Association pour l’anthropologie du changement social et du développement
Association for the anthropology of social change and development

Work When There’s No Work

Auteur(s) : Rundong Ning ; Junnan Mu ;

English summary

How do people work when work job opportunities are rare, and precarious and subjected to the ever-changing landscape of automation and digitalization? This panel aims to rethink some of the key concepts about work in the global South, such as the informal economy and hustling, using more recent ethnographic accountss. While platforms, entrepreneurship, and remote work become more prevalent and create more jobs, economic recessions and geopolitical uncertainties are also endangering many existing jobs. New practices, imaginations, and cultures of work emerge as the future of jobs remains uncertain. This panel, combining classic concepts with up-to-date ethnographies, hopes to explore more effective ways to capture this rapidly changing situation of work.

English argumentary

Work in the global South faces a critical issue of limited satisfactory job opportunities, characterized by inadequate social welfare and inconsistent income. This raises the question of how people navigate (not) work in such circumstances. Scholars have examined various forms of work-related activities in Africa, including informal work, hustling, unemployment, illicit work, and migration for work. However, given recent technological, geopolitical, and financial changes, it is essential to incorporate more up-to-date experiences of work into existing studies.

Technological advancements in the global South have given rise to new job opportunities and modalities. E-commerce platform sellers, content creators on media platforms, and digital nomads on job platforms are notable examples. Digital finance developments have facilitated financial flows related to these emerging forms of work. Simultaneously, investments in factories and manufacturing by local and international capital are reviving the demand for labor-intensive and factory-oriented jobs. However, global geopolitical and economic uncertainties are reshaping job distributions, leading to increased precarity and vulnerability in working lives, especially concerning existing governance structures.

How do individuals perceive and adapt to these rapidly changing work scenarios? What can we learn from their experiences about the meanings of work in contexts where the boundaries between living and working spaces are becoming increasingly blurred? This panel centers on the concept of “no work” as the empirical foundation to address pressing concerns voiced by the individuals under study. “No work” represents the systematic deprivation of stable livelihoods for many people, while also highlighting the blurred line between work and leisure. The panel invites papers exploring topics on:

  1. Technological changes and emerging forms of work
  2. Shifting work opportunities and geopolitical influences
  3. Evolving interpretations of work and its boundaries with leisure, idleness, and busyness
  4. social and political implications of these new work dynamics

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Voir tous les panels du colloque Au prisme du travail : capitalisme, développement et changement social dans le Sud global