09 2016

They Were, Those People, a Kind of Solution

They Were, Those People, a Kind of Solution


Do you remember the Gastarbeiter, the figure of the migrant worker that circulated through the world of late industrial modernity, with which it seems to have disappeared forever? It was created in order to temporarily bridge gaps in the economic system of Western European Capitalism. At the same time it was also a symptom of its early economic and political ruptures. Emerging from the problematic interstices and inequalities of the “developed” North and chronically “underdeveloped” South, between “center” and “periphery,” and originally occupying a legally regulated space (and time) of European constitutional democracies, the Gastarbeiter can be seen today as a sort of avant-garde figure that stood at the crossroads of the ideologically hybrid and shifting frontiers between capitalism and socialism. This early messenger of global transformation highlights not only the collapse of socialism and the development of a global neoliberal capitalism, it also points to the inner contradictions of the latter that have developed into a full-fledged crisis in recent years, which have, not by chance, found their dramatic political expression in the current so-called "crisis" of refugees and migrants. The old figure of the Gastarbeiter therefore seems to be at the very core of a hidden genealogy of today’s "crisis" – making it necessary to disclose this genealogy across old and new ideological divides and political interests and to thus reconnect our present with the past in order to not only understand the current "crisis" but to open the prospect of a new, different future.

They WereThose People, a Kind of Solution is an attempt at mapping the continuities between the Gastarbeiter tradition of the 1960s/70s and its contemporary reincarnations. The project focuses on ever-changing strategies of dealing with the challenges of migration, which have developed alongside the priorities of filtering economic migration, such as integration or differential inclusion. In order to create a critical historical experience that can highlight emancipatory potentials of the present, we will address the transformations of labor that have developed and have been foreshadowed by the Gastarbeiter; the economic, political, and ideological divides and filtration of migration in Europe today – with a special focus on the role of knowledge economy; the neoliberal feminization of labor and the role of gender in the transformations of labor, such as care work; and the manifold encounters between different generations and experiences of labor migration since the time of the Gastarbeiter.

Co-operation Partners
What, How & for Whom/WHW, Zagreb
Tensta konsthall, Stockholm
eipcp, Vienna
Centre for Peace Studies (CMS), Zagreb

Upcoming public event:

They'll Never Walk Alone: Remembering Gastarbeiters in the Neoliberal Age
6-7 October 2017
Depot, Breitegasse 3, 1070 Vienna



Day 1: Friday, 6 October 2017

10.00 – 10.30    Introduction and welcome
Boris Buden, Lina Dokuzović

Panel I: 10.30 – 13.30 An avant-garde figure or a role model? The relevance of Gastarbeiters today.
Boris Buden, Jana Dolečki, Jon Solomon, Manuela Bojadžijev

13.30 – 14.30 Lunch break

14.30 – 15.00 Screening GUESTures (GOSTIkulacije) 2011 (two-channel HD video, 33min) by Margareta Kern

Panel II, 15.00 – 17.30 Marginalized and invisible experiences – women Gastarbeiters and queer flight.
Katja Kobolt, Margareta Kern, Ana Hoffner, Amir Hodžić

17.30 – 17.45 Short break

17.45 – 18.30 Discussion

Day 2: Saturday, 7 October

Panel III, 14.00 – 16.30 Rethinking "guests" and "workers" in post-Fordist forms of labor mobility.
Lina Dokuzović, Monika Mokre, Stefan Nowotny, Keti Chukhrov

16.30 – 16.45 Short break

16.45 – 17.30 Discussion

17.30 – 19.30 Multilingual discussion and exchange of experiences, challenges, and knowledges of migration. Open to everyone.

19.30 Closing statement and performance by the choir HOR 29. Novembar, singing Gastarbeiter songs.

Join us for drinks and continue an informal discussion.


They were, those people, a kind of solution is co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union. The eipcp's participation in this project is also supported by The Arts and Culture Division of the Federal Chancellery of Austria.

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They Were, Those People, a Kind of Solution