Benvenuti a Bolsena!

Summer 2013 182It’s the morning of July 2nd so we’re headed to Bolsena!  There are 21 of us–here are our names here are in order of our working groups of three: Jenny Cameron, Esra Erdam, Sean Tanner, Claire Brault, Kath Gibson, Eric Sarimento, Kelly Dombroski, Rhyall Gordon, Yayha Madre, Janelle Cornwell (that’s me!), Ceren Ozselcuk, Boone Shear, Ann Hill, Ethan Miller, Kevin St Martin, Nate Gabriel, Oona Morrow, Marianna Pavlovskaya, Za Barron, Stephen Healy, and Maliha Safri.  We pile into a bus and hit the road.

I’m working with Boone Shear and Ceren Ozselcuk. Boone is an activist anthropologist/doctoral candidate at the University of Massachusetts. His research and organizing focuses on solidarity and green economy networks in Western and Central Massachusetts. He’s a prolific writer. For example, his work is widely available on the internet including several articles in Truth out, the Daily Hampshire Gazette and Occupy LA as well as a bunch of academic articles in journals such as Rethinking Marxism, Urban Anthropology and Practicing Anthropology. He submitted two papers for the retreat. The first paper is about economic desire and building the economy as we want it. His second paper, co-authored with Stephen Healy is about defining the solidarity economy in Worcester MA.

Ceren Ozselcuk is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Boğaziçi University. She is a heterodox economist with interests in economic geography, political economy, psychoanalysis and ideology analysis. Her academic work in English can be found in Rethinking Marxism, Subjectivity, Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society and Forced Migration Review. For the retreat, Ceren is working on chapter for the edited volume Performing Diverse Economies. Her chapter, “Communism and Sublimation: reading diverse economies with desire” is co-authored with another economies Yaya Madra. Both Ceren and Yaya have come to the retreat from Turkey.

My paper is about worker co-operatives building a movement of scale in Western Massachusetts. The paper began as a reaction to critiques of worker co-operatives that are based exclusively on the size of the movement (see scale rant). It took the theoretical approach obsessing over theories of scale. However it has become a paper about worker co-operatives leaving conceptual scale in the back ground.

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Well in the cloister

We are staying at Il Convento Santa Maria del Giglio in Bolsena, maybe an hour and a half from Rome in Northern Lazio on Lake Bolsena. In the rush to get everything done before leaving the states, I hadn’t contemplated what the convent might be like… And, I’m so glad I didn’t. It is the most beautiful, peaceful place I’ve ever known. Wendy Harcourt welcomed and a young grounds keeper with German Shepard by his side welcomed us at the door. We walked through the arched entrances doorways wide-eyed, past 16th century frescoes down a long hallway to a sunny cloister where a lunch of local meats, cheeses, wines and bread waited for us alongside flowers, water and wine.

The First Supper

Summer 2013 354Before heading off to Bolsena, and breaking into working groups of three, we gathered at the Villa Benedetta in RomeI am surrounded by 23 scholars with a deep commitment to economic possibility and a rich diversity of interests. 

Wendy Harcourt is our local host/academic participant. She leads us to a restaurant a few blocks from the hotel where we introduce ourselves, get to know each other and/or get reacquainted over a seven course dinner, bottomless cups of wine and jovial conversation.

Boone Shear and Claire Brault are sitting on either side of me. Boone is an anthropologist who works with radical organizations on non-capitalist development in New England. Claire is a political scientist and theorist busy developing a theory of uchronia and translating The End of Capitalism into French. The introduction to the French translation is her project for the retreat. Seated across from me is Sonja Capello, whom I just met. If memory serves, Sonja is geographer working on food sustainability and climate change issues in Africa–Mozambique. She is completing a post doc at the Hague with Wendy Harcourt (I think they’re finishing a book together). Oona Morrow, another geographer, is next to Sonja. Among other things, Oona researchers Urban Homesteading in Boston. During the retreat, she is working on a book chapter about social reproduction, co-authored with Kelly Dombroski who has done research in China, Indonesia and Australia. Katherine Gibson and some 16 other Community Economies scholars with fascinating research projects are seated at this long table, talking, laughing and toasting.

In preparation for the retreat, we all read 21 abstracts submitted by fellow participants so we knew a little about what everyone was working on. Topics of conversation range from diverse economies to diverse loved ones; the projects we are working on, what we’re excited about and where we are stuck. The courses and wine keep coming. We talk about about our working groups and share initial impressions of the projects and the prospects of the retreat.

Cheers to us CEC!

Getting Ready

In preparation for the retreat in Bolsena, my task is to revise two papers. One is titled “Co-operative Economic Development photo (22)Strategies: Regional Alliance Building in New England USA”. The other paper’s title is under revision but it is about “practices of scale” in the Valley Alliance of Worker Co-operatives. So… I’ve been reading for a week. Pretty much from the moment I wake up until it’s time to go to bed.

It’s most luxurious–having the space (though I wish there were more!) to read authors including: John Baldridge, Andrea Bernardi, Carlos Borzaga, Judith Butler, Hazel Cocoran and David Wilson, Daniel Louro, Peter Ranis, Tito Menzani and Vera Zamagni…

And to squeeze in a little blog spot before going back to the pages. The deadline for the revisions is June 18th so I will have to attack the writing part of it–with gusto!–beginning Sunday. A marathon weekend.