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Accepted Paper:

The unruly effects of precarious labor: Municipal frontline workers and their indigent clients   
Martha Kapazoglou (Leiden University)

Paper Short Abstract:

A decade of austerity has rendered Greek welfare state employees into precarious workers, tasked with caring for people that are even more vulnerable than themselves. The paper shows the unruly effects produced by this shared precarity between state employees and clients.

Paper Abstract:

In Thessaloniki, municipal frontline workers, hired on temporary contracts and paid meager wages, are tasked with the daily operation of local state services. These workers are called on to address ever growing demands for help and assist people that are even more vulnerable than themselves. Their precarious institutional position fills them with uncertainty about the future and makes them feel uncared for both as employees and citizens. How do these frontline workers position themselves vis-à-vis the municipal social provision system and the welfare state writ large? What are their visions for the future of welfare, and what relations do they seek to craft with the people they help?

This paper explores the diverging visions, relationalities and affects produced by municipal frontline workers’ precarious institutional position, developing a critical yet empathetic analysis of them as welfare state agents. It shows how frontline workers’ precarity and associated feelings of powerlessness prompt them to experience and critique the municipal system as senseless and disorganized, lacking in proper rules and procedures. For some, this critique inspires conservative and ethnonationalist visions, resting on the (re-)institution of bureaucratic formality. Attempting to (re-)institute bureaucratic formality in practice, frontline workers create unequal, disempowering relationalities with their clients, steeped in ugly feelings. Yet, for others, their critical stance gives rise to more egalitarian visions for the future of welfare. Such visions rest on creating intimate, personal relations with clients and expanding the latter’s access to limited state resources.

Panel P154
Reimagining welfare futures as things fall apart [Anthropologies of the State (AnthroState)]
  Session 1 Friday 26 July, 2024, -