of Work: Five Arguments Against Universal Basic Income
  • ANCA PÂRVULESCU (St Louis, USA) – Unpaid Labor: Reading the Enslavement of the Roma in Liviu Rebreanu’s Ion
  • JUAN F. GAMELLA (Granada, Spain)   Cultures of Reproduction in Conditions of Precariousness and Marginality. The case of Spanish Gitanos and Romanian Roma
  • JULIA ROTH (Bielefeld, Germany) – Los Belzares de Augsburgo: German Investment in the Conquest and Trade in Enslaved Humans
  • IULIA POPOVICI (Bucharest, Romania)- The Economy of Cultural Precarity
  • VICTORIA STOICIU & VLAD PETRI (Bucharest, Romania) – The Capitalist Labor Heroes. The Work in Romania Today
  • CORINA TULBURE (Barcelona, Spain) – The Punishment of Survival Strategies:  the Labor Process of Undocumented Migrants in Barcelona
  • BOGDAN POPA & NICOLAE-EMANUEL DOBREI ( Cambridge, UK/Bucharest, Romania)- Living Labor and Immortal Robots: From Indentured Labor in the 17 Century to Free Automated Work


MANUELA BOATCĂ (Freiburg, Germany) – Cheap Deals. Enslavement and Housewifization as Subsidies of Global Capital

The workshop foregrounds a relational perspective that views colonial and imperial rule as the common transnational context of interaction for both the West and its colonial Others. It thus enables an understanding of colonial and peripheral contexts as laboratories of global capitalism and a global modernity, rather than as mere receptors of Western achievements.

To this end, the workshop draws on two early relational approaches to labor: Sidney Mintz’ notion of the “double linkage of production and consumption” between enslaved workers on Caribbean plantations and industrial workers in Western Europe and Maria Mies’ concept of the “double-faced process of colonization and housewifization”.

For Mintz, the parallel production and “consumption” of European commodities such as machinery, weapons, and torture instruments used against enslaved workers in the colonies and of the consumption of Caribbean commodities such as sugar, rum, tea, and coffee by European wage-earners is one of the most important chapters in the history of world capitalism. For Mies, “housewifization” encompasses not only the generalization of housework as the defining feature of women’s work, but also, and more importantly, the gradual generalization of non-wage labor at the level of the entire capitalist world-economy.  Through the systematic division of labor which makes the prototypical male proletarian into the sole supplier – and consequently possessor – of money, and the prototypical housewife into an unpaid laborer entitled only to “board and lodging”, the economic position of the housewife resembles more closely that of slaves and serfs in the Global South than that of proletarians in the North, Mies and subsistence theorists concluded. These approaches are subsequently used to historicize and deconstruct newer concepts and phenomena such as “the feminization of poverty”, the “precariat”, and the notion of the peasantry as a “remnant” of a pre-capitalist mode of production.

Suggested readings:

  • Komlosy, A. 2017. Work. The Last 1000 Years. London: Verso
  • Linden, M. van der 2008. Workers of the World. Essays toward a Global Labor History . Leiden: Brill.
  • Mies, M.,  1996. Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale . London: Zed Books
  • Mies, M., Bennholdt-Thomsen, V. and von Werlhof, C. 1988. Women, the Last Colony, London: Zed Books
  • Mintz, S. 1978. Was the Plantation Slave a Proletarian? Review. Journal of the Fernand Braudel Center , II, 1, Summer, 81–98
  • Mintz, S. 1986. Sweetness and Power. The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin

CORNEL BAN (London, UK/Copenhaga, Dennmark) – The Future of Work: Five Arguments Against Universal Basic Income.

Many commentators and academics present universal basic income as a feasible, emancipating and transformative objective of political action. The evidence in favor of this proposition comes from experiments conducted in various locations, from India to Alaska. Based on macroeconomic calculations, the lecture suggests that UBI is politically unfeasible under capitalism and that its proponents should think harder about the political economy of getting from experiments to national UBI schemes. Indeed, the expansion of existing safety nets combined with a revolutionary approach to international taxation can provide vastly superior answers to the problems raised by automation, precariousness and downward mobility that UBI advocates speak to.


  • Acemoglu, Daron, and Pascual Restrepo. Artificial Intelligence, Automation and Work. No. w24196. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2018.
  • Andrews, Christopher. “The End of Work or Overworked? Self‐Service, Prosumer Capitalism, and “Irrational Work”.” Sociological Inquiry (2018).
  • Battistoni, Alyssa. “The False Promise of Universal Basic Income.” Dissent 64.2 (2017): 51-62.
  • Bardhan, Pranab. “Universal Basic Income–Its Special Case for India.” Indian Journal of Human Development 11.2 (2017): 141-143.
  • Berger, Thor, and Carl Benedikt Frey. “Structural transformation in the OECD: Digitalisation, deindustrialisation and the future of work.” OECD Social, Employment, and Migration Working Papers 193 (2016): 0_1.
  • Calnitsky, David. “The employer response to the guaranteed annual income.” Socio-Economic Review (2018). Cowan, Simon. “Universal basic income: Unworkable and unaffordable.” Policy: A Journal of Public Policy and Ideas 33.4 (2017): 14.
  • Flassbeck, Heiner. “Universal Basic Income Financing and Income Distribution—The Questions Left Unanswered by Proponents.” Intereconomics 52.2 (2017): 80-83.
  • Fleischer, Miranda Perry, and Daniel Jacob Hemel. “Atlas Nods: The Libertarian Case for a Basic Income.” (2017).
  • Lacey, Anita. “Universal basic income as development solution?.” Global Social Policy 17.1 (2017): 93-97.
  • Marinescu, Ioana. No Strings Attached: The Behavioral Effects of US Unconditional Cash Transfer Programs. No.w24337. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2018.
  • Pitts, Frederick Harry. “Beyond the Fragment: postoperaismo, postcapitalism and Marx’s ‘Notes on machines’,
  • 45 years on.” Economy and Society (2017): 1-22.
  • Sayer, Andrew. “Welfare and Moral Economy.” Ethics and Social Welfare (2017): 1-14.
  • Schulz, Patricia. “Universal basic income in a feminist perspective and gender analysis.” Global Social Policy 17.1 (2017): 89-92.
  • Shestakofsky, Benjamin. “Working Algorithms: Software Automation and the Future of Work.” Work and Occupations44.4 (2017): 376-423.
  • Terteleac, Vlad Andrei. “Right-libertarianism and universal basic income: reasons for skepticism.” Perspectives in Politics/Perspective Politice 10.2 (2017).
  • Thompson, Derek. “A world without work.” The Atlantic 316.1 (2015): 50-61.
  • White, Stuart. “Liberal equality, exploitation, and the case for an unconditional basic income.” Political studies 45.2 (1997): 312-326.
  • Wright, Erik Olin. “Basic income, stakeholder grants, and class analysis.” Politics & Society 32.1 (2004): 79-87.
  • Wright, Erik Olin. “Real Utopias.” Performing Utopias in the Contemporary Americas. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2017. 151-160.

JUAN F. GAMELLA Granada, Spain)   Cultures of Reproduction in Conditions of Precariousness and Marginality. The case of Spanish Gitanos and Romanian Roma

Using data from a multidisciplinary study of the social organization of reproduction of Spanish Gitanos from 1785 to the present (Gamella & Martín 2017), and from the ethnographic study of transnational Romanian Roma groups in the last decade (Gamella 2018: Gamella et al. 2018), we will try to connect the recurrent processes of exclusion, exploitation and forced economic redundancy of Romani peoples to their reproductive vitality, and to their capacity to resist shifts in the demand of their labor and products, and to economic crisis and downturns. Following the steps of authors such as Alexander Chayanov, Ester Boserup or A. F. Robertson, we will argue that the instituted logics of domestic and kin realms and their reproductive labors (from childbearing and childrearing to the care of elders and to help in dying and in coping with death) are in some fundamental sense irreducible to the logics of profiting, pricing or capital accumulation. Thus, from an emphasis in the resilience of some distinctive cultures of reproduction we will try to apply a critical view to both decolonial and demographic transition models. Using the case of these two groups we will propose an inversion of the analytical gaze: instead of looking at the labors of reproduction from the perspective of unwaged labor and capital accumulation we will try to look at wages, savings and capitals from the perspective of reproducing peoples, families, and lineages. In this sense we will show how successful the reproductive strategies of those excluded and seen as redundant can be in the face of precariousness and marginality.

JULIA ROTH (Bielefeld, Germany)  Los Belzares de Augsburgo: German Investment in the Conquest and Trade in Enslaved Humans

German actors and German finance and investment have been constitutive for the early colonial endeavor in the Americas of which the enslavement of Amerindians and the trade in enslaved Africans formed an integral part from the outset. The Welser and Fugger merchants of Augsburg who co-financed the Conquest and got licenses for the trade in enslaved African workers in return provide but one showcase example of such entanglements. However, their role is neither addressed in hegemonic narratives of the Conquest and colonialism nor in German historiography. The workshop pursues a twofold aim: Firstly, it discusses German actors and investors like the Augsburg traders for elaborating on the little-studied German activities in the Spanish colonies and wolrdwide. Secondly, the essay is interested in how early colonial endeavors such as the Welser’s have been serving as a showcase example for German colonial fantasies ever since. Both arguments refute the dominant discourse of the “late” or “insignificant” German role in the colonial enterprise, the transnational slave trade, and the trade in enslaved Amerindians. The workshop will pursue and promote a perspective that focuses on the entangled histories and processes of conquest and colonialism, thus broadening the claim of the structural involvement of German-territorial actors such as the Welser company whose activities were transnational in scale to begin with. The Workshop thereby raises questions concerning the acknowledgement and confrontation of a German responsibility for colonization and enslavement.

Keywords: German colonizers; Welser; German copper mine in Cuba; German conquest of Venezuela; German slave traders; German financing of conquest; German colonial fantasies

IULIA POPOVICI (Bucharest, Romania)- The Economy of Cultural Precarity

Is culture (also) a profession, a form of recognizable, payable, protected work (if we admit that workers should be protected)? Is culture an economic system in itself, with its own and exceptional rules, but that is why it should be understood in its specifics, or should it be adapted to the general system of demand and supply, production, market control, and profit?

There is a central reason for which culture (defined as representing the arts and, in general, the whole of intellectual human creative manifestations) has historically not been regarded as an economic domain, and as a consequence neither as a „labor market” the idea, enshrined in legislation in the overwhelming majority of situations, that „talent” and creativity are inherent attributes of the human being. Therefore, they cannot be restricted by rules and their manifestation can not be limited by legislative regulations. There are countries (Romania is one of them) that argue the lack of recognition of the professional character of artistic activity precisely through the universality of human creativity: the idea that we all are, after all, born artists.

On the contrary, in most cases, states grant extended protection to the exercise of this creativity, in the form of the recognition of authors’ rights and copyright – not labor, but immaterial capital, the transfer of which is itself protected.

Paradoxically, however, the model of functioning of the cultural-artistic domain, in terms of the condition of the cultural worker, tends to become more tempting in what is called the contemporary transformation of work in the post-fordist immaterial economy.

The „entrepreneurial” dimension of cultural and artistic activity, the self-exploitation of cultural workers, the overlapping of free time with work time, the discontinuity of work and its insecurity, all these „specific traits” of the cultural economy are becoming more and more features of flexible work in general.

At which point and at what moment does culture stop being a general manifestation of human creativity in order to become economic work / activity and how should this difference be treated or regulated? To what extent are economic inequalities (in terms of income and access to resources) intrinsically linked to the specificity of cultural work and to what extent are they the result of exploitative models to be taken up in the whole of the contemporary economy? And what is to be done in order to „fix” cultural work?

PS: In the present context, it is and will be consciously avoided the use of the concepts of „cultural industries” and „creative industries”, but they will, if necessary, be deconstructed.

What to read:

(about the economy of the arts in general)

  • Merja Heikkinen, Sari Karttunen. Defining Art and Artists as a Methodological Problem and a Political Issue. Helsinki: Arts Council of Finland Research and Information Unit, 1995
  • W.J. Baumol, W.G. Bowen, „On the Performing Arts. The Anatomy of Their Economic Problems”. The American Economic Review, Vol. 55, No. 1/2 (March 1965), pp. 495-502
  • Ruth Towse (ed.). A Handbook of Cultural Economics (second edition). Cheltenham; Northampton: Edward Elgar, 2011 (chapters: „Application of welfare economics”; „Artists’ labour markets”; „ Artists’ rights”; „Baumol’s cost disease”; „Poverty and support for artists”)
  • Hans Abbing. Why Are Artists Poor? The Exceptional Economy of the Arts. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2002

(more or less from the left, about art and precarity)

  • Rosalind Gill, Andy Pratt. „Precarity and Cultural Work in the Social Factory? Immaterial Labour, Precariousness and Cultural Work”., No. 16/2013, pp. 26-40
  • Pascal Gielen. „The Art Scene. A Clever Working Model for Economic Exploitation?”., No. 16/2013, pp. 46-50 (this whole issue of deals with cultural workers and precarity)
  • Gerald Raunig, Gene Ray and Ulf Wuggenig (eds). Critique of Creativity: Precarity, Subjectivity and Resistance in the ‘Creative Industries’. London: MayFlyBooks, 2011

VICTORIA STOICIU & VLAD PETRI (Bucharest, Romania)  The Capitalist Labor Heroes. The Work in Romania today

There is often talk about the lack of democracy, corruption and lack of transparency at state level, but almost never about democracy at work. Work is a highly hierarchical, non-transparent space based on relationships of subordination with rules opposed to the rules of democratic play. This pattern of interaction produces reverberations in society, beyond the workplace, but also creates the premises for countless abuses. The annual reports of the National Council for Combating Discrimination shows us that over 50% of the petitions registered in recent years are related to discrimination at hiring or at work. The workplace democracy is increasingly shaky – Romania is, alongside the UK, the only EU Member States where there exists a systematic violations of workers’ fundamental rights, along with other 33 states worldwide, such as Tunisia or Burkina Faso. The workshop will be based on the presentation of some video materials made in the campaign Capitalist Labor Heroes (Eroii Muncii Capitaliste-ServiciUșor), which shows employees from various fields of activity – banks, sanitation services, auto industry – who experienced abuses at their workplace and decided to speak in public about their experience. How can we prevent or limit these abuses? Can there be more democracy at the workplace in a capitalist society?

CORINA TULBURE (Barcelona, Spain)  The Punishment of Survival Strategies:  the Labor Process of Undocumented Migrants in Barcelona

The laws and regulations regarding foreigners, including EU citizens, generate barriers within the labour market, even if at the the right to work is guaranteed for all EU citizens within the EU territory. How do these laws and regulations affect those persons that are already in an economically precarious situation? What are the ways of penalizing and stiffling alternative survival and work strategies (e.g. taking as a case-study the city of Barcelona)? Informal work as collecting iron and paper is penalized by means of fines or throough a constant pressure from the official authorities. Yet factories in Barcelona that use this recycled iron work with and take advantage of these informal workers, and have developped entire networks of collectors. At the same time, there has been a lot of pressure from official institutions so that the activity of these workers be excluded from the public sphere, especially in the touristic areas. As a result, they have been pushed to the periphery or even outside the city. Points for discussion and debate: what is informal work, and how does it emerge in the context of Barcelona? To what extent the public sphere is a space of observation and control of the poor who are forced to abandon their neighborhood under the threat of fines and pressures from the public services? What are the specificities of the process of racialization of communities in Barcelona (e.g. Roma communities from Romania; sub-saharian communities) that engage in informal work; what are the strategies of resistance, and how effective are they (e.g. trade unions; the politicization and visibilization of precarious work). The presentation & discussion will include information obtained by means of in-depth interviews with workers and trade unions in Barcelona.

BOGDAN POPA & NICOLAE-EMANUEL DOBREI ( Cambridge, UK/Bucharest, Romania)  Living Labor and Immortal Robots: From Indentured Labor in the 17 Century to Free Automated Work

Artist, Andrew Cooper. Illustration to Capital, volume 1.

“Living labour must seize upon these things (the machines) and rouse them from their death-sleep, change them from mere possible use-values into real and effective ones.” Capital, Volume One, Chapter Seven, Section One, Karl Marx.
In Marx’s imagination, the proletarians — the “real” magicians of life and revolution — should resuscitate the dead automata and lead everybody to a new stage of history. As part of the same revolutionary tradition, in 1977 the Leftist marxist magazine A/traverso issued a call: “all the power to living labor, all the work to dead labour”. In this conflict between the dead and the living, the labour of the proletarians was not only placed in opposition to the dead labour of machines but also in a relation of transformation that will lessen this antagonism.
We are today in a point where the opposition has disappeared, and from working robots to the minimum global income, the hope is that automation will end exploitation (as Marx himself suggested in “Fragment on machines” in Grundrisse). From the living labour in Anarchist and Marxist politics we ended up with the fantasy that robots will endlessly work for us, the masters of the machines. In turn, the history of slavery and indentured contracts shows that immortal and unpaid work is the white and utopian dream of European capitalism. The immortal working robot is the newest hope that you can exploit without trade unions, wages and resistance. We know very well by now; the immortal robots are the strategy that we should suffer without complaining. The new working chattel, those who do not cry nor feel, can replace us whenever it is necessary. To respond to the increased price of commodities from China and India, the European colonies were imagined from 1492 as the site of competitive labor, which would provide the competitive edge for the Occident. As chattel, slaves were the perfect robots because they were not human beings. In contrast with slavery, unpaid work, “iobagie”, work as debt and all sorts of work measurement, the work in the West was imagined as free and better, because it was a product of European conditions and ways of life.
Our workshop seeks to imagine a different location for producing anti-capitalist imagination. We proceed in two ways. First, we briefly sketch a history of indentured labor, which is deeply intertwined with the revitalization of slavery after the invention of new commercial routes to the Americas and the emergence of what was called “free labor” in the XIX century (D. Eltis). For instance, half of the white labour power that was brought to North America between 1600 and 1776 and 3.5 million Indians who were transported in the British colonies between 1833 and 1920 were contracted for free and long periods of time to the benefit of the British Empire. This genealogy of work in the European capitalism will bring to our second problem, of robots and artificial intelligence as “free” labour. If the robots work for nothing, then the precariat will work for little money, online, for immediate demands, and without resisting their employers. Yet, the living labour and power of the new proletariat gives us hope that we can resurrect the automata for an incoming revolution.


Karl Marx, Fragmentul despre mașini (Grundrisse) și ziua de muncă (Capitolul VIII, Capitalul, Volumul 1)
David Eltis, The Rise of African Slavery in the Americas
Edmund Morgan, American Freedom, American Slavery: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia
Kathleen Donegan, Seasons of Misery: Catastrophe and Colonial Settlement in Early America
Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Precarious Rhapsody
Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Trancend Biology
Martin Ford, Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future