Critical Stewardship, Social Reproduction and the Unlikely Return of Psychogeography: Five Reasons why we Should Revisit this Avant-Garde Tactic

The concept of stewardship offers a strategic crack in the persistent logic of privatisation, privation and enclosure of common resources. Yet it is vital that its powerful prefigurative potential is allied to a structural or macro critique of the current system. It is only through this that it stands a chance of preventing its energies being cut off, captured and folded back into the very structures it purports to challenge.

Stewardship offers a model for seizing the means of ‘social reproduction’. That is to say, the work - both waged and unwaged - of maintaining a home, community, food and children. Our aim here is to understand how this work is both the structurally essential means by which a system of private accumulation recreates itself anew each day, but also – importantly – the means by which, in our own hands, we might begin to imagine living our lives autonomously, of both capital and the state.

In this workshop we will discuss the crucial importance of marrying the notion of stewardship to a wider structural critique of private and state ownership and provision. One of the ways we will do this is by making a rather unlikely return to the concept of ‘psychogeography’: popularised in the 1950s and revived in the 1990s, as a means of gaining a deeper understanding of the various forces at play in the urban environment.

We will explore five theses on how a return to some of the practices associated with psychogeography allows us to better understand the strategic points essential for the social reproduction of our communities. Through this we will not only work towards a list of strategic ‘stewardship targets’, but also examine how a range of psychogeographic practices provide us with potential tactics for this task.

The five theses we will explore are:

1, Psychogeography as a contested term: dead words and trojan horses.

2, Psychogeography as enquiry: the political and strategic value of study, as both end and means.

3, Objective Chance: having enquired into existing means of social production, how we might use psychogeography to uncover another world sleeping within this one, and to construct new economies of desire.

4, Triolectics: A playful way of thinking to destabilise of the logic of enclosure and accumulation.

5, Psychogeography as cryptogramme: the development of a clandestine ‘infra-literature’ to propagate in favour of these newly discovered desires, one which is less about visibility and more about autonomous social relations.

Date: 2014-10-25 10:00:00 - 2014-10-25 10:00:00, Europe/London Time.

There was a lecture series that i  went to over 20 years ago, that had people discussing different forms of applied metaphysics, and the question that was always asked by Reg was, “How does what you’ve been talking about manifest in your daily life?”

While talking about theories is mind-stretching, more and more, i find myself looking for practical actions.

What sort of concrete results do you want to achieve from this workshop?

I agree

Hi Chris and welcome on board, i suspect friends from the UK pointed you to Edgeryders?

I see from your profile you’re an academic researcher, and you also seem to have been thinking eg about contradictions within worlds for some time now… should we expect an advanced session eg for critical thinkers? I can already imagine @hexayurt in it…

Like Billy above, one of the things I also reasonate with is meta analysis drawn from something more tangible… like this video of someone mapping the water activism around Great Lakes…! By creating contexts to understanding stewardship while you are building something to actually showcase it, I think it’s easier to do the mental exercise on a common ground.

prefiguration and critique

Hi, thanks for the comments. I don’t actually think the distinction between practical and theoretical is always so clear cut, in the sense that whilst action should always take priority over mere reflection, both are, in my view, inseparable parts of an effective strategy. What I am trying to get at is that one can perhaps propose two main ways people have tried to change their worlds - prefigurative (i.e. practically prefiguring a future society as they would like to see it, small scale, localised, direct-action orientated - the ‘temporary autonomous zone’ type thing) and critical (i.e. often something that often appears more ‘theoretical’, but that does not make a positive proposition, rather it is about finding and deconstructing the operations and contradictions of what already exists, and tends towards a macro-level examination of wider society and its functions). As I said above, I believe that both are necessary and intertwined, but observing that the majority of sessions tend towards the former, prefigurative approach, I think some rebalancing towards a broader critique, suggesting ways these examples might connect up into a larger strategy might be useful. This is what I hope to bring. But nevertheless, don’t worry too much about a lack of examples above, I hope to introduce examples in terms of the 5 points, and also hopefully make clearer the general framing in terms of ‘social reproduction’ I was talking about. Sorry if that is not clear above, I was trying not to overload the description with detail whilst still including everything I hoped to cover (which is quite a lot, but if its too much, I am sure I can focus on bits people are most interested in).

If you want a concrete example of people engaging with some of the above ideas, perhaps this could be somewhere to start: This feminist collective from Spain is one example I hope to talk about. They set out to use a method taken from ‘psychogeography’ - the derive, or drift - to understand the manifestations of social reproduction in their city, the relation of the space to the work of caring, and discovering points of commonality.

Another example is a group that I have been involved with in London, The New Cross Commoners. They/we have been exploring our neighbourhood, finding common resources and techniques, producing people’s kitchens and understanding the localised terrain of ‘reproduction’ as a way exploring a wider societal critique through the idea of the commons. A publication introducing some of these ideas can be found here: (the glossary on pg.55 might be particularly useful).

Perhaps one more useful point of reference, at least on some of the terms I have used, could be found here, on the site of another UK-based group - particularly the entries on reproduction and the dual character of reproduction: The definitions are somewhat opaque, but might be helpful for some people, I’ll try to articulate this in a more accessible way in the workshop. It might seem somewhat abstract, but I believe it is a very useful and important abstraction to understand, in terms of how localised examples of stewardship could fit into a meta analysis.

Lastly, for anyone unfamiliar with psychogeography, wikipedia is as good a place to start as any:

Cheers, C