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Activist Sense and Urban Ecologies of Care

In the course of the financial crisis of 2008, various social struggles emerged that saw themselves concretely located within the urban environment, organizing themselves against forced evictions and gentrification. Platforms such as La PAH emerged, giving rise to new “Ecologies of Care“ as well as new forms of political self-organization that can be understood as modes of Activist Sense, exceeding ways of doing classical political activism. ‘Sense’ here signifies both sensuous experience and processes of making sense. New forms of Activist Sense connect content with expressions of political processes and therefore focus on what we call affective politics. In this context of Ecologies of Care and Activist Sense, media technologies and social movements with their respective technopolitics play a crucial role in these struggles and their urban micropolitics. The following contributions to this blog result from the DAAD funded Summer School at Casa Azul (Málaga) in September 2018. Their aim is to establish translocal and transtemporal relays of struggles and their practices as well as fostering their potential for the future relating of social movements.


Im Zuge der Finanzkrise 2008 sind verschiedene soziale Bewegungen entstanden, die sich in den Kämpfen im städtischen Raum verortet und gegen Zwangsräumungen sowie Gentrifizierung organisiert haben. Es entstanden Plattformen wie La PAH in Spanien, die neue Ökologien der Sorge sowie neue Formen politischer Selbstorganisation hervorbrachten. Diese neuen Formen können als Formen des Activist Sense bezeichnet werden, da sie weit über den klassischen politischen Aktivismus hinausgehen. „Sense“ bedeutet einerseits sinnlich und andererseits sinnhaft (sinnstiftend). Neue Formen des Activist Sense verbinden Inhalte mit Ausdrucksweisen politischer Prozesse und fokussieren deshalb auf Politiken, die als affektiv beschrieben werden können. In diesen Kontexten erwachsen Ökologien der Sorge mit und durch Praktiken des Activist Sense. Hierbei spielen Medientechnologien und soziale Bewegungen, die in Technopolitiken verschmelzen, eine grundlegende Rolle in urbanen Kämpfen und ihren Mikropolitiken. Die folgenden Beiträge ergeben sich aus der vom DAAD geförderten Summer School in der Casa Azul (Málaga) im September 2018 und schreiben die damals erfahrenen Umstände in ihren Genealogien fort. Ziel dies Blogs sind sowohl die Etablierung translokaler als auch transtemporaler Verknüpfungen von Widerstandsformen, ihren Praktiken und deren Potentiale für zukünftige Vernetzungen sozialer Bewegungen.

“Stand up and walk around your desk. And go out of your office, and feel the fresh air of the city.” Gardener, psychiatric nurse, artist, long-time social co-operator, and president of the Trieste Association of Artisans Giancarlo Carena is often theatrical when he tries to explain the singularity of Trieste’s social cooperatives movement. He starts by arranging the narrative around your perceptions, to make you settle in the analytical journey that he asks you to undertake with him. “How can a place where such horrible things happened in the past today be a space that triggers beautiful projects?” he asked me in 2014 when we first met walking in the blossoming gardens of the former asylum.

Francesco Salvini 10 04 19

“If you are a nurse, we can understand each other, not like with these sociologists!” Federico jokes (or not?) with Irene. In their conversations, there is a shared set of knowledge and competencies, not only linguistic, but, more importantly, in the concrete experience of modes of action and logics that govern the ecology of care. We are in the core of the caring ecologies of Trieste, the Distretto Sanitario (Healthcare District) located in the old general hospital, now almost dismantled (another, more modern one is up the hill, in a less central area).

Francesco Salvini 27 02 19

What runs through the text, or so I hope, is an investigation of the ambivalences of a more than institutional ecology of practices, knowledges, objects, and relations. An ecology that lives along the limits between society and the state, that sits on the edges and connects different modes and experiences of institutional care, but also an ecology that makes it a practice to stay with the trouble, in the middle of the complexities and difficulties of social reproduction.

Francesco Salvini 19 02 19

If it weren't so long, this text would (like to) be a manifesto. It is not an analytical essay that interprets a site or a critical history of the movement lead by Franco Basaglia. Rather it is a deriva, an unplanned itinerary through and with a number of reflections, events, and objects I have encountered in my relationship with the contemporary healthcare system of Trieste. It is a result of a long engagement with the agents that inhabit and build this system every day, with the memories of a collective practice of care, the artefacts and places that constitute the material possibility of a practice of caring with each other, an engagement with what Franco Rotelli (2013, Cogliati 2018), one of the protagonists of the Trieste's trajectory and director of the Mental Health Department of Trieste during the 1980s and the 1990s, has called una città che cura, a city that heals, a city that cares.

Francesco Salvini 10 02 19