Labor Dystopias and Redundant Humans: Slaveries, Serfdoms, Precariousness
3rd Telciu Summer School, August 11-18, 2018
The 2018 edition of the Telciu Summer School is dedicated to forms of unfree, precarious, or unremunerated labor across the global capitalist system, the structural changes they have historically undergone, and the continuities that characterize them in the present.
Slavery, serfdom, subsistence work, sharecropping, indentureship, debt peonage and other forms of non-wage labor have usually been considered lower, backward forms of labor, incompatible with the free labor characterizing the capitalist labor market of core areas and meant to eventually disappear. The colonized and peripheral locations in which such labor forms predominated were in turn seen as merely on their way to capitalism, yet never quite there.
The Telciu Summer School is interested instead in highlighting the historical connections between and the continuities among labor regimes usually constructed as polar opposites. Chattel slavery, the enslavement of Roma people, the so-called “second slavery” in the European East, the indentured labor of Chinese and Indian migrant workers in the Americas after the abolition of slavery were all intimately connected to capital accumulation, the displacement and forced migration of millions of people, industrialism, financialization, and the rise of racialized and gendered labor hierarchies. What Aníbal Quijano has termed “coloniality of labor” and the Bielefeld subsistence theorists have described as “housewifization” amounts to the insight that, in a system centred around the ceaseless accumulation of capital, the most profitable forms of labour would not be wage work, but unremunerated housework and forms closely approximating it, such as enslaved and enserfed labour in the (ex-)colonies, as well as peasant labour and housework in both centres and peripheries of the system.
Today, labor and trade regulations are continuously redesigned to fit the imperatives of capital, universal public services are axed, the right to a decent dwelling has morphed into the privilege of putting up a greater share of one’s wages into mortgage or rent in the bubble property markets of cities where job opportunities still exist. Meanwhile, global trade flows and competitive dynamics favoring food producers in wealthy and administratively capable countries make living off the land difficult everywhere else, giving village populations the choice between migration, subsistence farming and informal, highly precarious employment in local labor markets. Automation makes human labor increasingly obsolete, threatening to wipe out an entire section of formal labor and the professional middle class over the next two decades.
How do we make sense of these structural changes and what alternatives are there? How has neoliberal capitalism created more forced labor? What can we learn from economic systems that managed to minimize the impact of deregulation and automation? How can mass migration from and open trade with the Global South open up opportunities for dignified life and good politics rather than stoke the flames of neo-colonial reaction, white privilege, constitutional patriarchy and religious fundamentalism? What kind of social coalitions and actionable templates can enable an emancipatory path out of the current predicaments and coming dystopias of the world of work? What kind of social coalitions and actionable templates can enable a emancipatory path out of the current predicaments and coming dystopias of the world of work?
For 8 days, Telciu will host 12 courses and workshops coordinated by a team of lecturers, journalists and artists from Romania and abroad (Daniela Gabor, Tanja Ostoic, Julia Roth, Magda Matache, Manuela Boatcă, Ovidiu Țichindeleanu, Cornel Ban, Juan Francisco Gamella, Iulia Popovici, Victoria Stoiciu & Vlad Petri, Corina Tulbure, Bogdan Popa & Nicolae Emanuel Dobrei). You can find more details about the courses and our guests here.
The courses will be complemented by a series of community activities, such as the presentation of 4 theatre plays: The Great Shame (d. Alina Șerban), The Miracle of Cluj (d. David Schwartz), Țuhaus (d. Claudiu Lorand Maxim), School Era Memories (Radu Apostol & Mihaela Michailov) followed by discussion with the public. Details about the shows and other community activities, here. This year again, with the help of the Cinemobilul, we will project documentary and art films and cartoons for the children. Under the organization of the summer school, parallel to the activities in Telciu, there will be film projections for both children and adults in Bichigiu and Romuli. The young ones from Telciu, the neighboring localities, and those who came with their parents to the summer school, will be able to attend 4 workshops: introduction in documentary film making with Vlad Petri, director from Bistrița; mural painting with Lucia Mărneanu; narrative drawing and clay modeling with Maria Brudașcă and Tiberiu Bleoancă; and a musical improvisation workshop with traditional instruments (whistles, telenka, cimpoi, mouth harp, drums, etc.) with the lads from „Hanu’ cu Bragă”. We will also continue our programme of artistic residency, having as our invitees Mihaela Michailov and Katia Pascariu, whose one-month residency entitled ‘School, school, do not die!’, ‘ has at its centre the making of an educational rural theatre project, which proposes to document the local history of education, an investigation through artistic means of the history of education in Telciu’. A more detailed description of the residency and details about the two artists can be found here and here. This year we also have two premieres in the field of community activities: with the support of the Telciu Village Hall and Council, Bistrița-Năsăud County Council and our partners from the Association ‘Produced in Bistrița-Năsăud’ we are organizing a farmer’s market presenting the produce of the local producers in order to encourage short consumption chains.
We continue our tradition of donating books to the local library, however, this year we are also organizing a small book market. Throughout the summer school, several publishers will set up stalls at the entrance to the course rooms, allowing the students and the interested locals to acquire essential translations from the fields of critical thinking, recent books of native authors and, also, children’s books. Similarly, each publishing house will make a donation towards the library of the Telciu Technological High-School and the newly established library of the Center for the Study of Modernity and the Rural World. Donations are welcome by any guest or participant to the two libraries, especially towards the library of the local high-school.
We have a unique and progressive policy on fees. Similar events, especially those held at the major European university campuses, involve prohibitive costs for a large number of potential participants, especially those from the Global South (in which we include Eastern Europe as well). To top it off, those summer schools have high accommodation and food costs.
Our response is to come up with the most affordable summer school out there without compromising on the variable that matters: the intellectual quality of the events. Specifically, the lectures will be given by accomplished national and international academics, however, the fees do not cost an arm and a leg.
All activities are free for the residents of County Bistrița-Năsăud and for the children that accompany their parents to the summer school, within the limits of available places. Due to the financial support received from the local and county authorities, to which we can add the funds obtained through cultural funding bodies and donations, we have the possibility to charge very low fees for participants from outside the locality and the county:
- 25 euros for Romanian students
- 50 euros for students from countries with minimum wages below 1000 euros/month
- 100 euros for those in countries with minimum wages above 1000 euro/month.
The fees include free participation in all events, a tent site in a quiet camp provided by the local municipality and facilitating the rental of rooms in the homes of the locals at prices below those required by the small hotels and bed and breakfasts in the village.
The local restaurants are partners in our project and offer superb local fare at unbeatable prices. The price for 3 meals per day is the same as last year 30 RON/person.
The final program will be published in June, when we will also publish the final list with our financers, partner institutions, and media partners of this edition.