EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures

(P079)
Postfordist ethnoscapes: deindustrialization, work and unemployment in urban context
Location U7-8
Date and Start Time 21 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Luca Rimoldi (Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca. Dipartimento di Sociologia e Ricerca Sociale) email
  • Carlo Capello (University of Turin) email

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Short Abstract

This panel welcomes ethnographic and theoretical accounts on the consequences of the deindustrialization upon cities and workers' life. Emphasis is given to institutions and on economic interests that regulate the impact of lack of work within Western and non-Western societies.

Long Abstract

Since our discipline arrived late to the study of industrial work, at least in Western contexts, the anthropology of work often results in a "salvage anthropology". However, work has not disappeared, it has shifted and continues to shift and migrate, assuming phantasmatic forms of flexibility, precariousness, unemployment. It is recently that cultural anthropology, in an attempt to make up for its lateness, has started to investigate how work constructs subjectivities and structures everyday life. Many research have concentrated on the consequences of de-industrialisation and the transformation of industrial work.

If in neo-liberal contemporary societies capital is no longer tied to specific places but it fluctuates along global chains, what happens to the people and production places when there is no more work or when flexibility, precariousness and unemployment gain the upper hand? What strategies are used to restructure everyday life and recreate individual and collective frameworks?

On the one hand, the closure or relocation of large factories may contribute to the advancement of poverty, to an increase in the illegal labour market, and to the hyperghettoization of certain urban areas. On the other hand, the same events aid the creation of new social networks among unemployed and between-jobs people, and the redefinition of perspective political practices.

The panel analyses, through theoretical and ethnographic accounts, the consequences of urban deindustrialisation on cities and on the lives of workers by focusing on the institutions and economic interests that govern the impact of the lack of work on Western and non-Western societies.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

The hot winter of six legs dog in Sicily: experimental ethnography about the future of work and of environmental conditions of de-industrialisated area of Augusta-Priolo-Melilli

Author: Alessandro Lutri (University of Catania)  email

Short Abstract

None provided.

Long Abstract

The ethnographer Kim Fortun (2012) say for the ethnographic understanding of the historical conditions to bring of late industrialism, the ethnography should cultivates an ethnography "not designed to confirm what is already know [but they should] challenge and change the existing order", that is the reality in which they are envolved. An experimental ethnography "producing something that didn't exist before and cultivates open-endedness […] where something surprising, something new to all emerges [that is] new ways of thinking wich grasp and attend to current realities". For this scholar "to understand what is said, what can be said, and what is disavowed", can be realized "provoking new idioms and orderings of subjectivity".

To start by these ideas, in this paper I would show, through the creative creation of spaces (in texts, online, in the street, in conference rooms, etc.) with which make emerges the imaginations and idioms about the social and environmental future of industrial workers, labour unions, political leaders and environmental activists wich work and ageing in larger de-industrialised area in Europe, the petrochemical industrial area builded in Sixteen years by italian national oil company (ENI), "mindful of how very hard it is think outside and beyond what we know presently" as say Fortun.

Reference

Fortun, K., 2012, "Ethnography in Late Industrialism", in Cultural Anthropology, 27 (3): 446-64

Moving the margins to the centre: ethnographies of civil economy and community welfare in a post-fordist neighborhood of Turin

Authors: Roberta Clara Zanini (University of Turin)  email
Valentina Porcellana (University of Turin)  email
Francesco Vietti (University of Milan-Bicocca)  email

Short Abstract

We intend to critically reflect on the concepts of community welfare and civil economy by comparing the outcomes of three ethnographies conducted in a Turin suburb and integrated in a systemic action that aims to contrast social and territorial marginality and to support active citizenship.

Long Abstract

Can we imagine new forms of citizenship through actions and practices that consider as protagonists social actors usually categorized in public discourse as "marginal"? Can a peripheral urban area become "central" through systemic actions that support innovation and social cohesion and activate new forms of community welfare? In this paper we intend to discuss these issues by presenting the first results of an interdisciplinary research conducted in “Barriera di Milano”, a historic northern suburb of the city of Turin. Neighbourhood with a long experience of internal and international immigration, this territory suffered in a particularly intense way the economic crisis of recent years and was therefore chosen, by voluntary associations, institutional bodies and urban committees, as the target area for the creation of a network of practices that intend to contrast poverty and to build new forms of shared citizenship and civil economy. In particular, three projects were activated on the territory, and were specifically addressed to young people at risk of early school leaving, to families in economic difficulty and to homeless adults. The ethnographies of these projects allow to check the patterns of the framework system and to point out which elements might reveal an innovative people empowerment through processes of social capacitation.

The end of a world: deindustrialization and its aftermath in Mumbai and Sesto San Giovanni

Author: Sara Roncaglia (University Statale Milano)  email

Short Abstract

This is a research carried out in the framework of a comparative ethnographic project on the consequences of deindustrialization in Mumbai and in Sesto San Giovanni. It concerns the deconstruction of the role of industrial labour and the metamorphosis of the declining working class neighborhood.

Long Abstract

This is a research carried out in the framework of a comparative ethnographic project on the consequences of deindustrialization in Mumbai (India) and in Sesto San Giovanni (Italy). The two cities are going through a large-scale deindustrialization process, which has been conpounded in the mid-80s with the gradual shutting down of the main urban large-scale factories and an increasing loss of jobs. The deconstruction of the social role of industrial labour has had similar outcomes for both Sesto and Mumbai's workers: a biographical fragmentation which make it extremely difficult for them to still recognize themselves as workers; a decline in the male worker's own concept of masculinity; a sense of powerlessness due to their inability to change their surrounding reality; a difficulty to recognize places once familiar but now radically different and increasingly alien. A sense of dispossession that is linked to the idea of the end of one world and the resulting "collapse of the operating handles". The consequences of deindustrialization are also visible in the metamorphosis of the declining working class neighborhoods, called "chawls" in Mumbai and "Falck village" in Sesto, where recent urban renewal has outlined a new skyline, the mark of a new type of urbanization.

Cultures of work, cultures of precariousness: insights from the Bhopali workers' world

Author: Arnaud Kaba (EHESS)  email

Short Abstract

This paper will explore the labor cultures of Bhopal's precarious metal workers and try to explain in which regards these cultures are influenced by precariousness, whether it be in its most general and universalistic meaning or in the specific forms it takes in the Indian context.

Long Abstract

With around 98% of its population in the informal sector, India's labour regime can be said to be, in many ways, a regime of precariousness. Though the deindustrialization process is only a factor explaining this dominance of the precarious labour regime in India, the fact that it is backed up by the State shows its willpower to give up the idea of formalizing the labour market. By taking the example of two populations of metal workers, some from the Bhopal's polluted slums working in the old town's workshop and some rural migrants working in diverse sites of flyover construction yards around Bhopal, this presentation will try to explore which labor cultures the workers develop in this state of precariousness. It will present their daily struggle against precariousness but also the value system which shape their representations of labour, whether it be the way they see their condition of daily labourers or the way they valorize the specific activity they're engaged in. The main exercise of this presentation will be then to sort, inside these labor cultures, which elements seem general to the precarious workers' situation around the world, which ones are specific to India, its form of labour and its culture and which one are specific to each population. The goal would be to open discussion about how it would be possible to do a comparative anthropology to the labourer's confrontation to precariousness and the way they manage to defend the social value of their work in the lack of formal protections and unions.

Contesting urban revitalization in post-socialist Poland

Author: Jaro Stacul (Memorial University of Newfoundland)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines the proposed redevelopment of the Gdańsk shipyard that was the cradle of the Solidarity movement in the 1980s, and the ways former shipyard workers contest the legitimacy of this and other urban renewal projects advocated by the Polish neoliberal state.

Long Abstract

Several studies in Anthropology and cognate disciplines have illustrated the ways in which urban renewal results in forms of social exclusion. Yet the issue of how interventions in the socio-spatial and economic dimensions of people's lives may be an integral part of the process of national history rewriting requires further exploration. Drawing upon research conducted in the Polish city of Gdańsk, this paper analyzes the redevelopment of the shipyard that was the cradle of Solidarity, the mass social movement that played a key role in contesting the legitimacy of the Socialist regime in the 1980s. In official and popular discourses, the shipyard represents a monument to Polish freedom, and is the symbolic terrain where Poles articulate their relationship to the Polish nation and national history. The paper shows that the proposed transformation of the shipyard site into a new neighborhood entails removing the marks of the Socialist legacy at a time when Poland boasts its being the 'tiger economy' of central and eastern Europe. In illustrating how former shipyard workers who have become the victims of the economic reforms introduced by the neoliberal state contest the legitimacy of these projects, the paper highlights the contradictions with which the redevelopment of the shipyard site is rife: it argues that while this project is designed to create a sense of participation in national history, it also has the effect of creating a new 'landscape of power' from which a politics that is class-based is removed.

In search of solid ground: creating consubstantiality through food and intimacy

Author: Luciana Lang (University of Manchester)  email

Short Abstract

This paper looks at the stories and aspirations of unemployed and low-waged migrant workers in Manchester, UK. Through a small-scale, qualitative study in collaboration with a local migrant support organisation, it taps into the challenges of making a living in precarious times.

Long Abstract

Among unemployed and low-waged migrant workers in Manchester, UK, having access to affordable housing and to food can be a challenging pursuit, and one that makes people experience precarity on an everyday basis. A local food distribution centre and education charity in the north of the city provides an opportunity for people to share their trajectories and ordeals. For many of them, the centre is the only place where they feel they can participate in social life in Britain, but most importantly, some of the activities they engage in while at the centre, such as gardening, socialising and eating together, foster a sense of belonging and create the possibility of intimacy. Food is grown in the garden, cooked in the kitchen, and talked about over a cup of tea, while people’s stories and trajectories get interwoven with recipes from the places they left behind. This paper draws on fieldwork undertaken at the centre and on interviews with some of its regular visitors to argue that the sharing of substances and of activities in a collective space nurtures the common humanity in a highly complex and diverse environment.

Post-fordism in the life of Koreas 'Give Up' and ‘Spec’ Generation

Author: Carolin Landgraf (Georg-August-University, Göttingen)  email

Short Abstract

Financing important life phases like university, marriage, housing and child rearing became challenging for young Korean people. What actions do they take to live a valuable life? In this paper, I want to explore how a post-fordist working environment influence Seoulite youth life.

Long Abstract

Employment possibilities for Koreans in their 20ies and 30ies have dramatically changed over the last 20 years. Whereas firm biographical stages such as graduation from a (top-tier) university and lifelong employment in a conglomerate like Samsung or LG were guaranteed before the Asian Crisis 1997/98, this is not the case after the economic downturn and implementation of IMF-conditions. Government-led restructuring of the labour market and an economic environment based on finance capital push young people in highly competitive and precarious conditions. Living up to social and economic requirements becomes more and more challenging. These complex circumstances have a large impact on the identification of young Korean people. In this paper, I want to explore the re-fashioning of the self in collectivist frameworks. What are the practices of Korean youth to cope with a difficult labour market situation, especially in Seoul? Based on my empirical research, I would like to present discourses of identification around two poles: ‘Spec-making’, where high financial investments are made to collect diverse achievements for social and economic recognition. In contrast, ‘N-Po’ refers to give up almost every valuable thing hence it is like giving up life itself. These terms are used to describe young people as either ‘Spec-Generation’ or ‘N-Po Generation’, which illustrate the complex effects of a post-fordist labour market in the creation of youth life styles.

Flexible livelihoods in a megacity: an ethnographic account of Moroccan employees of multinational corporations in Istanbul

Author: Christian Ritter (Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU))  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines the work lives of Moroccan nationals who are employed by multinational corporations in Istanbul, Turkey. Based on fieldwork in the Turkish megacity, the ethnographic investigation aims to better understand current transformations of work life in the age of corporate capitalism.

Long Abstract

This paper addresses the work lives and livelihoods of Moroccan middle-class professionals who arrived in Istanbul in recent years. Since the free trade agreement between Turkey and Morocco in 2006, increasing numbers of Moroccan nationals have settled in the Turkish megacity. Relocating to interstices in the polycentric agglomeration, Moroccan middle-class residents of Istanbul bore testimony to the rise of multi-national corporations in the megacity connecting Asian and European markets. The main purpose of this paper is to more comprehensively understand the ways corporate capitalism changes contemporary work environments. Based on long-term fieldwork combining in-depth interviews with participant observation, the case of Moroccan residents of Istanbul provides much-needed insights into the social dynamics inherent in the development of projectised labour. The case study critically examines the working conditions and transnational networks of Moroccan nationals who were recently employed by multinational corporations. The anthropological analysis of the livelihoods of Moroccan residents of Istanbul is set in the context of their professional trajectories and personal strategies for making a living in the new urban environment. Moroccan nationals reported that they were often employed by multi-national corporations because of their language skill sets, including proficiency in Arabic, French and English. Many multinational corporations created digital work environments, in which employees experienced a loss of a clear-cut boundary between private and professional life. Grounded in the ethnographic evidence collected in Istanbul, the paper suggests avenues for exploring post-industrial work environments and lifeworlds.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.