Friday, 31 January 2014

"Bread and freedom" conference on labour and movements today

The organisers of this conference are very open to participation from trade unionists, other activists and research students:

‘Bread, Freedom and Social Justice’: Organised Workers and Mass Mobilizations in the Arab World, Europe and Latin America
10 July 2014 - 11 July 2014
CRASSH, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DT - SG1&2
Convenors: Sian Lazar and Anne Alexander (University of Cambridge)

The wave of protest against neo-liberalism which swept through Latin America in the early years of the 21st Century, the Arab Revolutions of 2011, the anti-austerity and Occupy movements in Europe and North America are connected by a common thread: the demand for economic justice. This international conference will provide the first opportunity for scholars, journalists and activists from Argentina, the UK, the US, Greece, Spain, Egypt, Tunisia and beyond to compare the challenges faced by the Latin American movements with the experience of mobilizations for similar demands in the Arab world and Europe since 2011. We will focus especially on the interactions between organised workers and the unemployed, youth and students who have played a key role in many of the street mobilizations of the past two years as they build alliances, make demands of the state, and attempt to define political and social alternatives to neo-liberalism and austerity.

Workers' strikes and protests played a critical role in propelling the mass movements in Latin America into state power, destabilised dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt, and continue to challenge austerity governments across Europe. Yet the role of workers as a collective social actor is significantly underestimated in narratives of the Latin American 'Turn to the Left' and the 'Arab Spring' alike. In an age which commentators have branded an era of social media revolutions, this conference will also provide a space for critical perspectives on the relationship between digital communication and organisational praxis.

We invite papers on the following themes: 

I.    Structural changes in the composition of the working class; and the impact of these on labour-based mobilization and other kinds of mobilizations for economic justice.

II.    Organisational praxis of the struggle for economic justice; potential for cross-fertilization between labour-based movements and those of other social actors, the role of the trade union bureaucracy, also the contributions that trade unionists may make towards sustainability of oppositional protest; the use of social media as a tool for activism; the experience of the Occupy movements

III.    Economic justice and the question of state power;  Can mass mobilizations win the redistribution of  wealth by propelling more progressive regimes into power? Are these mobilizations capable of generating alternative institutions of state power? Can the current struggles for economic justice win their demands without confronting the state directly?

We hope to promote significant comparative and interdisciplinary discussions on the above themes, and invite abstracts of no more than 300 words, to be submitted by 14 March 2014 by email to Successful applicants will be informed by 24 April 2014.

Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge and  the Institute for the Study of the Americas.