I am interested in the relationships between art and political economy. I structure my fieldworks as performative research interventions, combining anthropology, visual art and critical pedagogy reflecting on the power relations entangled in the ethnographic encounter. I look on the role of art institutions and cultural organizations in relation to the bio-politics and political economy of late capitalism.
In my approach to research, theory and practice intertwines. My practice being situated at the intersection of pedagogy, art and activism which I explore from within projects I co-initiated like the Institute of Radical Imagination and the Laboratory of Urban Commons, which aim at co-producing research, knowledge, artistic and political research-interventions to implement post-capitalist forms of life based on the idea that art is political prefiguration and political prefiguration is art.
- PhD in Social Anthropology, London School of Economics 2003
- MSc (Master of Science) in Social Anthropology, London School of Economics 1998
- Laurea in Business Economics with First Class Honours in Organisational Behaviour. Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi, Milan 1996
- Visiting Semester in Finance, Harvard University 1992
Teaching and Supervision
- Lecturer and Convenor: Ethnographic Film and Cinema Studies; Economic and Political Anthropology 1 & 2 - MA SOCIAL ANTHROPOLOGY
- Lecturer and Convenor: Politics, Economics and Social Change - BA (Hons) ANTHROPOLOGY
- Lecturer and Convenor: Anthropology of Art 1; Economic and Political Anthropology 1 & 2; Ethnographic Film and Cinema Studies - MA VISUAL ANTHROPOLOGY
- Lecturer and Convenor: Politics, Economics and Social Change; Anthropology of Art 1 - BA (Hons) ANTHROPOLOGY AND VISUAL PRACTICE
- PhD Supervision: Catrina Schwenderer. Catherine Nugent. Yathukulan Yogarajha. Bianca Griffani. Dyonisia Milonaki.
- Post-doctorates Supervision: Alina-Sandra Cucu.
For twenty years I have been conducting anthropological research on contemporary capitalism, especially on industrialisation\de-industrialisation, work, and class inequality.My fieldworks are critical engagements with narratives of development, modernity and industrialisation both in the global South and in the global North.
During my first long-term fieldwork In Sheffield, I lived for one year in a dilapidated neighbourhood and worked in two local steel plants, looking at how the British working class coped with deindustrialization in the post-Thatcher/New Labour era.
In 2008 I began a decade-long research project in Volta Redonda, a Brazilian steel-town, with a year-long fieldwork living in a favela researching in the biggest steel complex in Latin America. The research unpacks three central political and economic themes of our times: the ongoing underdevelopment of the Global South, the feminisation and racialisation of labour, and the global collapse of left-wing populism and the rise of illiberalism.
I structure my fieldwork as conversations between theory and art practices. In Sheffield, I wrote and directed Steel Lives (1999) a film about the work and lives of some steelworker, which I edited collectively and screened in various local and international political venues. My film Steel Town (2013), in collaboration with artist Daria Martin and a Brazilian director from Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed, interrogates issues of class and race in contemporary Brazilian through the language of melodrama and telenovelas, and in the context of the urban favela where he conducted fieldwork.
My last project ‘Oiler’ (2016) made with Anne-Marthe Dyvi, documents the construction of an oil platform on an island in the west coast of Norway. The film follows the worsening of labour relations in the context of the global collapse of the prices of crude oil and its impact on the so-called Norwegian social democratic model.
Mollona, Massimiliano. 2019. Brazilian Steel Town: Machines, Land, Money and Commoning in the Making of the Working Class. New York: Berghahn Books. ISBN 9781789204339
Mollona, Massimiliano. 2009. Industrial Work and Life: An Anthropological Reader. london: berg. ISBN 978-1847880741
Mollona, Massimiliano. 2009. Made in Sheffield. An Ethnography of Industrial Work and Politics. oxford: Berghahn. ISBN 978-1-84545-551-4
Kalb, Don and Mollona, Massimiliano, eds. 2018. Worldwide Mobilisations: Class Struggles and Urban Commoning. New York: Berghahn Books. ISBN 9781785339066
Mollona, Massimiliano. 2020. Working-class cinema in the age of digital capitalism. In: Leo Panitch and Greg Albo, eds. Beyond Digital Capitalism: New Ways of Living. London: Merlin Press, pp. 153-174. ISBN 9781583678831
Mollona, Massimiliano. 2019. Labor and Land Struggles in a Brazilian Steel Town: The Reorganization of Capital under Neo-Extractivism. In: Jan Breman; Kevan Harriss; Ching Kwan Lee and Marcel van der Linden, eds. The Social Question in the Twenty-First Century: A Global View. Oakland, California: University of California Press, pp. 134-151. ISBN 9780520302402
Mollona, Massimiliano. 2015. Anthropology and class. A view from a Brazilian barrio (9. Working-class politics in a Brazilian steel town). In: James Carrier and Don Kalb, eds. Anthropologies of Class: Power, Practice, and Inequality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107087415
Mollona, Massimiliano. 2013. Factory Labour or the end of Labour? Anthropological reflections on labour value. In: Maurizio Atzeni, ed. Workers and Labour in a Globalised Capitalism: Contemporary Themes and Theoretical Issues’. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0230303171
Mollona, Massimiliano. 2018. ARTCOMMONS. The Legacy of Nam June Paik for the Museum of the Commons. NJP Reader(8), pp. 165-180. ISSN 2092-9315
Mollona, Massimiliano. 2014. ‘Seen the invisible: Maya Deren’s experiments in cinematic trance’. October, 149(Summer), pp. 159-180. ISSN 0162-2870
Mollona, Massimiliano and Santana, Marco Aurélio. 2013. ‘Trabalho e ação coletiva: memória, espaço e identidades sociais na cidade do aço’. Horizontes Antropologicos, 19(39), pp. 125-148. ISSN 0104-7183
Mollona, Massimiliano. 2013. Observation, performance and revolution: exploring “the political” in visual art and anthropology. Visual Anthropology, 26(1), pp. 34-50. ISSN 0894-9468
Mollona, Massimiliano. 2009. Community Unionism, Business Unionism: Two Strategies, the Same Phoenix. American Ethnologist, 36(4), pp. 651-666. ISSN 0094-0496
Ahrens, Thomas and Mollona, Massimiliano. 2007. Organisational control as cultural practice: a shop floor ethnography of a Sheffield steel mill. Accounting Organizations and Society, 32(4-5), pp. 305-331. ISSN 03613682
Mollona, Massimiliano. 2005. Factory, family and neighbourhood. The political economy of informal labour in Sheffield. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 11(3), pp. 527-548. ISSN 13590987
Mollona, Massimiliano. 2005. Gifts of Labour: Steel Production and Technological Imagination in an Area of Urban Deprivation, Sheffield, UK. Critique of Anthropology, 25(2), pp. 177-198. ISSN 0308275X
Mollona, Massimiliano. 2017. Athens Biennale Artistic director and Programme Director. In: "Athens Biennale", Athens, Greece, 2015-2017.
Further profile content
ART/COMMONS Anthropology Beyond Capitalism - Zed Books ISBN13 9781786996985
Art/Commons is the first book to theorise the commons from the perspectives of contemporary art history and anthropology, focusing on the ongoing tensions between art and capitalism.
Brazilian Steel Town: Machines, Land, Money and Commoning in the Making of the Working Class - New York: Berghahn Books ISBN 9781789204339
Volta Redonda is a Brazilian steel town founded in the 1940s symbol of Brazilian modernization. The story of the people tied to this ailing giant - of their fears, hopes, and everyday struggles.
Worldwide Mobilisations: Class Struggles and Urban Commoning - New York: Berghahn Books. ISBN 9781785339066
The book examines cases of mobilization across the globe, in a Marxian class framework, open to the diverse and multi-scalar dynamics of urban politics, especially of struggles for spatial justice.
ArtCommons. The Legacy of Nam June Paik for the Museum of the Commons - NJP Reader(8), pp. 165-180. ISSN 2092-9315
Experimenting the ‘commons model’ as a new ontology to unfold as a communication method, from thinking about 'after the future' to further discuss the common movement in the art scene worldwide.
Industrial Work and Life: An Anthropological Reader - London Berg. ISBN 978-1847880741
With readings by key writers from a range of backgrounds and disciplines, Industrial Work and Life is the essential introduction to the study of industrialisation in different societies.
Current projects include:
1) DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations). Collective work on blockchain technology Collaboration with Samson Young for the Para Site Gallery (Hong Kong): with sound artist Samson Young I am working on a cryptocurrency prototype aimed at managing complex compositional arrangements.
2) Amazon Critical Observatory. Collaboration with Max Haiven, Cassie Thornton and Brett Wallace.
3) Building an Indigenous Art Residency. Collaboration with Elizabeth Povinelli: with Elizabeth Povinelli and the Karrabing collective I am developing an indigenous residency in Belyuen (Australia) to promote indigenous rights to local sacred sites.
In 2015-2017 I was Artistic and Programme Director of the Athens Biennale: "How can art and cultural institutions contribute to this moment of radical change? How can they rethink their traditional institutional structures and build grassroots, discursive, dispersed and processual forms of cultural production? Building on its tradition of independent, cross-disciplinary and discursive cultural institution, under Mollona's directorship, the Athens Biennale run over two years through an ongoing programme of residencies, talks and laboratories in key neighborhoods of Athens. Within the framework of “OMONOIA” the Biennale hosted various cultural and activist groups that deal with issues of coproduction, self-organisation and urban commoning and also function as an institutional space where the realm of the political is reframed through the lenses of art."
In 2016 I co-founded The Institute of Radical Imagination, a group of curators, activists, scholars and cultural producers with a shared interest in co-producing research, knowledge, artistic and political research-interventions aimed at implementing post-capitalist forms of life
In 2016 for the Bergen Assembly, together with the Collective Freethought I co-curated "The End of Oil" which explores possible scenarios associated with the decline of the oil-based economy in Norway. With the prosperity of the oil-boom years likely coming to an end and society finding itself on the brink of an infrastructural change, these scenarios relate to questions about our relationship with nature in a wider sense."
As film maker I realised "oilers" together with Anne Marthe Dyvi in 2015; "The Unlearning" in 2013 together with Theresa Wong and Daria Martin; SteelTown in 2013 together with Daria Martin; "Steel Lives" in 2005
Goldsmiths Research Centres/Groups
Conferences and talks
Experiences of Oil
Stavanger Art Museum
Abolitionism: towards alternative modes of study - Panel Mao Mollona, Eli Meyerhoff; Max Haiven, Abigail Boggs, Nick Mitchell, Zach Schwartz-Weinste
Institute of Radical Imagination - The School of Mutation - Radical Pedagogy
Popular education and knowledge in commons - with Mao Mollona, Rebecca Tarlau, Lea Ana Blaustein, Zeynep Tul Sualp, Alessandro Mariano
Institute of Radical Imagination - The School of Mutation - Radical Pedagogy
Plunder of the commons: A manifesto for sharing public wealth. With Guy Standing
Goldsmiths College, London
International symposium on Universal Basic Income
Federal Fluminense University, Rio de Janeiro
Public symposium on extractivism Brazilian Steeltown. Machines, Land, Money and Commoning in the Making of the Working Class
Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
The “end of History” comes at the end of the Radical Imagination. A polyphonic reflection on Action-Research
Intergrated 2019, St Lucas School of Arts Antwerp
Open school for militant Research
Institute of Radical Imagination & Laboratory for the Urban Commons (LUC), Athens
Chto Delat in conversation
Goldsmiths College, London
Urban activism and new municipalism Workshop with Massimo de Angelis
Goldsmiths College, London
CLIMAVORE. Seasonal Drift
Other Futures. Anthropology, Energy and Life After Capitalism
Centre for Climate and Energy Transformation, Bergen
The legacy of Nam June Paik for the museum of the commons
Nam June Paik Art Centre in Yongin, South Korea
Bolsonaro. Dictatorship Redux?
Federal University in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
Of slavery and Capitalism
London School of Economics
Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm
Journées Jean Rouch
Museo delle Belle Arti, Palermo, Italy
Symposium: "Art at the borders: Spacial Politics and Post-colonial Strategies in the Middle-East"
Onassis Cultural Center, Athens
Closed workshop on Inequality with Ching Kwan Lee and Ian Breman
University of California, Los Angeles
Screening of Steel Lives and Steel-Town and Q&A with artist Daria Martin and Professor Andrea Phillips
Tate Britain, London
Who is a “People?” Constructions of the “We” - Panel discussion with a.o. Massimiliano Mollona, Jan Breman
Former West, BAK, Basis voor Actuele Kunst, Utrecht, Nederland
The Commons as the Survival of the ”Public” - Panel discussion with Mark Fisher, Massimiliano Mollona, Andrea Phillips
BAK, Basis voor Actuele Kunst, Utrecht, Nederland
Grants and awards
Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm
Art Spaces as a Space for Politics. Council, Paris
Solidarity Academies. Council, Paris
4-years Institute of Radical Imagination. Foundation for the Arts Initiative (FfAI)
Laboratory for the Urban Commons. Foundation for the Arts Initiative
International Festival of Ethnographic Films
Commendation to Steel life. Royal Anthropological Institute, Durham
Society for Applied Anthropology, Oklahoma City
Wiley-Blackwell Student Film Prize
Royal Anthropological Institute Radcliffe-Brown and Firth Award