Accepted paper:

The anthropology of labor and the "political turn"


Sharryn Kasmir (Hofstra University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper rethinks anthropology through the lens of labor, to encourage a critical engagement with important but marginalized anthropological forbearers and to imagine a "turn" in anthropology toward questions of labor, inequality and power.

Paper long abstract:

The insecurity and precariousness of our times are not altogether new. Some anthropologists in the past--St. Clair Drake, George Balandier, Bernard Magubane and Godfrey and Monica Wilson, among others--conducted fieldwork among laboring populations undergoing "detribalization," "proletarianization," and rural-urban migration, but while they studied particular cultural groups, they also questioned accepted disciplinary frameworks by exploring how their subjects' lives were shaped at the juncture of local and global processes and the "here"/"elsewhere" spatial divide. The promise of their innovative approaches, however, remains unrealized, as their work has too often been marginalized and their individual projects have not reoriented anthropology's very understanding of itself. This paper rethinks their work through the lens of labor, in order to help foster the "political turn" that their perspectives might have presaged.

panel PE39
Capitalism and global anthropology: Marxism resurgent