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'Our Projects': The Journey to an Aspirational Future

Debowski, James

Description

We live in a world shaped by projects. Projects are conventionally depicted as activities directed towards specific goals. They often entail particular ideas about time, success and the roles people play in achieving set outcomes. Academe and professional practice abound with such projects. Yet, few efforts have sought to understand Projects conceptually, or how they shape the world. This research addresses this gap. Drawing on 15 months of ethnographic research, this thesis traces a social...[Show more]

dc.contributor.authorDebowski, James
dc.date.accessioned2022-05-25T04:16:56Z
dc.date.available2022-05-25T04:16:56Z
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/1885/266327
dc.description.abstractWe live in a world shaped by projects. Projects are conventionally depicted as activities directed towards specific goals. They often entail particular ideas about time, success and the roles people play in achieving set outcomes. Academe and professional practice abound with such projects. Yet, few efforts have sought to understand Projects conceptually, or how they shape the world. This research addresses this gap. Drawing on 15 months of ethnographic research, this thesis traces a social movement in Catalonia that used projects for an explicitly revolutionary purpose. The Llibertari movement used projects to provision goods and services according to their left-autonomous, characteristically anarchist principles: solidarity, autonomy and mutual aid. Their projects were designed to manifest an aspirational, radically different economy and society. Looking to this movement, I ask: How do people shape the future; and, more specifically, how do they use Projects to do this? This research focussed on one project in particular, an illegal brewing project named the Buenaventura Brewing Cooperative (BBC). The BBC strove to shape the future through the production and distribution of beer. They negotiated between their aspirational future and a 'real world' characterised by industrial production constraints, market economics and police violence. Holding these worlds together produced constant errors, frustrations and challenges. This research illustrates how ideas about the future were woven into the fabric of the movement's projects. The BBC's design and management were informed by the movement's unique character and aspirations. These guided the project's priorities and foci, the relations and ideas about production that fuelled it, the ideas of growth and success against which the project was evaluated, and the ways that people perceived and contributed to its progress. People worked daily to create a different society and economy through these concrete contexts. This thesis makes several important contributions to understandings of Projects, social movements, and culture within the social sciences and beyond. First, this research offers a novel conceptual understanding of Projects. Drawing on the BBC's experience, I explore how projects function and shape the future. One way they do this is by holding disparate worlds together. People use projects to navigate the tensions and complications that emerge from this process. This ability to hold worlds together and negotiate their tensions makes projects a powerful tool for creating social transformation. I argue that attention to the design and carriage of projects can be instrumental in achieving envisaged futures. These findings have relevance to project design and management; particularly for those interested in creating projects that reflect the character and aspirations of the communities that they affect. Second, this research explores the messiness of social transformation. Social movement literature has often emphasised the ideal and prefigurative while ignoring the challenges and contradictions that activists encounter daily. Breaking from this trend, this thesis explores the function of 'distortions' as a normal part of life and efforts to shape the world. I argue that distortions are central to defining the character of Llibertari projects and Projects more generally. Finally, this thesis makes a contribution to anthropological understandings of culture. Anthropology has often understood culture in terms of the past. Key debates, including those around production and labour, taste, the senses, progress and scale have been shaped by past-centric and disempowering disciplinary tendencies. Building on what might be called an Anthropology of the (Open) Future, I explore a more optimistic and future-oriented approach to these discussions. Keywords: Projects, World Making, Social Transformation, Aspiration, Futures, Design, Beer, Social Movements
dc.language.isoen_AU
dc.title'Our Projects': The Journey to an Aspirational Future
dc.typeThesis (PhD)
local.contributor.supervisorDennis, Simone
local.contributor.supervisorcontactu3915853@anu.edu.au
dc.date.issued2022
local.contributor.affiliationCollege of Arts & Social Sciences, The Australian National University
local.identifier.doi10.25911/NTCY-ZZ41
local.identifier.proquestYes
local.thesisANUonly.authore2a0fe9d-9dc7-4ea4-b8a1-316ccb714385
local.thesisANUonly.title000000015462_TC_1
local.thesisANUonly.key96bc5aa5-08b5-a43f-1617-8a52cc6f15b5
local.mintdoimint
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