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Accepted Paper:

Hard work or non-work? Contested meanings and practices of precarious labour for Bulgarian Roma mobile workers  
Neda Deneva-Faje (Babes-Bolyai University and SYNYO)

Paper short abstract:

Meanings and practices of precarious labour are a contested terrain where workers and states/politicians/employers struggle over the right to be a worthy citizen. Through the case of Bulgarian Roma low-skilled mobile workers I trace how these tensions produce dispossession and exclusion mechanisms

Paper long abstract:

With this paper I seek to understand how changing realities of work practices and labour relations are invested with meaning and value. Drawing on the case of Bulgarian Roma impoverished workers engaged in labour practices both as citizens in Bulgaria and as migrants across the EU, I explore the conflicting interpretations of what work means as crafted by different actors and institutions in different localities (workers, local government officials, social policies, political discourse etc). Labour value in this context is a contested terrain where power struggles over meanings have further implications for the way workers are positioned as deserving or undeserving citizens and as morally worthy or unworthy individuals. I focus on the case of Bulgarian Roma low-skilled mobile workers in the EU, engaged in informal, irregular and flexible labour between Bulgaria and the Netherlands varying from street work, day labour in construction and agriculture, informal work in factories, to paid-per piece-herb and fruit picking. Recognizing these labour practices as 'real work' is key for providing access to certain citizenship entitlements (mainly welfare benefits), but also for generating moral value and worth. While for the workers their labour is what makes them dignified members of society, for the institutions and the public discourse, which employ a narrow definition of legitimate work as formal employment, they are seen as idle, tax evaders or milking the welfare state and treated accordingly. I trace ethnographically how these contestations of labour value become a mechanism for dispossession and devaluation of workers

Panel P032
Value(s) of labour in austerity-era Europe
  Session 1