Mending and Transforming the Torn Social Fabric: Lumpen Social Reproduction in Settler Urban Space as Relational Praxis Art
Jackson, Liza Kim
MetadataShow full item record
With this dissertation I look at the unique and indispensable political position of low-income peoples that I assert is not effectively represented via left progressive and working class struggles, academic theory or contemporary art, all of which tend to reproduce disempowering, classist and/or charity model political, economic and social relations. I critically develop the term lumpen in a new direction by applying intersectionality theory to address more specifically the identity and political economics of those racialized, Indigenous, gendered, disabled and Other who are outside the wage relation and/or on social assistance those whose economies are alternate to capitalism in that they are based in forms of criminality, non-European cultural forms, social reproduction and/or redistribution. The lumpen are comprised of those whose lives are considered expendable within the historical era of colonial- capitalism. A new theory of the lumpen reframes the conceptions of socio-political transformation generated by left/progressive, academia and contemporary arts discourses. I further argue, that indeed, it is this lumpen social strata who are the targets of gentrification (as opposed to the working-class), and that, as the constitutive outside to colonial-capitalism, gentrification is in fact an ongoing form of actual (not metaphorical) colonization which reproduces the settler city as a bulwark against Indigenous sovereignty as well as the marketization of relations at the neighbourhood scale. In thinking about low- income/lumpen political subjectivity I notice that left/progressive struggles, academia and contemporary arts are not accessible social spaces. I thus proceed with the development of a unique methodology, which I call relational praxis art that is geared towards working with low-income/lumpen community in a way that recognizes and supports their political subjecthood and resistance practices. I have developed this method in the context of the low-income/lumpen community in a gentrifying Toronto neighbourhood working with a group called the Friends of Watkinson Park, which came together to protect low-income/lumpen access to a park at the centre of their community. As a community building project that critically engages with issues of gentrification, ongoing colonization (practicing decolonial stewardship) and climate change. Relational praxis art proposes that political subjecthood and activism are necessarily based on a redistributive material (social reproduction) engagement and thus much of the work that is done in community is daily life support and crisis response as a ground for activism.