Thanks to Steve Dubb and NPQ for adapting this essay for their readership. This article is, with publisher permission, adapted from a more extensive journal article, “Fight and Build: Solidarity economy as ontological politics,” published this year by Sustainability Science, volume 17, pp. 1207-1221.
Recent uses of performativity have been engaged with bridging the gap between the economy and politics. The concept of performation has for instance been used to enable discursive and material assemblages that challenge this dichotomy, with the general aim of transforming the economy. While the overall intent of this article is to contribute to this bridging, its direction of travel is the opposite: to bring the economy into politics. Specifically, it situates the notion of performativity within studies on grassroots politics in a material sense.
This contribution calls attention to the values of assemblage thinking for the study of contentious economies. A syntactical perspective can make visible social arrangements that are otherwise difficult to represent in traditional social movement categories. With the help of a jar of jam, an object that has meaningful entanglements in anti-camorra activism in Campania (Italy), the article begins by empirically illustrating instances of mobilisation that disrupt relationships of mafia dependency. The focus lies on the force of composition, the syntax of contention.