Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Cultural Anthropology
Of interest to: Students
Primary Theme: Labor
Secondary Theme: Resilience
Global transformations in state-citizen relations under neoliberalism and growing precarity are at the heart of several key strands of anthropological scholarship today. A central feature of such transformations is the refiguring of domains of work and welfare. This refiguring is found, inter alia, in post-socialist regions grappling with the end of guaranteed employment and robust state services; in settler-colonial nation-states amidst welfare reforms; and in northern European welfare states, where the “caring state” of postwar decades has receded under the pressures of austerity. Binding these disparate contexts together is the undoing, or foundational re-imagining, of state-based social security and with it, of established modalities of labor and care. Informal, precarious, and temporary modes of making a living and of sustaining life have risen in their place. Arising alongside them are increasing invocations of kinship, belonging, and “tradition” as alternative foci of care and social welfare. This panel will examine the practices of intimate, relational, and embodied labor that are emerging amidst global transformations in statehood and institutions of welfare. We seek to interrogate practices of care, reciprocity, dependency, and obligation alongside histories of state making, incorporation, withdrawal, and transformation. In so doing, we wish to understand the historically and institutionally sedimented nature of emergent forms of care and labor.
Papers in this panel address: kin-based care and indigenous livelihood practices among Sámi of the Deatnu River Valley as modes of reckoning, resistance, and repair contra histories of assimilation and appropriation; smuggling networks in Mongolia as an illegal, but cosmologically-sanctioned form of mutual social care; gendered and sexual belonging and intimate economies of touch in the care for transgender bodies after death in Turkey; the intimate labors of “making a home” and claiming a right to belong among homeless drug users in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan; and the performative labor of soil conservation in Lesotho as an occasion for refashioning patronage networks and distributive economies. Taken together, these papers generate a broader discussion about labor and care and their entanglements outside the parameters of medical institutions and productivist systems. Bringing analyses of illicit economies, intimate labor, ecological care, and welfare system transformations into dialogue, this panel asks: How do practices of intimate, relational, and embodied labor adapt to changing configurations of state-citizen relations under austerity, precarity, and welfare reform? How is access to care and welfare being channeled through the ties of kinship, family, and community--and how might this result in the reification or valorization of racial, gender, and ethnic hierarchies? What are the effects of these processes in reconfiguring or reinforcing particular modalities of citizenship and belonging?