Key issues in the anthropology of labour in the context of flexible capitalism
Since the 2008 crisis, anthropologists have rekindled their interest in labour. While Euro-American societies primarily experience these changes as the waning of secure contracts, the 21th century has seen an ever-greater variety of labor regimes with differential subsumption of labor to capitalist expansion. The changing nature of work pertains not only to industrial labor but to feminisation, migration and the automation of labour via digital platforms. These processes have engendered a re-theorisation of the concept of precarity around wider issues of life and care rather than just income or productive work. Stretched between the horizon of potentiality and the politics of inequality, labour occupies a central field in the anthropological inquiry into the human condition and opens up towards a more familiar terrain of anthropological research of kinship, gender, and community in relation to social reproduction.
The Anthropology of Labour Network was established under EASA in 2018 to create a space for anthropologists interested in linking macroeconomic processes to everyday experiences, and to reconceptualise productive and reproductive work, labour’s value(s) in social life and workers struggles. This two days event is co-organised with Focaal-Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology, a peer-reviewed journal combining ethnography, processual analysis, local insights and global vision in relation to wider spatial networks of capitalism.
The workshop is supported by EASA, Focaal, and the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR). It will be held at the University of Amsterdam.
University of Amsterdam, Sep 30 –Oct 1, 2019
Venue: Common room of the UvA anthropology department (REC B5.12) at Roeterseilandcampus.
Day I: September 30
10.00-10.30 Welcome and introduction
- Anthropology of Labour Network: Dan Hirslund, Mariya Ivancheva
- Focaal & Moving Matters: Luisa Steur
- UvA & Practicalities: Dastan Abdali
10.30-12.00 Panel 1: Industrialism under change
Discussant: Dimitra Kofti
- Daniela Elena Ana "Work-rhythms and the experience of time for workers in a Moldovan winery"
- Fulvia D'Aloisio "From Mitbestimmung to partecipazione. Shapes of work and new industrial relations in the case of Automobili Lamborghini (Bologna-Italy)
- Oksana Dutchak "Marxism, on Time: Labor-Power Reproduction on Ukrainian Garment Factories in Global Supply Chains"
- Denys Gorbach "Informality, voice and exit at “new” and “old” factories in Ukraine"
- Hege Høyer Leivestad "The Container Class: Logistics Labour at the Strait of Gibraltar"
12.00-12.15 Coffee/Tea break
12.15-13.45 Panel 2: Labor regimes in transition
Discussant: Luisa Steur
- Kira Brenner "Neoliberal workers: Women in export factories in Tunisia" Jiazhi Fengjiang "Negotiating work's worth: grassroots philanthropy in post-Mao China"
- Allan Souza Queiroz (co-author: Geice Silva) "Labour reform in Brazil: local labour markets and sexual division of family labour"
- Lerato Thakholi " Invisibilized conservationists: Exploring low-wage labour in South Africa’s private nature reserves"
- Alexandra Oanca "Digital Self-care as Unpaid Labor: An Ethnography of the Production of Big Data and Self-tracking Digital Cultures"
13.45-14.45 Catered Lunch
14.45-16.15 Panel 3: Reconceptualizing 'ordinary' work
Discussant: Tina Harris
- Camilla Mevik "Skill and discretion: New patterns of division of labour in global shipping"
- William Monteith "Ordinary work in the post-wage economy: Reflections from a Ugandan marketplace"
- Joana Nascimento "Making tweed, working with uncertainty: labour histories and resourceful engagements in the textile industry of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland"
- Garima Jaju "Friends, Enemies and ‘Dirty Politics’: Studying petty politics on the work-floor in New Delhi"
16.15-16.30 Coffee/Tea break
16.30-18.00 Panel 4: Thriving Informal Economies
Discussant: Lorraine Nencel
- Gergö Pulay "Popular Politics and the Management of Precarity in a Poor Neighbourhood of Bucharest"
- Marc Morell “The profits of tourism deserve our sacrifice»: On labour and the double character of extraction in the tourist city.”
- Tanja Visic "Making a place to make it work: Hyper-precarity, Motility and Gendered Work Cultures"
- Alessandra Radicati "Phatic work in the real estate market in Colombo"
- Valentini Sampethai "Informal economy of sex work in Omonoia, Athens"
18.00-19.00 Special Event: Presenting new publications in the field
- Luisa Steur & Dimitra Kofti Focaal-Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology (n.b. theme section 2018 “Capitalism and global anthropology: Marxism resurgent”, with Marc Morell)
- Dennis Arnold “The social question in the twenty-first century” (2019, University of California Press, edited by Jan Breman, Kevan Harris, Ching Kwan Lee & Marcel van der Linden)
- Etienne Bourel (co-author: Judith Hayem) “Subjectivations at/of work? Journal des Anthropologues special issue
- George Morgan (2018) “the creativity hoax: precarious work and the gig economy” (2018, Anthem Press, co-authored with Patrice Nelligan)
19.30 - Dinner at Mama Dough, Beukenplein 21, Amsterdam
Day II: October 1
09.00-10.00 Anthropology of Labour Network Meeting
10.00-11.30 Panel 5: Flexibility Costs
Discussant: Dan Hirslund
- Pablo Ampuero "Resistance in precarity: The case of the Sanhe Dashen in Shenzhen, People’s Republic of China"
- Jacob Nielsen "The quest for work free lives: capitalist utopias and dreams of total alienation amongst London’s precariat"
- Guiseppe Troccoli "Building flexibility: the articulation of precarity and autonomy in construction worker’s movements in Belize City”
- Vinzenz B. Escobar (co-author Olivia Vicol) “Work outside the wage in Catalonia and the UK: the promise and pitfalls of freedom in the post-wage economy”
- Hassan Moctar “"Living labour and the selective permeability of the EU border in Nouadhibou, Mauritania"
11.30-11.45 Tea/Coffee break
11.45-13.15 Panel 6: New Precarities
Discussant: Mariya Ivancheva
- Delia Badoi " Normalising precariousness through flexible labour in the neoliberal academia - A conceptual model based on a theory-set for the case of Romania"
- Neda Deneva " Employee-Leasing and the Value of Labour in the IT sectors in Romania and Bulgaria"
- Slobodan Golušin "Labor relations on platform labor markets: Hierarchies and cooperation between UpWork freelancers in Serbia"
- Miriam Shestack “There’s No Such Thing as Free Basics: Data and value in Facebook’s failed scheme to connect all of India”
13.15-14.15 Catered Lunch
14.15-15.45 Panel 7: Social reproduction revisited
Discussant: Sian Lazar
- Stefano Ba' "Precarious mothers: struggling to reconcile precarious work and care"
- Victoria Brown "Gendered consequences of the global economic downturn in agriwork Spain"
- Ana Cirstea "Trajectories of Romanian labour migrants in north-west London" Lotte Schack "'To be in a collective is to be not alone, in the end': the importance of care and reproductive labour in anti-precarity activism"
15.45-16.00 Tea/Coffee Break
16.00-17.30 Panel 8: Unionism and worker struggles
Discussant: Miriyam Aouragh
- Volodymyr Artiukh "Work precarization and labor immobilization under the Belarusian passive revolution"
- Rebecca Ashley " Discontented midwives: protest, wages and the politics of care work in Iceland"
- Jeroen Merk "Spatialized labour control strategies and multiple scales of activism: PT Nikomas Gemilang, Nike and freedom of association in Indonesia"
- Joe Trapido " Organising the cleaners at Ernst and Young (and other outsourced spaces), an ethnographic study of an organising project for outsourced migrant workers"
17.30-18.00 Closing Remarks