The Pirate Care Project

Pirate Care is a transnational research project and a network of activists, scholars and practitioners who stand against the criminalization of solidarity & for a common care infrastructure.

Pirate Care researches, gathers & nourishes those care initiatives which are taking risks by operating in the narrow grey zones left open between different knowledges, institutions and laws, inviting all to participate in a exploration of the mutual implications of care and technology that dare questioning the ideology of private property, work and metrics.

Neoliberal policies have for the last two decades re-organised the basic care provisions that were previously considered cornerstones of democratic life - healthcare, housing, access to knowledge, right to asylum, freedom of mobility, social benefits, etc. - turning them into tools for surveilling, excluding and punishing the most vulnerable. The name Pirate Care refers to those initiatives that have emerged in opposition to such political climate by self-organising technologically-enabled care & solidarity networks.

Who we are

In Rijeka, Pirate Care is organised by:

Valeria Graziano works as a research fellow at the Centre for Postdigital Cultures, Coventry University. She is a member of the Postoffice Research Group and of the Network for Institutional Analysis (UK). Her research looks at the organization of cultural practices that foster the refusal to work and the possibility of political pleasure.Recently, she co-editor of 'Repair Matters', a special issue of ephemera: theory & politics in organisation (May 2019) and co-authored with Marcell Mars and Tomislav Medak β€˜Learning from #Syllabus’ (in: State Machines, Institute of Network Cultures, 2019)

Marcell Mars is a research fellow at the Centre for Postdigital Cultures. Mars is one of the founders of Multimedia Institute/MAMA in Zagreb. His research Ruling Class Studies, started at the Jan van Eyck Academy (2011), examines state-of-the-art digital innovation, adaptation, and intelligence created by corporations such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, and eBay. He is a doctoral student at Digital Cultures Research Lab at Leuphana University, writing a thesis on Foreshadowed Libraries. Together with Tomislav Medak he founded Memory of the World/Public Library, for which he develops and maintains software infrastructure.

Tomislav Medak is a doctoral student at the Centre for Postdigital Cultures. Medak is a member of the theory and publishing team of the Multimedia Institute/MAMA in Zagreb, as well as an amateur librarian for the Memory of the World/Public Library project. His research focuses on technologies, capitalist development, and postcapitalist transition, particularly on economies of intellectual property and unevenness of technoscience. He authored two short volumes: The Hard Matter of Abstractionβ€”A Guidebook to Domination by Abstraction and Shit Tech for A Shitty World. Together with Marcell Mars he co-edited β€˜Public Library’ and β€˜Guerrilla Open Access’.

Concept

Punitive neoliberalism (Davies, 2016)1 has been repurposing, rather than dismantling, welfare state provisions such as healthcare, income support, housing and education (Cooper, 2017: 314)2. This mutation is reintroducing 'poor laws' of a colonial flavour, deepening the lines of discrimination between citizens and non-citizens (Mitropoulos, 2012: 27)3, and reframing the family unit as the sole bearer of responsibility for dependants.

However, against this background of institutionalised 'negligence' (Harney & Moten, 2013: 31)4, a growing wave of mobilizations around care can be witnessed across a number of diverse examples: the recent Docs Not Cops campaign in the UK, refusing to carry out documents checks on migrant patients; migrant-rescue boats (such as those operated by Sea-Watch) that defy the criminalization of NGOs active in the Mediterranean; and the growing resistance to homelessness via the reappropriation of houses left empty by speculators (like PAH in Spain); the defiance of legislation making homelessness illegal (such as Hungary's reform of October 2018) or municipal decrees criminalizing helping out in public space (e.g. Food Not Bombs' volunteers arrested in 2017).

On the other hand, we can see initiatives experimenting with care as collective political practices have to operate in the narrow grey zones left open between different technologies, institutions and laws in an age some fear is heading towards 'total bureaucratization' (Graeber, 2015: 30)5. For instance, in Greece, where the bureaucratic measures imposed by the Troika decimated public services, a growing number of grassroots clinics set up by the Solidarity Movement have responded by providing medical attention to those without a private insurance. In Italy, groups of parents without recourse to public childcare are organizing their own pirate kindergartens (Soprasotto), reviving a feminist tradition first experimented with in the 1970s. In Spain, the feminist collective GynePunk developed a biolab toolkit for emergency gynaecological care, to allow all those excluded from the reproductive medical services β€Š-β€Š such as trans or queer women, drug users and sex workersβ€Š -β€Što perform basic checks on their own bodily fluids. Elsewhere, the collective Women on Waves delivers abortion pills from boats harboured in international waters - and more recently, via drones - to women in countries where this option is illegal.

Thus pirate care, seen in the light of these processes - choosing illegality or existing in the grey areas of the law in order to organize solidarity - takes on a double meaning: Care as Piracy and Piracy as Care (Graziano, 2018)6.

There is a need to revisit piracy and its philosophical implications - such as sharing, openness, decentralization, free access to knowledge and tools (Hall, 2016)7 - in the light of transformations in access to social goods brought about by digital networks. It is important to bring into focus the modes of intervention and political struggle that collectivise access to welfare provisions as acts of custodianship (Custodians.online, 2015)8 and commoning (Caffentzis & Federici, 2014)9. As international networks of tinkerers and hackers are re-imagining their terrain of intervention, it becomes vital to experiment with a changed conceptual framework that speaks of the importance of the digital realm as a battlefield for the re-appropriation of the means not only of production, but increasingly, of social reproduction (GutiΓ©rrez Aguilar et al., 2016)10. More broadly, media representations of these dynamics - for example in experimental visual arts and cinema - are of key importance. Bringing the idea of pirate ethics into resonance with contemporary modes of care thus invites different ways of imagining a paradigm change, sometimes occupying tricky positions vis-Γ -vis the law and the status quo.

The present moment requires a non-oppositional and nuanced approach to the mutual implications of care and technology (Mol et al., 2010: 14)11, stretching the perimeters of both. And so, while the seminal definition of care distilled by Joan Tronto and Berenice Fisher sees it as 'everything that we do to maintain, continue, and repair "our world" so that we can live in it as well as possible' (Tronto & Fisher, 1990: 40)12, contemporary feminist materialist scholars such as Maria Puig de La Bellacasa feel the need to modify these parameters to include 'relations [that] maintain and repair a world so that humans and non-humans can live in it as well as possible in a complex life-sustaining web' (Puig de La Bellacasa, 2017: 97)13. It is in this spirit that we propose to examine how can we learn to compose (Stengers, 2015)14 answers to crises across a range of social domains, and alongside technologies and care practices.


  1. Davies, W., 2016. 'The new neoliberalism'. New Left Review (101), 121--134

  2. Cooper, M., 2017. Family values: Between neoliberalism and the new social conservatism. MIT Press.

  3. Mitropoulos, A., 2012. Contract & contagion: From biopolitics to oikonomia. Minor Compositions.

  4. Harney, S. and Moten, F., 2013. The undercommons: Fugitive planning and black study, Minor Compositions.

  5. Graeber, D., 2015. The utopia of rules: On technology, stupidity, and the secret joys of bureaucracy_. Melville House.

  6. Graziano, V. 2018. 'Pirate Care - How do we imagine the health care for the future we want?', Medium, 5th October https://medium.com/dsi4eu/pirate-care-how-do-we-imagine-the-health-care-for-the-future-we-want-fa7f71a7a21.

  7. Hall, G., 2016. Pirate philosophy: for a digital posthumanities. MIT Press.

  8. Custodians Online, 2015. 'In solidarity with Library Genesis and Sci-Hub', 30th November, http://custodians.online/.

  9. Caffentzis, G. and Federici, S., 2014. 'Commons against and beyond capitalism'. Community Development Journal, 49(suppl_1), pp.i92-i105.

  10. GutiΓ©rrez Aguilar R., Linsalata L. and M.L.N. Trujillo, 2016. 'Producing the common and reproducing life: Keys towards rethinking the Political.' in Social Sciences for an Other Politics, ed. A. Dinerstein, Palgrave Macmillan.

  11. Mol, A., Moser, I. and Pols, J. eds., 2015. Care in practice: On tinkering in clinics, homes and farms. transcript Verlag.

  12. Fisher, B. and J. C. Tronto, 1990. 'Toward a feminist theory of care', in Circles of Care: Work and identity in women's lives, eds. Emily K. Abel and Margaret K. Nelson, Albany: SUNY Press.

  13. de La Bellacasa, M.P., 2017. Matters of care: Speculative ethics in more than human worlds. University of Minnesota Press.

  14. Stengers, I. (2015) In catastrophic times: Resisting the coming barbarism. Open Humanities Press.