Understanding Acts of Institutional Tinkering as Forms of Care

About the School

Our epoch could arguably be thought of as one of “total bureaucratisation” (Graeber 2015), one where most democratic institutional processes appear as hollowed out, functioning as merely ceremonial affairs (Crouch 2004) while resources and opportunities are administered via computerised “pattern discrimination” (Apprich, Chun, Cramer, Steyerl 2018).

Access to social welfare, benefits and support are increasingly regulated by a stratified bureaucracy and means-testing, moving us further away from the universal provision of welfare. Despite the rapid spread of digital tools in the last decades, one that at its inception was heralded as a mean for eliminating “paper work” and streamlining effectiveness, systemic demands on individuals to comply with often cumbersome and invasive procedures of reporting and verification have not decreased, but multiplied.
 
This phenomenon has been particularly visible in the United States, provoking a number of commentators to reflect on the issue of bureaucratic harm. Ruth Wilson Gilmore (2015) has called such harm “organised state abandonment”, echoed by Elizabeth Povinelli’s reflection on “economies of abandonment” (2011), which targets Black and poor people most violently. Dan Spade’s has written on “administrative violence” (2011) enforced by welfare institutions that are barely provided with the necessary resources to serve the public good. Fred Moten and Stefano Harney similarly speak of widespread “enforced negligence” on the part of public-interest institutions such as universities, which instead of supporting their constituencies and workers, weaponise “professionalisation” as a process for privatising the social individual’s capacity to care (2015).

Yet other scholars also point out that, despite constant defunding, increased automatisation and privatisation, street-level bureaucrats and front-line welfare operators (Protta 1979; Lipsky 1980; Brown 1981) keep bending, breaking or simply overlooking rules in order to produce positive results for citizens and mitigate the harm provoked by racist or otherwise oppressive policies. In our training school, we aim to bring together theorists and practitioners to examine a number of case studies that, drawing upon the European experience, exemplify the agency of such “radical diplomats” (Graham, Graziano, Kelly 2008) and “radical administrators” (Rich and Piccini 2020).

The aim of the training school is to construct a theoretical framework for understanding the multiple ways in which institutional tinkering becomes necessary in order to ensure care and solidarity for those who are otherwise systemically abandoned. We will reflect on how to develop a common, EU-wide, understanding around the research topic of institutional tinkering, viewing it as a form of care by local communities. 

Participants will collectively discuss and share information concerning institutional tinkering and present examples, particularly drawn from the creative sector (social activities and processes, literature, exhibitions or other cultural events). Aimed at international academics, and creative professionals, this interdisciplinary training school will create a draft syllabus with which the WG3 will continue to collectively work on. The training school syllabus will be published and open to the wider public for revisions and suggestions after the end of the activity. The training school itself will provide an initial introductory training in digital librarianship and experimental publishing, as well as in software Sandpoints, that will be used for collectively writing and publishing the syllabus.

About Sandpoints

The Sandpoints platform is a free software tool for collective writing, archiving, learning, and experimental publishing. Its underlying principle is that access to infrastructure, learning materials, and modes of communication and dissemination is a political matter. Sandpoints supports offline editing in situations of limited internet access (e.g., war zones, prisons) and where vulnerable groups need their content to never be accessible online. It allows readers to easily copy onto a USB drive a single folder that contains the whole website, alongside a PDF library of all included references, and to read it offline in a browser or move it to another server. Furthermore, in situations that call for paper publishing, Sandpoints automatically exports the publication into a well-paginated PDF that is ready for on-demand print. Sandpoints is also a point of access for developing pedagogical processes of collective writing, archiving and self-documenting that are not academic, but situated in and at the service of more just, diverse and sustainable knowledge production processes.

CONTRIBUTORS

Mara Ferreri (she/her) is a Senior Researcher of the Inhabiting Radical Housing ERC-founded project, based at DIST, Polytechnic of Turin. She is a Core Team Member of the Beyond Inhabitation Lab and a co-founder and editor of the Radical Housing Journal. She has held research and teaching positions at the London School of Economics, Durham University, Northumbria University and at the Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona. Her work focuses on housing precarity, temporary and platform urbanism, and struggles for housing commoning. She employs qualitative methods to investigate the precarisation of urban space and housing, collective resistance and organising for alternatives. She is the author of The Permanence of Temporary Urbanism: Normalising Precarity in Austerity London. ( Amsterdam University Press 2021).

Yasamin Ghalehnoie (they/them) holds an MFA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths, University of London and is a UK associate at Delfina Foundation. Their practice is situated within the arts, as a field perpetuating precarity, bureaucratization, and a sense of alienation per the scarcity of funding and credit economy in academic education, while bearing the capacity to support diverse structures and experiments. Developed through field studies and trans-local collaborative slow processes, they research informal economies, non-uniformity, and collective reproduction of resting and the commons. Their research on informalities (eirdeconomies.com/glossary/i/informal-economie) was developed through extensive field study and practice in the South of Iran.

Valeria Graziano (she/her) is a theorist and organiser with a background in performance studies and critical management. She is currently a Research Associate at the Centre for Advanced Studies, University of Rijeka and coordinator of the working group on “Analysis, Theories Politics of Care (COST Action Toolkit of Care – https://toolkitof.care/). Overarching themes of her research are care struggles, collective practices of repair, politics of recreation and disobedience. Some of her recent work include: the publication Rebelling with Care. Exploring Open Technologies for Commoning Healthcare (2019, Horizon2020); “Repair Matters,” a special issue of ephemera. theory & politics in organisation (2019); the Pirate Care Syllabus (2018-present); Maddening Rhythms, an artistic and archival research about the introduction of MTM in Italy (2022, Matrice Lavoro fellowship).  

Max Haiven is a writer and teacher and Canada Research Chair in the Radical Imagination. His most recent books are Palm Oil: The Grease of Empire (2022), Revenge Capitalism: The Ghosts of Empire, the Demons of Capital, and the Settling of Unpayable Debts (2020), and Art After Money, Money After Art: Creative Strategies Against Financialization (2018). Haiven is editor of VAGABONDS, a series of short, radical books from Pluto Press. He teaches at Lakehead University on Anishinaabe territories on the North Shore of Gitchigumi in the territories currently known as Canada. He is often found in Berlin. Haiven co-directs the ReImagining Value Action Lab (RiVAL), a workshop for the radical imagination, social justice and decolonization.

Nicholas Herzberg (they/them) & Polymnia Tsinti (they/them) are part of an independent publishing project based in Cyprus named Becoming.press (formerly Crossdressing Diogenes) which has been active since 2018. <becoming.pre

Marcell Mars is one of the founders of Multimedia Institute/MAMA in Zagreb. His research, “Ruling Class Studies,” started at the Jan van Eyck Academy, examines state-of-the-art digital innovation, adaptation, and intelligence created by corporations such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, and eBay. He is a doctoral student at Digital Cultures Research Lab at Leuphana University, writing a thesis on “Foreshadowed Libraries.” Together with Tomislav Medak he founded Public Library/Memory of the World, for which he develops and maintains software infrastructure. He is one of the convenors of the Pirate Care Syllabus and developer of the experimental publishing infrastructure Sandpoints. 

Tomislav Medak is a researcher with a PhD on technopolitics and planetary environmental crisis from Coventry Unversity’s Centre for Postdigital Cultures. Tomislav is a member of the theory and publishing team of the Multimedia Institute/MAMA in Zagreb and a co-initiator of the Pirate Care project. His research interests are in the environmental crisis, the political economy of intellectual property, and the unevenness of techno-science. At times, he also writes on theatre, dance and politics. He is proficient in minimal computing and amateur libriarianship.

Morana Miljanovic (she/her) holds a Master of Law degree from the University of Zagreb and a Master of Public Policy degree from Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. Her research interests include mutual learning and strategic collaboration across activist communities. She previously worked as a researcher on corporate surveillance at Tactical Technology Collective (Data Politics), on practices in international development assistance at the Cities Development Initiative for Asia and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ), and consulted organisations on issues such as data protection law and ethics and use of argumentation in advocacy. As a human rights lawyer, she worked at the Croatian Law Centre on projects providing legal aid to asylum seekers and victims of torture, primarily on cases involving detention on grounds of national security (terrorism). Morana also teaches sailing and partakes in Sea Watch missions, rescuing persons in distress at sea.

Rodolfo Suárez Molnar’s research focuses on collective psychology, theory of history and philosophy of science. He holds a PhD and an MA in Philosophy of Science from the Institute of Philosophical Research and the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of the National Autonomous University of Mexico and Bachelor in Psychology from the Faculty of Psychology of the same University. Between 2010 and 2013 he was Head of the Department of Humanities of the Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM), director of the DCSH (2013-2017) and he is the Rector of the Cuajimalpa Unit since 2017.

Giulia Palladini (she/her) is a researcher and critical theorist. Her work moves between different languages, and fields of knowledge, exploring the politics and erotics of artistic production, as well as social and cultural history from a Marxist and feminist perspective. She has worked as Senior Lecturer in Drama, Theatre and Performance in the School of Arts at the University of Roehampton in London, and previously she was an Alexander von Humboldt fellow, and taught at the Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weissensee in Germany. She has lectured in various international universities, and collaborated as theorist in a number of critical and artistic projects in Europe and Latin America, especially with the Colombian artistic group Mapa Teatro. She is the author of The Scene of Foreplay: Theater, Labor and Leisure in 1960s New York (2017) and co-editor (with Marco Pustianaz) of Lexicon for an Affective Archive (2017). In 2021, she led the international research cluster “Feminismos Antipatriarcales and Poetic Disobedience,” part of the collaborative project “Queer Feminist Currents.”

Paul Stubbs is a sociologist and activist-researcher. His work focuses on policy translation, international actors in social policy and social development, new green-left municipalisms and, increasingly, on the history of Yugoslav socialism, social welfare and the Non-Aligned Movement. His latest edited book Socialist Yugoslavia and the _Non-Aligned Movement: social, cultural, political and economic imaginaries was published by McGill-Queens’ University Press (2023). He is a Senior Research Fellow in the Institute of Economics, Zagreb.

Cassie Thornton (she/her) is an artist and activist who creates a “safe space” for the unknown, for disobedience and for unanticipated collectivity. She refers to herself as a feminist economist, a title that frames her work as that of a social scientist actively preparing for the economics of a future society that produces health and life without the tools that reproduce oppression— like money, police or prisons. She is currently a community developer at Disruption Network Lab (Berlin) and the co-director of the Re-Imagining Value Action Lab in Thunder Bay, an art and social centre at Lakehead University in Ontario, Canada. Cassie is the author of The Hologram Feminist, Peer-to-Peer Health for a Post-Pandemic Future (Pluto Press, 2022). 

Valeria Verdolini (she/her) graduated in Law at the University of Bologna (2005), LLM in Sociology of Law at the Onati Institute IISJ (2008) and obtained her PhD in Sociology of Law at the University of Milan (2009). In the last 13 years, she worked for the University of Milan (faculty of Law) and University of Milan-Bicocca (faculty of Sociology) on theoretical researches (on borders and processes of democratisation) and empirical projects, combining qualitative and quantitative works and methods (e.g. her post-doc was an ethnography of the post- revolutionary Tunisia; she worked on urban security and safety projects for the local government of the Lombardy Regional Council). Recently, she participated to the Horizon 2020 project “Margin: tackle insecurity in marginalised areas.” Her principal publications focus on prison studies, feminism and processes of democratisation.