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Document Type

Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Anthropology

Year Degree Awarded

2015

Month Degree Awarded

May

First Advisor

Elizabeth Krause

Second Advisor

Arthur Keene

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Abstract

This dissertation both reflects and constitutes an attempt at theorizing, locating, analyzing, and helping to create non-capitalist possibility among community groups and social movements in Massachusetts from 2010-2013. I began my research working with green economy coalitions that brought together community groups, social justice organizations, and environmental non-profits in order to respond to economic and ecological crisis. As these groups moved forward and transformed, I participated in campaigns, internal discussions, and public representations. I wrote field notes when appropriate and conducted and recorded over 50 interviews. As I did the work, I came to understand economy as a heterogeneous field of economic ideology, practices, relations, dispositions, and desires. In this theoretical context, I ethnographically investigate the ways in which individuals and groups negotiate and contest dominant economic discourses, and create their own meanings of economy. I ask, how are community groups and activists imagining and desiring economy? How are non-capitalist projects being assembled? Under what conditions can people begin to imagine, desire, and create other worlds? To answer these questions, I mobilize economic anthropology, postructural theory, and Lacanian scholarship, extending and critically engaging with the diverse economies project of J.K. Gibson-Graham. In Chapter 2 I discuss two green economy coalitions whose campaigns brought anti-capitalist and non-capitalist politics into dialogue. I found that a reframing of economy towards economic difference leads to economic possibility for some, but is politically problematic and hinders economic possibility for others. In Chapter 3 I explore the nature of worker cooperatives, finding that social actors involved in non-capitalist development can understand and imagine it in radically different ways; non-capitalism is produced through these differences. In Chapters 4-7 I discuss a community organization that was building its own community economy. I show the effectiveness of performative, ontological politics in proliferating economic possibility. I also show the limitations of such a project when it neglects critical analysis of the forces constraining possibility. I point towards a reconciliation between performativity and critique. In the conclusion I theorize economic possibility in relation to and as part of a cultural-political struggle, a ‘war of position’, around the nature of economy.

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