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Work and consumption: insurmountable links in uncertain times (EN) (FR)
Emília Marques (Lisbon University Institute / CRIAnthropology)
Fernando Bessa Ribeiro
Marta Vilar Rosales (Instituto de Ciências Sociais)
Wednesday 11 July, 11:30-13:15, 14:30-16:15, Thursday 12 July, 9:00-10:45 (UTC+0)

Short abstract:

We call for empirically rooted and theoretically backed contributions that tackle the practical and moral economies of work, consumption and their multifaceted symbolic and practical mutual links, which tightness and necessity our current times of uncertainty and disquiet are so boldly unveiling.

Long abstract:

The assertion that consumption has replaced work as a preferred identity arena is an influential one in contemporary social theory. In our westen-type societies, the rather necessity‑bound, monotonous work‑based politics of belonging would have loose appeal against the exercises of individual choice and appropriation that are promised by consumption, and that would be quintessential to the contemporary subject's reflexive self‑building. Thus work was left within the realms of economy driven alienation, while consumption was rescued to freer domains of expressivity, creativity and culture.

Yet the twin ideas of work as an identity-deserted, instrumental chore and of work and consumption as two fundamentally separated fields of practice and meaning have received no remarkable empirical support. Ethnographies of work and workers depict instead people's diverse and creative efforts to obtain from their work a sense of dignity and ownership. And current times of uncertainty have prompted an increased awareness of how tight and insurmountable the links stand between waged work and expressive consumption.

This panel calls for contributions that tackle the practical and moral economies of work and consumption. For instance (but by no means exclusively), how is the symbolic and material value drawn from work translated into or displayed through consumption? What connections are (or are not) established between value of work and entitlement to consume? How are any discrepancies between entitlement and actual access evaluated and dealt with, practically as well as symbolically? How do people navigate expressive consumption amidst the uncertainty and disquiet they experience as workers?