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Accepted Paper:

Life and Work Outside of the Hamster's Cage Precarity, Alternative Work, and the Pursuit of a Life Worth Living in Catalonia  
Vinzenz Baumer Escobar (University of Oslo)

Paper short abstract:

This paper is based on fieldwork with a cooperative based in Barcelona whose members south to minimize their dependence on waged labor. Drawing from perspectives from the global South, I will decenter waged labor as an analytic in favor of foregrounding alternative work as a mode of provisioning.

Paper long abstract:

Across Southern-Europe, the restructuring of the relation between labor and capital has led to an increasing sense of insecurity, precariousness, and discontent across various social classes. Within this context we have seen the proliferation of alternative or diverse economies that strive to create labor relations that lie outside of the waged labor contract and are based on values such as trust, proximity, and solidarity. Drawing on 14 months of fieldwork with an anti-capitalist cooperative cum social movement in Barcelona, I will argue that the literature on precarity and precarious labor is ill-equipped to analyze cases such as this where people eschew waged-labor and the supposed existential stability this kind of work is often thought to bring. Instead, I will follow recent anthropological perspectives from the global South that center how people fashion a worthy existence through different kinds of work that are often characterized as "precarious" or "informal" (Gandolfo 2013; Millar 2018; O'Hare 2014). I will show that the members of the cooperative actively sought to minimize their dependence on waged labor out of a desire to pursue a life lived outside of a more routinized, "capitalist" rhythm, even if this meant putting themselves in seemingly "precarious" positions. In this way, this paper contributes to the "decentering" of waged labor as an analytic and will instead foreground alternative work as a mode of provisioning in order to make sense of the shifting boundaries between the state, society, and economy in contemporary Southern Europe.

Panel P002
Works and lives: new perspectives on economy and livelihoods in Mediterranean Anthropology [Mediterraneanist Network (MedNet)]