Accepted paper:

Re-learning to labour? From 'inactive' Gypsies to Eastern European labour migrants in Britain

Authors:

Jan Grill (University of Valle & University of Manchester)

Paper short abstract:

Based on fieldwork among Roma in Slovakia and in Britain, this paper explores ethnographically the concept of labour against the transforming lines of economic precariousness, formal/informal distinctions, and unstable and temporary job positions in their homes and in migratory destinations.

Paper long abstract:

Based on fieldwork among Roma in Slovakia and in Britain, this paper explores ethnographically the concept of labour against the transforming lines of economic precariousness, formal/informal distinctions, and unstable and temporary job positions. It discusses changing forms of income generating strategies and re-drawing ambiguous and blurred lines between formality and informality among Slovak Roma. Being officially categorized as long-term unemployed, and even 'unemployable' in public discourses in Slovakia, most Roma combine various precarious economic strategies, and participate in state programmes for poor in Slovakia, and project their hopes for betterment to dreams associated with labour migration. In Britain, these migrants enter the low-paid and temporary jobs mediated by various job agencies and middlemen, such as packing in meat production. This paper interrogates ethnographically some normative assumptions underlying discourses surrounding policies targeting long-term unemployed in Slovakia, which evolve around their alleged 'activity' and 'inactivity'. More specifically, I will discuss how ideologies and policies of activation operate on various scales and in everyday practices of those who are implementing them and those who are targeted by these. It will then move to discuss how a movement from Slovakia to Britain re-draws Roma understanding of labour, and asks what kinds of implications do these 'heavy' jobs have for perceptions of health, body and well-being of Roma.

panel P30
The uncertain bodily relations of contemporary economic practice