Blood, Strawberries: Accumulation by Dispossession and Austere Violence against Migrant Workers in Greece

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“Anna Carastathis, (2014), Blood, Strawberries: Accumulation by Dispossession and Austere Violence against Migrant Workers in Greece, World Economics Association (WEA) Conferences, No. 2 2014, Greece and Austerity Policies: Where Next for its Economy and Society?, 20th October to 21st December 2014”

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Rendered vulnerable to hyper-exploitation through the process of precarious migration, migrant workers are coerced and disciplined by systemically violent means by the state, the para- state, and capital. However, the conditions facing migrant workers are mystified by racist discourses that structure commonly held perceptions of the relationships among migration, crisis, and austerity. Migrants are often blamed by the Greek public for contributing to Greek unemployment and draining domestic resources, particularly in a period of “crisis.” Greek impoverishment has been widely used to justify the rise in racist attitudes and the political ascent of Golden Dawn. But the crisis did not generate racism in Greek society—even if it did supply a justifying discourse to naturalise it. Moreover, austerity politics targets migrants and other marginalised groups in ways that routinely go unexamined through a methodologically nationalist frame that constructs Greek citizens as the “authentic” victims of crisis and of austerity measures. In this essay, I examine how institutionalised violence against migrant workers, enabled by their precarisation and social death, is an integral part of the valorisation process in austere capitalism, securing “accumulation by dispossession.” My point of departure in this essay is the violent attack in Nea Manolada on 17 April 2013, during which foremen of a strawberry farm aimed hunting rifles and opened fire on over 200 migrant fruit pickers who were demanding the pay owed to them (approximately €200,000), injuring at least 35 people. Two of the four accused assailants—including the owner of the agricultural operation Vangelatos SA—were exonerated by the court, while the other two received relatively “light” sentences for reduced charges. I examine the ways in which the state, supranational institutions, and capital collude in the exploitation and disciplining of migrant workers under conditions of crisis, austerity, and a global war on migration.

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