Training: Researching Post-Capitalist Possibilities (Community Economies Winter School)

From the 1-9 June 2022, I developed my skills in community focussed research by signing up for the Community Economies Summer/Winter School. This year the school was titled “Researching Post-Capitalist Possibilities”

The picture above is my class (I’m top left, our teacher is top centre and the rest are my lovely classmates!).

Until I lived in in a small regional place like Armidale, I had always considered my community-facing practice “live art” or “practice based research”. This is a combination of context and community. The context of living in the city meant what counted as art was expanded, the community that recognised that expanded definition of art practice was larger and the opportunities for community-facing creative practice were more abundant. In other words, on the whole it was easier to justify certain activities as live art, performance or creative-practice research. Or, perhaps, because of the variety of outlets for different activities I did not really have to think about it too hard. The latter is likely the most-true for me since, I was trained in more traditional scholarly disciplines and held jobs in English and Cultural Studies departments. Creative practice was neither a central part of my university education nor teaching employment.

Moving to Armidale and losing that context and community, I started to conceptualise the work I did in community more explicitly as community outreach and information sharing. This was not because I don’t think it can be thought of as art, but that actually this was the way it made sense to the audience or community. It didn’t make as much sense as art, it made more sense as a little stall. I could more easily situate the work as a pop-up info-stall sharing information in the form of both concepts and practical methods. But in all instances (either as art or community outreach), I wasn’t really conceptualising and designing it as research.

After moving to Armidale, I met Dr Nicolette Larder who had affiliations with the Community Economies Research Network (CERN). Nikki told me that my work, especially this project (CoWS), sits almost directly in the conceptual and methodological space of community economies. She insisted that I didn’t have to create a theory to justify my practice as hybrid arts-community work, but I could be part of this expanded network and learn from those already doing it. With the support of Nikki and Dr Declan Kuch (who had also said my work fitted this profile literally years and years ago, but I wasn’t ready to hear it!), I was made a member of CERN in 2020. I had read dribs and drabs of CERN materials, but when I saw the call for the Summer/Winter school falling at the end of a non-teaching term, the timing seemed ripe/right to take up the opportunity to immerse myself in the thinking and the methods of CERN and in particular the work of J.K Gibson-Graham.

Signing up for the Winter School (Southern Hemisphere!) was a bit life changing, but in a way you don’t expect when you’re mid-career and the life change or conceptual expansion happens within your existing life, job and career. That is, what the CE Winter School gave me was a way of thinking about, conceptualising and designing the work of CoWS (as it is and what it could become) in low-key, small-scale, not-for-profit economic terms. It still can be creative practice and research, but it also can be economic activity. But, most importantly, as research work that is participating in the economy, with careful research-design it can be economic activity in a non-gentrifying and anti-capitialist sense as well. That is, as economic activity it can be underpinned by the principles of a different surplus-distribution model that allows for the work to be planned and executed in both economic and anti-capitalist terms, and be legitimately economic and communitarian even on a small scale. This is via understanding the work in the economic theory of J.K. Gibson-Graham that fuses post-structuralist feminism and queer theory with what they call “anti-essentialist marxism”.

What was striking for me that I didn’t fully appreciate before doing this course is that J.K Gibson-Graham are cut from the same cloth as most of my own feminist teachers and influences (working within the traditions of post-structuralist feminism, queer theory, queer affect theory and Buddhism). What they add to this tradition of thinking that is so transformative for my work, is the extensive and rigorous economic theorisation.

I was lucky enough to have the inimitable Dr Jenny Cameron as my teacher. Being in the position of student is such a luxury, one that is sapped a little of its magic by the ever-increasing fee structures in degree programs, but one I nevertheless got to experience again via this school. Jenny is an incredible teacher whose flipped classroom experience made the whole thing hand on, on the job learning. We had hours of the day for reading and we’d come together to talk it through and apply it to activities. All the students were so deeply engaged in their different research, but we all had common interests in practice, or practical solutions but also did yet have the ways to conceptualise it in order to build into a bigger research program or enterprise.

Two of the main ideas that have really stuck with me in the spirit of “researching post-capitalist possibilities” were the idea of “diverse economies” and also “class as a process”. Tying these two concepts together, is the notion that who has control control over the distribution of surplus is a key determinant of the difference between participating in established capitalist norms and practicing post-capitalist possibilities.

The idea of “diverse economies” is important because (for the uninitiated) we tend to think of the economy in monolithic terms it is either one or the other of the big economic systems (either capitalist or communist, for example). And this trap means that small activities that do transform the economy are routinely disregarded and devalued. In practice, multiple diverse economic activities co-exist side by side (even within the same household or community or city, or even in an “over-determined sense” within the same economic activity). That rather than needing to transform the whole via a large-scale revolt, we can take a more incremental approach and practice anti-capitalist economic activity at virtually any moment. The revolution is already here (and, potentially, in progress). It aligns with the maxim “start where you are, use what you have, do what you can” which I learned from the artists who started Milkwood Permaculture, but it is also a quote from Arthur Ashe!

I think this idea is really powerful. I don’t think it should be an excuse to avoid engaging in more large-scale activist activities or agitations, but as a complement to that work it seems vital and grounded and practical.

The idea of “class as a process” is also very powerful: “class is a process of producing, appropriating and distributing surplus labour. Surplus labour is what workers produce above and beyond what they need to survive” (“Framing the essay: the diversity of enterprise” from The Handbook of Diverse Economies, Jenny Cameron, 26). Class only emerges out of this relational practice, once basic subsistence needs have been met. Identifying the diverse forms of control of the distribution of surplus is the key to defining the economic diversity in material and political terms, and materially changing the world. That is, all economic activity is in the first instance about subsistence, and it also all is about surplus. A large supermarket provides food for a town, but the board of directors control the surplus. A community run co-op can produce enough food for the community, but there will usually also be a bit extra and it is who gets to make the decision about what’s done with the extra that matters and defines the style of economy. The real potential lies in the community control of the surplus.

I recently wrote some rules for CoWS as an unincorporated association. The main idea was that the funding for CoWS is redistributed to either whoever does the core work delivering an activity (a performer at a show, a facilitator of a workshop) or for other event related expenses (for a dinner or gathering, room hire, insurance etc). I do not receive any income. I can think about CoWS as an Ancient class process according to this scheme, because at the moment it is income generated by my own research activities and event organising, and I choose to redirect it into this community activities that relate to CoWS mission. As the unincorporated association grows and formalises over the coming year (if it does), CoWS will turn into a facilitator of communal class processes because the collective will decide what we do with the income from events and grants. This doesn’t change the whole economy of Armidale or the world (or even my life) but contributes to the necessary diversity of the economy required to build a fullsome post-capitalist politics.

For more on this work investigate the range of videos available on the Community Economies Insitutute Youtube channel:

The Armidale Climate and Health Project

How can we build community connections and resilience in the face of climate change, improve our health and put Indigenous knowledge at the centre? We’re running a series of workshops and a community festival addressing this question, and building local knowledge and skills. The challenge of this project is how to keep the big scale picture in view when addressing the small scale issue, and vice versa. Given this is a community project with limited resources, we are primarily guided by the concerns of Aboriginal people and frontline Aboriginal health care workers. The workshops will be:

  1. Deconstructing Fences: Decolonising property and the conservation estate by opening new pathways for access to Country.
  2. Food Justice for Armidale: Designing an environmental justice-based food movement in Armidale and centring Aboriginal health issues and self-determination.
  3. Environmental Education for Future Medical Professionals: A year-long UNE student medical challenge to get students dreaming about future community-scaled climate and health project.
  4. Walking Armidale’s Urban Waterways: connecting with healthy and sick local water systems and common lands, and learn about local pre- and post-colonial hydrological history in a series of community walks.
  5. Supporting Armajun Health Service’s Employment Programs: Supporting frontline healthcare workers to connect rehab and work training programs with environmental rehabilitation and caring for Country.

This is a partnership between the Community Weathering Station, Armajun Aboriginal Health Service, University of New England and Sustainable Living Armidale. It’s made possible by an AdaptNSW – Increasing Resilience to Climate Change community grant. Facilitated by Dr Jennifer Hamilton (PhD) and Dr Sujata Allan (MBBS, FRAGCP). With key community collaborators including: Uncle Steve Widders, Callum Clayton Dixon, Tanya Howard, New England Regional Art Museum and Winter Blooming Festival, Black Gully Festival, UNE’s School of Rural Health and School of Humanites, Arts and Social Sciences.

We had a small COVID-Safe and COVID-limited launch on a freezing cold day in late September 2020. The program is downloadable here! This began to mobilise the community around the idea. Photos below by Patsy Asch.

We Weathered Everything

Weathering Everything: A Mini-Symposium was on the 3rd and 4th March in 2020. Weathering is a concept that names the embodied experience of weather over time, and in focusing on duration, accumulation and repetition, weathering links bodies to climate change. Weathering also names bodily difference as we all weather the world differently. The recent events of summer 2019-2020 and the exclamations that 2020 be “cancelled” as a year meant that the non-specific mandate of the weathering collective’s activities came into its own. Which is to say, “we are always weathering”. And we are always weathering everything. That said there are specific ethical orientations to our work we want to take serious.

In 2016 the weathering collective first convened at Ingar Dam in the Blue Mountains. Since then, a series of informal to formal activities have ensued. The primary purpose of the weathering collective has emerged as experiments in activating theory – the concept of weathering – in a range of ways. This particular trip was both the same and different in that it was the first time where we really framed these activities in the form of a symposium. The activities were, ultimately, methods – methods for researching the embodied experience of weathering and methods for disseminating the research.

Dr Astrida Neimanis from the University of Sydney and Tessa Zettel, and independent artist, travelled to Armidale to participate. Below is photographic documentation of the two days we spent together and the variety of activities we engaged in: a hike, a public lecture, a breakfast, a reading group, and a workshop.

Weathering Everything: Mini-Symposium (Program)

With Dr Astrida Neimanis (USYD), Tessa Zettel (Artist-Researcher), and Dr Jennifer Hamilton (UNE)


Tuesday, March 3: 5.00 – 7pm – Public Lecture: Dr Astrida Neimanis “We are all bodies of water; we are always weathering” at Oorala Lecture Theatre, University of New England, Armidale Campus.

The summer of 2019/2020 was marked by extreme weather events involving too little, then too much, water. These meteorological and hydrological crises are linked to bigger planetary changes, but we also experience them as bodies: we are all bodies of water, and we are all bodies of weather. How we experience these events—and how we contribute to them–are tied to our specific historical, social, cultural and geographical locations in the world. In this lecture Astrida Neimanis offers a watery foray into over a decade of research that brings together feminist theory, place-based thinking, embodied research methods, and our current environmental situation. How might understanding ourselves as bodies of water help us weather these troubling times in more socially just and ecologically attuned ways? If you are not on campus, join via Zoom:

Astrida Neimanis is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney and a Key Researcher with the Sydney Environment Institute. Her research interests include posthuman feminisms, experimental writing methods, nature/culture, water, climate change, environmental humanities, environmental justice, embodiment, (bio)coloniality, biotechnologies and feminist STS. She is particularly interested in the common and queer intersections of these things. Her book Bodies of Water: Posthuman Feminist Phenomenology is available Open Access via Bloomsbury Collections


Wednesday, March 4: 7.30am-9am – Community Weathering Station Breakfast, Lake Madgwick UNE Armidale Campus

This is a free event where we gather by a stormwater lake, eat and drink and think about big things like colonisation and climate change


Weathering names a reflective practice of attending to one’s relationship with the diversity of environmental forces we live amongst, and it also seeks to think about how these forces are differently felt in different bodies. We are always weathering, but not always in the same way. This breakfast opens up space to reflect on these environmental forms of weathering alongside colonial stormwater management architectures. How is the weather managed for us and to what end? A question to think about while eating a croissant.

Coffee, Tea, Fruit and Pastry will be provided.

BYO: Mug, Pinic Rug, any other breakfast stuffs and Note Book

The event is supported by the Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at the University of New England. Donations can be made to the Nēwara Aboriginal Corporation (Formerly the Anaiwan Language Revival Program).


Wednesday, March 4: 2pm-4pm – Weathering the Apocalpyse: Survival Skills Workshop – A1 Arts Theatre Stage, UNE Armidale Campus.


Why do preppers get to have all the fun? Skilling up for a feminist, anticolonial and demilitarised response to climate emergency

What is survival? What is the apocalypse? Here are two answers: first, as Callum Clayton Dixon shows in his recent book, Surviving New England, Aboriginal people from these tablelands have already survived the apocalypse of colonial invasion. Second, since the Cold War, anxieties of a world-ending apocalypse have been structured by nuclear fears. This explosion ends it all, and the few survivors remain in underground bunkers until the dust settles. But what if climate change plays out in uneven ways across time? What if it is more like a civilisational whimper than one big bang. If this is the case, a bunker might not be that useful after all.

In the spirit of acknowledging that climate change is not the first apocalyptic event to occur in Armidale and rejecting both spectacular militaristic apocalypticism and business as usual ‘late liberalism’ (to borrow Elizabeth Povinelli’s term), this workshop raises questions, and eyebrows, at certain practices that facilitate survival and opens up space for thinking, making, doing alternatives

For more information and to register for these events go to:

For questions email jennifer dot hamilton@une dot edu dot au

Why weathering? Why now?

Calls for resilience come from almost all sectors of society: economics, mind and body health, planning and engineering names a few. The stated objective is to encourage individuals and communities to bounce back from whatever comes their way, to become better and stronger. This industrial-age metaphor is unhelpful for humans because our bodies are all marked by events in our lives, especially the really good and really bad ones. Even if the marks are invisible or look different on each person, they are there. We want to heal and arguably tend towards it (until we don’t, of course), but even in healing, regrowing and restoration we are scarred and changed—weathered—by life. We are, after all, living animals.

In contrast to resilience, the concept of weathering informs a mode of thinking and being that seeks safe passage through storms, while at the same time insisting that not everyone will come through in the same way, that in all our difference and diversity, we will be changed by various exposures.

Drought, fires, dust storms, heatwaves, flash floods, novel viruses, ongoing colonialism and extractivism, rising inequality, rising sea levels, rising cost of living, fewer jobs and the evident acceleration of the feedback loops promised in a time of climate change: this list offers just some of the serious things we are weathering at the moment. At the same time, while some have the luxury of being concerned about the end of the world, for Indigenous cultures globally the world has already ended, and the current status quo is a post-apocalyptic situation. On top of this, for those living with little money, anxiety about the end of the month commands all attention.

Over two days at the beginning of T1 2020, Jennifer Hamilton supported by the Faculty of Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences and Education, brings feminist theorist Dr Astrida Neimanis and artist-researcher Tessa Zettel together in a series of events to collaboratively reflect on our contemporary moment. We offer weathering up as a theoretical concept, descriptor of embodiment and political metaphor for justice-seeking research in a time of environmental crisis.

For more information go to:

Black Gully Festival (November 9)

The stall at the Black Gully Festival was nested between other stalls that were sharing information – next door to the Armidale Tree Group that was starting a drought monitoring project asking people to take photos of stands of trees so they can audit which local trees make it through this unprecedented event.

The community is really starting to feel the water shortage strongly and, as such, CoWS is becoming a space to reflect on that together. I planned to run some discussion groups during the day – it wasn’t that kind of event and no one showed up to the planned discussions. What was well received though were my two zines – “A Field Guide for Weathering” and “Drought Friendly Hairstyles”. These, especially the latter, were an antidote to the fairly gloomy mood. Drought was deepening and the fires had, at that point, been burning for well over a month. It is hard to laugh, but also feels important (but you can’t force it!).

CoWS Breakfast at Lake Zot (September 26)

As part of the Compassion, a Timely Feeling conference, CoWS held a breakfast for delegates at Lake Zot stormwater dam on UNE Campus. It is interesting having events for different groups of people. Everyone brings something different and unique to the tent.

Where: Lake Zot, UNE Campus (,+Armidale+NSW+2350/)

When: Saturday 26th October, 2019 (7.30am – 8.30am)

What: Muesli, Fruit and Croissants (GF and Vegan Options), warm beverage.


CoWS at the Armidale Farmer’s Market (September 15)

We set up the stall at the Armidale Farmer’s Market in Curtis Park a week after Bingara. This time it was combined with Fixit Armidale, a new repair cafe initiative. The day was really hot and we had lots of chats. Everyone is concerned about the drought and is thinking and feeling big things about it – some of which are shared in the images and others which just remain as emphemeral discussions had in the stall. Lots of people are interested in the Wicking Bed prototype (see the Bingara photo gallery) as a way of rebuilding their gardens.

CoWS at Groundswell in Bingara (7th and 8th September)

Groundswell was a festival of regenerative agriculture. Reflections on my role in this event were published on Overland in the article “On Bucketing Water” and another report is forthcoming in the Kandos School of Cultural Adaptation Newspaper.

For more information on the event please see the Kandos School of Cultural Adaptation website for the event:


This post is the first on a blog which will contain a series of musings and also updates on our activities.

The project centres around the concept of “weathering” which has a growing history. The concept of “weathering” in the title Community Weathering Station centres thought on how different beings weather the world, across time and importantly, in diverse ways. Attending to both our differences and our commonalities is a key part of weathering. As the weather changes day to day and as the climate changes year to year, any practice of weathering will change too.

In the first instance it is just a word to describe the act of being eroded and worn away and also making it safely through something like a storm. But it was then developed as a concept the context of contemporary feminist and environmental cultural studies by Astrida Neimanis and Rachael Loewen Walker in the article “Weathering: Climate Change and the Thick Time of Transcorporeality” Hypatia 29.3 (2014) and then further developed in a short paper by Neimanis, but this time in collaboration with Jennifer Hamilton. This paper is simply called “weathering” and is in the journal feminist review (2018).

During 2016 and 2017, Neimanis and Hamilton, along with Rebecca Giggs, Tessa Zettel and Kate Wright became “The Weathering Collective” and undertook a series of retreats and experiments designed to think critically and culturally about weather in relation to bodies. This work is documented on the website “The Weathering Station“. We also produced “The Weathering Map” for Chart Collective’s project Legend.

Neimanis and Hamilton further developed the concept’s potential for translation into early childhood pedagogies in collaboration with Common Worlds Research Collective. This occurred in 2017 at an early childhood education research retreat on Rindö in Sweden, funded by The Seed Box: A Mistra+ Formas Environmental Humanities Collaboratory . This work is documented in part on The Weathering Station blog and then became “A Field Guide for Weathering” published in the open access Canadian Journal The Goose.

CoWS is a grassroots experiment, building on this knowledge, but applying the concept to drought response and environmental crisis in Armidale.

The Community Weathering Station is a settler-led project on Anaiwan land. In rethinking town water practices in CoWS, we acknowledge and respect Indigenous water and land sovereignty; this sovereignty was never ceded.

Coming Soon…

The Community Weathering Station is a project seeking to respond to the drought in Armidale critically and carefully guided by the concept of “weathering”. CoWS program of activities (which will involve walking, talking, reading, writing, sitting, reflecting, cooking, bucketing, gardening, composting, storing) is designed to engage with (and possibly trouble) conceptual divides between the mundane and the exciting, the literal and the metaphorical, the material and the immaterial, the weather and the climate, the wild and the domestic, the global and the local, the weak and the strong, the centre and the margin, the rich and the poor. Program launch coming soon! Sign up to the mailing list for updates…

We will have a gazebo at Groundswell in Bingara 7th & 8th September 2019

The Community Weathering Station is a settler-led project on Anaiwan land. In rethinking town water practices in CoWS, we acknowledge Indigenous water and land sovereignty; this sovereignty was never ceded.