Accepted Paper:

Under the skin: the embodied consequences of unemployment in a Portuguese community  

Author:

Bruno Monteiro (Universidade do Porto)

Paper short abstract:

Using an ethnographic approach that combines participant observation, archival work and in-depth interviews, this research uncovers the visceral expressions as well as the coping tactics that unemployed workers from an industrial community in Portugal showed under the recent economic crisis.

Paper long abstract:

The economic crisis hit hard in Rebordosa (North-western Portugal), an industrialized community (highly specialised in the furniture and wood sectors) that was especially tarnished by the combination between the negative business cycle, the international competition, the neo-liberal restructuring of productive management, and the financial pressures among the workers' families. Using an ethnographic approach that comprised participant observation, archival work and in-depth interviews, this research aimed to uncover the visceral implications that the economic crisis brought to local workers, especially the unemployed ones. Working as a machine operator in a furniture shop, in 2007, and sharing the community's everyday life (playing in a local football team, participating in the local festivities, joining the unemployed workers in their institutionalized routines) throughout 2008, the researcher used is own body as a methodological instrument to capture and inquire the usually silent and invisible processes of economic transformation. This presentation focus on the magnified consequences these changes have over the most vulnerable segments of the workforce: unemployed workers with more than 50 years old, with comprehensive obligations (including huge bank loans) and deprived of scholar certificates. Seen as «obsolete» or «un-convertible» from the bureaucratic point of view of the job centre, which privileges formal «certificates» or psychological «qualities» these workers seem to lack, they enter an existential limbo. Notwithstanding, this paper also highlights the tactics of self-preservation that are used by workers in order to circumvent the institutional prejudices and explore their comprised margins of freedom (through the emigration, for instance).

Panel P080
New trends in the anthropology of unemployment after the economic crisis of 2008-9 [Anthropology of Economy Network]