Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Economic Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Labor
Secondary Theme: Materiality
The language and practice of work and labor across a variety of contemporary settings tell us about the processes by which activities, persons, spaces, and the social body come to be valued in intersecting and unexpected ways. Through ethnographies of work, this panel seeks to shed light on the changing modes of precarity in salaried employment, the possibilities in the emergence of non-waged work, and the institutional as an effect of work that may well unravel in its very expansion. The papers on the panel explore work in the following settings: agricultural tobacco workers in India, government employees in Pakistan’s irrigation sector, waste traders in Pakistan’s informal economy, and (skilled) disassembly workers in a scrap market in India. They ask, for instance, what does the drive towards e-governance do to perceptions of job security, productivity, skill and worth as smartphone applications come to serve as checks on employees, or replace people on parts of the job? How do technological interventions elide over and replace human labor? How does a female bureaucrat find herself being corrupted working in a male environment - what does this process of becoming/unraveling tell us about a larger gendered social body? How do unequal exchanges happening below the level of legality materialize value in different forms? How is the emergence, exercise, and transmission of skills as expertise realised through relations of everyday experience and apprenticeship? Taken together these papers push beyond the domain of commodity production, and foreground the ways in which work and labor are entangled with processes that re/produce particular social orders, in which the unequal distribution of value highlights their contemporary political stakes as well as shifting figurations of value.