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Transforming economies and essential services: Delivery workers and the new capitalist offensive [Anthropology of Labor Network] 
Luisa Steur (University of Amsterdam)
Kristin Monroe (University of Kentucky)
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Don Kalb (University of Bergen)
Music Building (MUS), Lecture Room 101
Tuesday 26 July, -
Time zone: Europe/London

Short Abstract:

This panel focuses on the urban delivery workers who provide both essential services and the labor needed for the increased circulation of value characterizing contemporary capitalism. It thus examines issues of labor, capitalist transformation, class, and resistance in comparative perspective.

Long Abstract:

Since the pandemic, the increased consumption of home delivery services has often brought attention to issues of labor supply and logistics. Meanwhile more fundamental transformations in global capitalism continue to unfold as accumulation relies increasingly on speeding up the circulation of goods and increasing the number of exchanges (Harvey 2017), giving rise to a host of technological innovations and digitally-mediated exchange platforms that cater particularly to urban consumers. This panel focuses on the delivery workers providing much of the labour that is necessary for the increased circulation of value, be it as DHL couriers, Glovo "riders", Swiggy "boys", etc. These workers have, as an outcome of the pandemic, become ever more essential. An interesting paradox characterises their position: delivery work is amongst the most exploited and precarious forms of labour today and a sector from which new forms of resistance emerge. Indeed, delivery workers commonly have a migrant background and/or are highly racialized, labour under hyper-flexible, physically dangerous and subcontracted conditions and/or are "self-employed", and are subjected to aggressive algorithmic control and relentless evaluation. On the other hand, the work also offers certain forms of autonomy that can facilitate innovative forms of organising and acting, spatial contestations, and successful attempts at unionisation. By inviting papers on delivery workers connected to different platforms and in different cities across the world, this panel seeks to contribute insight into an important question for the anthropology of labour, that is: what are key registers of class formation under the new capitalist offensive?

Accepted papers:

Session 1 Tuesday 26 July, 2022, -