EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures

(P124)
New geographies of production and consumption: precarious works and lives in the current neoliberalism
Location U6-16
Date and Start Time 22 July, 2016 at 11:15
Sessions 1

Convenors

  • Fulvia D'Aloisio (University of Campania Luigi Vanvitelli) email
  • Massimiliano Mollona (Goldsmiths College) email

Mail All Convenors

Discussant Andrea Fumagalli (University of Pavia)

Short Abstract

In the recent neoliberal phase, the global geography of production and consumption is being continuously redefined. This panel wants to focus, with ethnographic approach, on the new production systems, the new consumer models of goods, the effects of precarity, the possible future.

Long Abstract

In the recent neoliberal phase, the global geography of production and consumption is being continuously redefined, because of old and new multi-national mergers, new processes of work's delocalization but also internal relocalization, as consequence of the faster change of the indicators able to define production areas, on the one hand, and new markets, on the other. The markets of consumption (the other side of the coin), are now composed by restricted and changeable niches of consumers, that influence in a circular way the fragmentation of the production and require its easier mobility in areas defined time after time. In this scenario, work becomes precarious in a more diffuse way and in heterogeneous shapes, investing old and new works, producing changes of roles, tasks, skills and different cultural investments, traditionally destined to the job. Ethnographic methodology specifically investigates large issues in small places: connected with anthropological theories, it may return fragments of life and cultural horizons of men and women that, from different social positions, are involved in these ongoing changes, with margins of power more and more restricted, but also with new livelihood strategies. This panel focuses on the paths of these change: new production systems, new consumer models of goods produced in other economic spaces, the outcomes in the daily life, the possible future.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Employment precariousness and social reproduction in the shipbuilding industry of Piraeus

Author: Manos Spyridakis (University of Peloponnese)  email

Short Abstract

In this paper I address the way shipbuilding workers attempt to cope with the conditions of their existence and of employment precariousness in the context of shipbuilding activities in the Perama zone, a suburb of western Piraeus.

Long Abstract

In this paper I address the way shipbuilding workers attempt to cope with the conditions of their existence and of employment precariousness in the context of shipbuilding activities in the Perama zone, a suburb of western Piraeus. Added emphasis is placed on how workers conceive of their involvement in local labour processes. The ethnographic data show that workers create socially meaningful relationships and construct webs of significance through employment in the context of a cruel labour market. Shipbuilding workers, by being part of wider socio-economic relations, devise survival strategies through which a series of facts and processes gain meaning, which in turn help them face the violence of extreme situations. Hence, I look at workers' views and positions at various levels, including those of motives, strategies, representations and prestige as well as values. The ethnographic case of the Perama zone provides us with the opportunity to realize that even though agents are seemingly integrated passively into power games they themselves perceive this process in their own way, informed by their past and present coercive conditions of existence.

Labour and craftsmanship among Italian woodworkers: ambivalencies between the economic value and the social value of upscale artisan production

Author: Simone Ghezzi (Università di Milano-Bicocca)  email

Short Abstract

I discuss the new geography of production of upscale furniture and its evolving demand in neoliberal economy.New relationships between producers and customers are established causing ambivalent sentiments among the former regarding the ways in which their production is merchandised.

Long Abstract

Drawing on my fieldwork among artisanal woodworkers and small woodworking firms in Northern Italy I discuss the new geography of production of upscale furniture and its evolving demand. The new customers appear to be part of the wealthiest percentile of the international elites of either former socialist or developing

countries. I argue that their idiosyncratic requests for customizing furniture with non traditional decorations is causing to change meanings and goals about labour and craftsmanship among the artisans. New relationships between producers and customers are established causing ambivalent sentiments among the former regarding the economic value and the social nature of what they produce and trade. In other terms, what is produced is becoming more alienated from the producers, as they have less control over the production.

output.

Huipiles for gringas: tourism, women empowerment and the production and selling of embroidery in the Mayan Yucatán

Author: Claudia Giannetto (Goldsmiths, University of London)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores from a gender perspective the role of indigenous labour in the global economy by focusing on the experiences of Mexican Mayan women who produce embroidery and handcrafts for tourist consumption in the Yucatán Peninsula.

Long Abstract

Embroidery is a fundamental activity among Mexican Mayan women; it sustains the definition of Mayan womanhood in the same manner the cornfield defines the Mayan man. But stitching huipiles (the traditional Mayan women's dress) is also a source of income, part of a Mayan family spectrum of economic activities.

In the Yucatán Peninsula the production and selling of embroidery increased since the 1970s, when the initiation of a major tourist development project in Cancún generated a growing market for handcrafts. While Mayan men left the agricultural work and migrated to the Mexican Caribbean coast in search of job, a number of women started to trade their embroideries for tourist consumption.

Although the expansion of tourism has pushed many Mayan women into the commercial production of embroidery and handcrafts, this occupation is submerged in a series of assumptions that set a limiting framework for their professional and personal development. In fact, women engaged in embroidery are portrayed as "non-workers" when many of them are, in reality, the main breadwinners. This shift in economic power has challenged gender norms and relations by altering the structure and function of the traditional Mayan family.

In this paper I will explore how Mayan women use embroidery to redefine their gender identity and negotiate their power both in their "local" communities and the "global" market. These examples will be used to question the nature of indigenous labour in the global economy, as well as the impact of tourism and its potential to empower impoverished communities.

Precarious works and lives in Neo-Socialist Beijing: broken dreams and persistent faith among young female professionals

Author: Federico Fattori (Manchester University)  email

Short Abstract

The paper portrays early career professional building a working life in the discriminatory job market of Neo-Socialist China, enduring unbearable conditions, disrespect and precariousness. I describe episodes of distress and analyse strategies to cope with sense of loss, anxiety and abandonment.

Long Abstract

Based on an ethnographic account of real life happenings, I explore the outcome of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) neoliberal politics in the daily lives of my informants' and their attempt to come to terms with exploitation, betrayal, dissatisfaction in the context of an overwhelming urban environment. Moreover, I want to interrogate the persistent faith and visions of the future of these young women living in such difficult circumstances. Work injuries, disloyalty, envy, loneliness don't lead my informants to lose their hope, but out of a sort of survival instinct, surprisingly reinforce their optimism. In the intimacy of the domestic space at the end of a working day, when loneliness, distress and despair grip these "Neo-Socialist subjects", I try to ask a simple question: How can women living in such a difficult condition still believe in their fantasies? My tentative answer brings into the discussion the "Chinese Dream". My informants cope with sense of lost and abandonment also by drawing on that powerful cultural artefact and the emotional resources it provides. "The Chinese Dream" penetrating their private lives offers reassuring answers and allows to resolve the contradiction of their day-to-day existence and imagine a future.

Consuming technologies: the Bitten Apple in Italy

Author: Franco Lai (University of Sassari)  email

Short Abstract

Apple is a Californian brand known at the global scale and his production is delocalized. In my paper I will show that the spread of Apple products in Italy is a consumption model characterized by some items: central position of design, friendly use, social distinction.

Long Abstract

In my paper I will talk about the spread of certain consumption patterns associated with electronic technologies such as computers, smartphones, tablets. In particular, I intend to show the case of Apple technological objects in Italy.

Currently, consumer electronics sector expresses the logic the specialization among global economic spaces. The delocalization of production has created the distinction between places of production and places of consumption.

In this spatial division of labour the activities that require a high-intensity work have moved to areas with a more favorable labor costs; the activities with high capital intensity (research and development, design, advertising , marketing) keep on residing in Europe or Northern America.

In the places of production technological objects are assembled because of various provenance of their components. After the packaging the products arrive to the place of consumption. The general public and the fans do not seem to be particularly aware of the complexity of this industrial process.

The success of the Apple products is due to the specific corporate storytelling, to the beautiful and the innovative design, to the intuitive and playful interface. We could explain the "Think Different" discourse of the advertising campaign in the Nineties as a "distinctive" consumption model. Smartphones and tablets turn into attractive objects like wereable things like clothing or watches.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.