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Provoked by Anton Vidokle’s film New York Conversations, I wonder if it is possible for the cultural worker who is able to perform refusal within an economy of distinction to still consider their labour precarious?

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  1. My understanding of precarious labour is developing, and it seems that indeed, it is possible to perform refusal as a precarious labourer.

    Precariousness is not about identity, but about experience. I had wanted to mark a difference between social classes by drawning attention to the luxury of refusal, but “divisions into ‘luxury precarity’ and ‘impoverished precarity’ ultimately only reproduce neoliberal dynamics of competitiveness between different degress of precarization” [Isabell Lorey’s “Becoming Common: Precarization as Political Constituting”], which is conterproductive given that I am ultimately interested in new ways of being in the world. Lorey has a suggestion about how to generate these new ways of being:

    “If precarization has become a governmental instrument of normalization surpassing specfic groups and classes, then social and political battles themselves should not assume differential separations and hierarchies. Rather, those who wage such battles should look specficially for what they have in common in the midst of normalization: a desire to make use of the productivity of precarious living and working conditions to change these modes of governing, a means of working together to refuse and elude them.”

    I find this proposal very exciting. What do we share in common? There is fertile ground to be found amongst all of us. I hope this commonality will become harder and harder to dimiss, that we will be more willing to recognize the lives of others in our own, and also to be open to the reflection of our own existence back at us through the diaparate experience of anyone else in the world. Rose coloured perhaps, but I am deeply invested in these kinds of gestures. Also, a gesture that doesn’t end, doesn’t get dealt with, doesn’t simply resolve because, “this kind of search for commonality begins from differences and does not end in uniformity; rather, it is accompanied by permanent debates about what counts as the common” [Lorey].

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