Precarious Labor: Political economy, gender, and subjectivity in Central Asia 
Regine Spector (University of Massachusetts-Amherst)
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Voesar Conference Room 412
Friday 11 October, 11:00-12:45 (UTC+0)

Long Abstract

The panel consists of four participants who have conducted extensive fieldwork in Central Asia, specifically in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. All of them are working towards the completion of their PhDs, in different disciplines.

The panel wishes to bring together part of their research efforts in order to show unexplored trends and topics concerning labor in Central Asia.

Paolo Sorbello will focus on the role of manpower agencies in Kazakhstan's oil sector and how these contribute to the further precarization of a sector that has been stripped of worker organizations after the new Labor Code and the new law on Trade Unions curtailed worker rights.

Laura Tourtellotte will present her research on women's productive and reproductive labor in Kazakhstan. The focus will be centered on "mothers with many children" (mnogodetnye mamy, kopbala analar), their recent activism, and the role of women's participation in society and state processes. Economic hardship together with social pressure create an unsustainable mix of demands for women, who need to earn a living, have many kids, and care for the whole family.

Maurizio Totaro will give an account of four laid-off oil workers in Kazakhstan during and after their hunger strike of January 2017. Through the account, he will explore how the subjectivity (citizenship, masculinity, family) changed and was affected by the agencies re-training the workers for new employment. The narration will be filtered through 'azamat', a polysemic Kazakh word that highlights a double meaning of citizenship and masculinity.

Franco Galdini will present a paper arguing that, under Karimov, rural labor was re-proletarianized by Uzbekistan's turn to capitalist agriculture with commercial farming. The country's processes of formality/informality in the labour market in Uzbekistan expose the gendered dimensions of labour's exploitation, as well as the appropriation of women's work inside and outside the household. The paper will also show how mass labor migration is linked to labor re-proletarianization.

Accepted papers: