The intensive 3-day event began with a day of activities during which participants familiarised themselves with each others’ work and mapped post-growth/degrowth organisation research. The mapping methodology, developed specifically for the workshop and guided by the theme of water, sought to spur new ways of thinking about this still-nascent field through reflexive artistic methods. Participants thought about emerging currents of scholarship, knowledge flows and their agency in directing the course of research. Their discussion was captured in two maps and whiteboard work. Photos can be found at the University of Vigo’s website.
The second day focused on network-building to extend and deepen the collaboration. In the evening, a musical intervention from pianist Abe Rábade re-grounded the researchers after extensive academic discussions. On the final day, the participants gathered to plan next steps to continue working together. Several groups formed to take specific projects forward. Overall, a clear sense of momentum, and a shared sense of purpose, characterized the workshop. Hence, this workshop just marks the beginning and foundations for future projects and collaborations on the workshop’s topic and beyond in the months and years ahead. Already, a session on ‘Advancing research on degrowth and post-growth organisation’ will be held at the Zagreb degrowth conference. Themes from the workshop will feature at the upcoming ecological economics and degrowth conference in Pontevedra hosted by the Post-growth Innovation Lab and the University of Vigo in 2024.
During the final day, one of the participants crafted a short reflective piece that drew together many of the discussions and experiences from the days in Pontevedra. Rather than a detailed summary of the workshop, the participants agreed that this piece serves as a fitting ‘proceedings’ that captures the spirit of the workshop. You can read it below.
A Degrowth story
Las peregrinos they come, tired and weary all seeking the same destination. We come by many paths sometimes walking side by side but also alone, we try to find a way. A way to turn from the well-trodden path. A path like a river, a flood, a tidal wave of growth crashing endlessly across the land sweeping all before it. We throw ourselves like rocks into the current to dam it up, to stop the destruction but when we look into the lake, the mirror, we see ourselves fractured and imperfect. We stop a while in this place where we are washed up.
A place that is old and unchanging, solid and new, different, changing. Around us granite walls hold up the weight of history and contain, enclose us. In their cracks are a million seeds and spores, new life springs forth from calcified rock. A plurality of plants colonize the hard stone, finding space in a chaos of new growth. In this place, this hard place it rains and we try to give voice.
To construct, to organise the streams of our thinking, like water that is running down the buildings. We want to pool our energy, to run together but not be tied or tired. Our aim is to find a way to harmonize, to make music and a song that is urgent and necessary but also beautiful – it is prefigurative, yet cannot be prefigured. So we must begin by making noise and finding resonance, embodying it. We know that those who find beauty in this song or utility may seek to make it their own but this will be a different song. Sound travels but it does not stay the same we try to find a common music but we do not play the same notes.
We return to the river, the one we never left. Knowing we were not outside it but in it, swimming in the under currents trying to find a flow that is shared but cannot be the same. A flow that others will join that will change the course of the river. We struggle against the current, we fail sometimes but we try to name an ethos – a common intention for action. The naming or voicing takes work and is ongoing, dynamic it is human and must be sustained consciously or it will be alienated. We must play individually and together like jazz musicians in relation to one another. So pick up your instrument and raise your voice to make a sound in common. Be ready to play some bad notes and forgive yourself and others because the music changes and so does the river.
This story is an academic fiction, an individual reflection and interpretation of the discussions and thinking that have taken place during the workshop on degrowth/post-growth organisation that took place in Pontevedra, April 12th -14th 2023.
David Watson (Norwich Business School, University of East Anglia).
*the misplacement of gender pronoun in the first sentence is deliberate.