PhD Pre-Submission Seminar by Alex D’Aloia: Precarious Alternative: Sustaining the Popular Solidarity Economy in Ecuador

Please join us for Alex D’Aloia’s PhD pre-submission seminar.

Title: Precarious Alternative: Sustaining the Popular Solidarity Economy in Ecuador

Speaker: Alex D’Aloia

Date and Time: Friday, 12 November 2021: 2-4 pm

Via Zoom:

Meeting ID: 460 453 9898      Password: 509665

Abstract: Written into the Ecuadorian Constitution in 2008, the Popular Solidarity Economy was intended to be an alternative economy that “put people before the market” and was a centre piece of left-wing President Correa’s “21st Century Socialism”. Ten years later, staff at the National Institute of the Popular Solidarity Economy (IEPS) were uncertain about the future of the PSE and the institute itself. As politics shifted to the right, place of the PSE and the institute itself appeared to be precarious to everyone involved—government functionaries, academics, NGO staff, and actors in this alternative economy. Conducting research with the IEPS, I sought to understand how staff sought to keep the idea of the PSE alive as an economic alternative during a period of waning political interest. While there, I came to see how precarity was experienced by the many different actors surrounding the PSE in mutually reinforcing ways, whether it was government staff constantly being replaced, NGOs seeking program funding, or PSE actors who were mostly trying to string together livelihoods from multiple unstable income sources. By focusing on IEPS staff, I am able to show how experiences of precarity in both their work and careers caused them to choose economic logics that reinforced the precarity of others. In a context in which having a “side-hustle” appeared sensible, the PSE became a vehicle for promoting micro-entrepreneurialism. What was originally a response to the neoliberalism of the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s in Ecuador in many ways became another precarious thread in a patchwork of livelihood strategies. In this thesis I am making an intervention into the anthropological literature on precarity by examining how it is ported into and then reinforced by the state, not just through high-level policy decisions, but by the lived experiences of bureaucrats. I also examine the labour required to maintain the alternative status of an alternative economy—how the very alterity of the PSE created resonances with entrepreneurial logics of disruption.

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