At the northern edge of Greece's second-largest island Evia, a fluctuating group of people under the name Free&Real aim to build up a school for self-sufficiency and sustainability. In response to late capitalist relations, which they perceive to be exploitative, depleting, and alienating, they pose their project as a learning ground in which to recreate human-environment relations towards regenerative ends. Their environmental, political-economic, and social critique resonates with contemporary civil society initiatives in Europe and North America, where a growing number of eco-projects propose alternatives to the dominant paradigm of profit through exploitation via holistic and non-harmful socio-environmental relations. My thesis depicts, analyses, and contextualises these endeavours of social change, paying attention to the ways in which Free&Real creatively critique contemporary society from within and against late capitalism. They do so through reconfiguring their ethics and practices that aim to re-establish relations with self and other - both human and non-human. Through this, they aim to create alternative futures within the present through practice, and through this prefiguration to transform the present towards more ecologically ethical practices. Through six chapters, I follow the group's aspirations to situate human existence firmly within the natural environment, to transform their selves towards ethical ideals, and to recreate economic relations outside the formal economy. I further trace their grappling with contemporary expressions of modernity, the limits of altruism, and the complexities of authority. As the group occupy themselves with transformative, educational, and outreach goals, they reproduce some of the very epistemologies and relations they attempt to overcome, while at the same time proposing novel readings of and engagements with others. Through this creative remix, Free&Real generate innovative local responses to some of the pressing issues of contemporary times. Examining these, my thesis contributes to discussions of social change, environmentalism, the anthropology of Greece and Europe, and critique of capitalist relations.
|Date of Award
|31 Dec 2018
- The University of Manchester
|Michelle Obeid (Supervisor) & Chika Watanabe (Supervisor)