A key term in discussions on the nature of cultural work is the concept of ‘autonomy’, or ‘relative autonomy’, according to which cultural workers are capable of realizing themselves in the processes of work. This article wishes to problematize this idea by examining the quotidian reality of cultural workers in the field of contemporary art in Greece during the current economic crisis. The analysis is based on ethnographic fieldwork, focusing on how the positive characteristics of cultural work are inscribed in workers’ experiences through their participation in ReMap, a contemporary art event that takes places biannually in Athens and is tightly interwoven with processes of gentrification. I argue that relative autonomy is neither a given nor a state where the cultural worker linearly progresses. Within the context of the larger cultural and economic implications of neoliberalism and its crisis, it is rather an ideal they are striving for, often through highly alienating conditions, in a field dominated by competition, voluntarism, low salaries, precarity and absence of collective bargaining.
Although criticism of Enlightenment ideas has become widespread within academic circles, the basic Enlightenment narrative – an inexorable movement to a progressive condition – remains a dominant assumption within the discourses of modernization and democratization. This article analyzes how the ‘progressive’ imagination of Euromaidan protesters in Ukraine discursively produced the internal ‘other’ as a singular monolithic subject whose ‘underdeveloped’ intellectual condition was judged against an imagined scale of human progression. The argument is explicated through the discourse analysis of popular blogs on Ukrainian Pravda – a political web site that played a crucial role in organizing Maidan protests. The article analyzes 189 postings of Ukrainian Pravda bloggers starting from 26 November 2013 – the day when the bloggers’ group ‘Maidan’ was formed – until 21 January 2014, which denoted the beginning of a murderous stage of the Maidan protest.