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Accepted Paper:

Reproducing work and life in industrial and digital labour communities  


Eeva Kesküla (Tallinn University)

Paper short abstract:

Looking at Kazakhstani industrial workers and digital nomads in Thailand, I ask where the boundaries production and reproduction run in late capitalism and which groups in society have the power to determine where the boundaries are situated in their own lives.

Paper long abstract:

This paper looks at the future and the past of work by studying reproducing life and reproducing work as two complementary and antagonistic aspects. Kathi Weeks (2011) suggests that how we think about work should move from the Marxist perspective of producing value to its feminist critique of the common reproducing of life, reproduction as social production. She proposes 'life' as a possible counterpoint to work, in the sense of a full life, filled with qualities that we are urged towards. While keeping the postwork utopias in mind, I want to complicate things through thinking about the reproduction of work and of life through two case studies. Firstly, the female Kazakhstani factory workers who bring their reproductive labour their workplace to keep the crumbling factory going and secondly location-independent IT-workers, digital nomads, who escape the traditional location based work arrangements and choose 'life' (at least in discourse) and travel with children. This paper asks where the boundaries of work and life, production and reproduction run in late capitalism and which groups in society have the structural position or power to determine where these boundaries of 'having work' or 'getting a life' are situated. The data for this paper is gathered through an extensive field work with Kazakhstani mining communities and a fresh pilot study of digital nomad families in Koh Phangan, Thailand.

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