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Accepted Paper:

A double fall. An anthropological approach to unemployment in Turin, Italy  
Carlo Capello (University of Torino)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper, I will investigate the experiences of some jobless people in Turin, showing that unemployment is experienced as a double, social and material fall. Joblessness is a process of social disqualification affecting social identity, social status and relations, not only the income.

Paper long abstract:

Unemployment is a huge and structural phenomenon in the Mediterranean are and Southern Europe. In this paper, I will investigate the experiences of some jobless people in Turin, Italy, a city which is currently in a critical situation: Turin has been particularly affected by the long recession begun in 2008, because the economic crisis has intensified a long, uncertain and dramatic process of deindustrialization and transition toward post-Fordism. One of the consequences of the overlap between crisis and deindustrialization has been the massive growth of unemployment, whose rate is now well over 12%.

How this massive joblessness is lived in Turin? Among my interlocutors, unemployment is experienced as a double fall, a social as well as a material one. Joblessness is, for them, a process of social disqualification affecting social identity, social status and relations as well as income. Unemployed are seen as liminal figures, since they lack a definite status and are defined only in negative terms.

This is the reason why their survival tactics cannot really solve their problems. Temporary and off-the-books jobs as well as their dependency on family and relatives, although necessary, can cushion the fall only partially and can rather increase their social disqualification.

Based on two years of ethnographic research, the paper shows that in order to fully understand unemployment we have to grasp its double nature, looking to its consequences on identity and status as well as its economic effects.

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Works and lives: new perspectives on economy and livelihoods in Mediterranean Anthropology [Mediterraneanist Network (MedNet)]