Accepted paper:

Making Time and Intimacy on the Road: Mongolian-Angelenos Resistance to Industrial Time


Chima Michael Anyadike-Danes (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation explores the lives of Mongolian long-distance truckers dwelling in LA. Contradicting representations of the digital and the physical as counterposed it argues that for these workers the digital plays an essential role in creating localities where physical intimacy might occur.

Paper long abstract:

The American long-distance trucking industry has become an essential and productive lynchpin in supply chains creation of value (Tsing, 2009; Cowen, 2010). Concurrently deregulation made collective bargaining increasingly difficult for truckers (Belzer, 1995; Cowen, 2014). Thus just at the moment at which trucking has become crucial it has also become likened to a sweatshop as its workers labor for long days and spend considerable time away from family, and have seen their relative remuneration decline (Belzer, 2000; Belman and Monaco, 2001).

Despite these hardships many of the Mongolian-Angeleno men I met not only took to trucking but spoke of it positively. They constructed a narrative of long-distance trucking as both respectable and preferable to other forms of blue-collar labor. A key aspect of these accounts was the freedom trucking offered them. They were able to make their own hours and the limited oversight allowed for the creation of temporary locales for physical socialization. For these truckers communications technology was not just a tool of phatic labor, but an essential element in the creation of vital and necessary forms of physical co-presence with their fellow truckers. While in recent years a moral panic has engulfed the digital counterposing it as a toxic counterpart to the physical (Turkle, 2011), I argue here that the forms of digital communication long-distance truckers were engaged in were central to their creation of localities. I thus, as others have done (Boellstorff, 2016), suggest a positive role for the digital.

panel P083
Creating locality in mobile times: intimacy, friendship and belonging between digital and physical co-presence [ANTHROMOB]