Wasting the West is an infra-demos short documentary focusing on the Fyli landfill. It describes how the governance of waste in the Attica region goes hand in hand with environmental degradation, corporate power and socio-spatial marginalization.
infra-demos is an anthropological project based at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam that studies the interrelationships between infrastructures, governance, and socio-technological forms of civil participation and contestation in times of crisis in Greece.
Wasting the West is
Directed by Spyros Gerousis
Produced and Researched by Spyros Gerousis, Yannis Kallianos and Dimitris Dalakoglou.
The four-day long Festival of Mutuality was held last October 10 to 13 at Turin and Pinerolo in north Italy. The two cities hold an historical significance as it was the birthplace of the first workers’ mutual help societies (Società Operaia di Mutuo Soccorso, SOMS). The festival was co-organized by the SOMS di Pinerolo and the SOMS d’ambo i sessi “Edomondo De Amicis”. The former was the first mutual-help society to be founded in the Italian peninsula, or more precisely in what was then the kingdom of Savoia, in 12 October 1848, while the latter was founded in Turin in July 1908. The mutual-help societies played an important role in both the making of the working class and, or rather through, its welfare organisations. The latter would incubate both the labor union organising and gradually (by the mid-20th century) the welfare state as we know it.
However, while the development of the public welfare model led to the disappearance of the vast majority of those mutual help societies, during the recent crisis new grassroots solidarity networks have emerged foregrounding the issue of mutualism and its important role once more. In this context the festival tried to reflect on past and current experiences, to draw parallels and differences and to discuss and investigate the role of mutualism and solidarity in changing and shaping our societies and our future today. Thus the festival’s rich program included talks and debates by academics and activists alike as well as diverse cultural events inspired by the mutualistic movement.
Among those invited was Christos Giovanopoulos from infrademos, to talk on the experience of the Greek grassroots solidarity networks which appeared during the crisis and their relation to mutualism. More precisely he was invited to participate in two events. The first was held on in the premises of SOMS “Edomondo De Amicis” in Turin and examined the role of mutualism in the past and today. Among the invited panelists was also Salvatore Cannavo, author of the Mutualismo, Ritorno al futuro per la sinistra. The second event was held in Pinerolo, the main site of the festival and where a museum of the workers’ mutualistic movement is hosted. The panel included academics and activists from new and active solidarity and mutualistic collectives and discussed the role of women, refugees and the youth in current examples of mutualism. At the same time, it reflected on the new contexts that mutualism appears today and subsequently on the new meanings that it acquires, or it needs to, when new subjects and communities involve in its practice.
The aim of the festival was to bring together old and new examples, activists and intellectuals, in an effort to enhance the connections and the network building between the mutualistic organisations and practices in Italy. While such aims go beyond the capacities of a festival, fact is that such events confirm the return of mutualism and solidarity as foundational principles and ingredients in the quest for social change and participation. Moreover, such events hold their own, miniscule as it may be, role in fostering the infrastructural capacities of the people and their communities to better their lives - following the old workers’ mutual-help societies model which informed the infrastructuring of the modern welfare services.
infra-demos on June 6th participated in the annual meeting of the Dutch Anthropological Association. The Principal Investigator of infra-demos, Dimitris Dalakoglou was one of the three speakers of the final and plenary session of the meeting which had as its theme Anthropologists engage with the Future and spoke about the project among other things. The conferee was held in the Research Center for Material Culture of Leiden University.
The PI was invited as well by the Greek national radio show Mikri Thalassini on 17th of June where he talked about the recent infra-demos report on the extraction of hydrocarbons in North West Greece (Epirus).
The radio show's podcast is available here.
infra-demos during 2018 and 2019 published 3 reports. Most recently the Preliminary report on the extraction of hydrocarbons in Epirus (Greece) which is part of the field-site studies on infrastructural gap and new infrastructural contestations in Greece and two reports on the eviction of ADM community in Amsterdam which was part of the international comparison strand of infra-demos with alternative infrastructural arrangements abroad. The first of the two reports was used by the ADM community in their interim measure requests from the United Nations Committee of Human Rights.
The three reports are available in the infra-demos PUBLICATIONS sector.
On the weekend of 13 and 14 April 2019 the conference under the title ‘No Time To Waste’ took place in Athens. The conference was organized by collectives and individuals active in environmental issues in the country and was concerned with the current predicament of waste management in Greece.
The conference organizers explained that this is a particularly critical period for waste management in Greece. The country has one of the lowest recycling rates in EU and its highly dependent on land-filling as a method of municipal waste disposal. At the same time, while the only legal landfill that has been serving for decades the needs of Athens and the wider region of Attica has by far exceeded its capacity, there are currently no other waste infrastructures ready to accommodate the capital’s garbage. By pointing out the imminent threat of a waste crisis, the organizers also noticed the need for societal participation in finding answers to this problem.
The conference aimed at bringing together a variety of people and collectives to discuss possible alternatives practices and processes that would contribute towards a public decentralized model of waste management. Hence, the conference hosted contributions by workers, activists, academics, researchers, and institutional representatives as a way of creating an interdisciplinary dialogue to highlight diverse political practices, collective actions, community struggles, and local initiatives that have emerged around issues of waste. Infra-demos participated with a presentation by Yannis Kallianos which discussed critical interconnections between infrastructure and waste in relation to the Attica waste management paradigm but also within the context of the wider capitalist industrial system.
Over the two days of the conference more than 30 presentations, which composed the conference programme, discussed issues touching upon a variety of thematics. The current situation of waste management in Greece and Attica was discussed and examined in relation to its historical development. Other presentations focused on processes of waste reduction and practices of reuse. Contributions also discussed the role of institutional frameworks at state and local government level within the context of waste management. Another important discussion that took place concerned the emergence of diverse participatory processes and community struggles around waste and wider environmental issues throughout Greece. In addition, during the two-day conference an art exhibition was organized featuring installations and art pieces based on various recycling, upcycling and reuse practices by artists, academics, and students.
The conference is, yet another, important indication of the proliferation of collective struggles, initiatives, and contestation around infrastructures in Greece, and waste infrastructures in particular, in times of crisis.
For infra-demos research on urban waste see:
Dalakoglou, D., & Kallianos, Y. (2018). ‘Eating mountains’ and ‘eating each other’: Disjunctive modernization, infrastructural imaginaries and crisis in Greece. Political Geography, 67, 76-87. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.polgeo.2018.08.009
One of the results of the Infra-demos’ collaboration with the Solidarity Schools Network has been the development of an interactive platform which will visualize the ecosystem of the solidarity schools. This implies not only a presentation of quantitative and qualitative information about each school, but also other actors and agents which facilitate the solidarity schools’ operation, or, the later mobilize.
The development of the platform (still ongoing) follows a participation action research and co-design methodology. The initial discussion of the proposal for such mapping in the coordinating assemblies of the solidarity schools was followed by a first round of data collection. During these interviews the issue that arose was ‘what is the best way’ to represent the solidarity schools network according to its decentralized logic and principles? The deliberation, comments and suggestions that made informed the platform’s design and layout.
The resulted interactive map shows thus the span of the schools social relations and the reach of their transformative practices. It also provides an initial glimpse into their social infrastructural capacities which transcends a net pedagogical perspective as the network expands in various scales and fields; from the local to the international and from meeting educational needs to nurturing structures and processes of education communities (and education) as ‘expanding commons’ (Stavrides, 2017).
On Saturday 16/03/2019 a ‘draft’ version of the platform was presented for first time (photos) and for deliberation to the teachers, students, parents and volunteers who participated in the assembly of the ‘Mesopotamia’ Solidarity School, in Moschato - Athens. The event initiated a new round of co-design meetings for feedback towards the final formation of the platform.
The public launch of the platform, in both Greek and English, will take place in the first public event that the Solidarity Schools’ Network organize for this year next Friday, 12 April 2019, in Thessaloniki. It forms part of the presentation of the expanded Solidarity Schools’ Network which organizes a round of public events and meetings until the end of the current academic year, starting from two-day events in Thessaloniki on 12 & 13 of April, which will be followed by two more public events, in Corfu and Athens in June.
Stavrides St. (2016) Common Space: The City as Commons. London. Zed Books
infra-demos PI just published a new article on Airbnbization of Europe, Mobility and Property.