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Accepted Paper:

Unwaged labour, volunteer work and social reproduction  

Author:

Rosie Read (Bournemouth University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper evaluates the analytical advantages of approaching volunteering as a form of work, rather than a dimension of citizenship. Drawing on radical feminist insights, I consider the relationship between volunteering and other waged and unwaged forms of work in the UK.

Paper long abstract:

In the 1970s, radical feminists in Europe and North America campaigned for 'wages for housework'. Their strategy was not only to make family care and domestic chores visible and remunerable as work, but also to show how this unwaged work was structurally related to other forms of commodified labour. They broadened the concept of work, arguing that socially reproductive activities of socializing humans into employment, and sustaining them outside of it were not in fact external to production within Fordist capitalism, but integral to it. This paper examines the relevance of these feminist analyses for a different form of unwaged activity in the contemporary era - volunteering.

Within anthropology, volunteering is mostly analysed through concepts of citizenship, morality, humanitarianism or public participation. Yet this kind of approach does not sufficiently illuminate the relationship of volunteering to contemporary capitalist production. I argue that by analysing volunteering as work, it becomes possible to evaluate how it is mobilised, coordinated and disciplined in ways that are closely related to other forms of waged and unwaged forms of work in the wider economy. This contention is explored through ethnographic research of the increasingly prominent place of Human Resource Management within UK volunteering, which seeks mould volunteer activities and attitudes in accordance with priorities of productivity, efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Panel P100
Rethinking work, power and social reproduction in and beyond Europe [Anthropology of Labour Network]