Challenging Precarity
An International Seminar

In Collaboration with University of Rome tor Vergata (Italy),
AURO University (India) and
Challenging Precarity: A Global Network


  • This proposed international seminar aims to respond to the current state of world affairs: notably, the inherent ontological vulnerability of life and the economic, socially-conditioned precariousness of individuals, societies and populations, which have been heightened since the 2008 financial crisis. Caused by an economic shift in the labour market and global neoliberal capitalism, precarity has been increasing due to world-wide inequality as “more extensive and less visible patterns of global dispossession” and “relatively unstable and dispersed conditions of deprivation and insecurity” gain ground (During 2015).

    The seminar will consider issues related to the diverse forms and experiences of precarity from a global perspective with special reference to South Asia and India. Contributors are invited to examine contemporary literary, visual and textual productions for evidence of how states of precarity are being identified or imagined, and how civic, economic, and philosophical structures and their alternatives are given new narrative expression. New and revised modes and genres of fiction, poetry, non-fiction and visual culture that are constitutive of the current climate and provide cultural responses to the “precarious society”, acknowledging or challenging its imperatives, will be key areas of enquiry.

    In assessing the impact of textual representations of precarity on cultural perceptions, you may also wish to reflect on current political, social, economic and cultural discourses, and identify resolutions, reconciliations, and alternative world scenarios that challenge precarity, referring to models of resistance, resilience and healing. Critical analysis of the political power structures that distribute precarity and cause economic deprivation attribute these conditions to structural inequality, lack of agency, reduced access to rights and capabilities, and social exclusion. Responses to such analyses may draw on case studies of socio-political and environmental marginalisation: e.g. the refugee crisis, terrorism and insurgency, planetary degradation, economic stagnation, redistribution of wealth, social injustice. Mainstream theorisations and framings of precarity such as Judith Butler’s (2009) may also be challenged or interrogated by drawing on decolonising perspectives such as Stef Craps’s (2013) revision of trauma studies, Sunera Thobani’s (2010) and Ida Danewid’s (2017) critiques of “imperial precariousness” as “white innocence” and “western supremacy” and studies such as that by Ella Harris and Mel Nowicki (2018).

    In taking up established and revisionary critical positions, this three day seminar aims to interpret precarity through the optics of postcolonial, feminist and globalisation studies that foreground racial, gender, or class discrimination, and acts of silencing, censorship and marginalization by governments, corporations or other forces that lead to socioeconomic deprivation, violence and terror. Interdisciplinary approaches drawn from cultural studies, globalisation and postcolonial studies, philosophy, law, and history, and that refer to theoretical critical paradigms (e.g. gender, race, indigenous, feminist) are particularly welcome.

    The seminar seeks to address, but is not limited to, the following:
    • • representations of refugees and slum-dwellers
    • • narratives of extreme right populist groups
    • • narratives of neo liberal institutionalism and its practices
    • • narratives of terrorism, insurgency, and necro-nationalism
    • • third world narratives of poverty and hunger
    • • precarity and a ‘poetics of abolition’
    • • narratives of economic stagnation
    • • thought experiments of feminist speculative and futurist fictions
    • • precarity and an ethics of care for the Other
    • • alternative notions of legal and Human Rights discourses
    • • forms of political activism, involving resistance, resilience, restitution and repentance advocated as an ethics of alterity
    • • interdisciplinary research methodologies for exploring precarity and precariousness
    • • defence of violence and political disruption that test and strengthen existing frameworks as forms of change that require adaptation
    • • extreme right critiques that exploit precarity to promote hate crime and terrorism
    • • new pedagogies to evaluate social exclusion and develop resistant reading practices
    • • new imaginaries of precarity in relation to its historical functions under colonialism
    • • the testing of theoretical paradigms in seeking indigenous discourses of healing and resistance in an “environmental ethics of care”.