SCA2014: Labor in Specie? Realizing Multiple Lives of Work

To express interest in this panel, please use the comments feature on this page and/or contact Mrinalini Tankha and Casey Golomski: mtankha [at] *and* casey.golomski [at]

Panel Name: Labor in Specie? Realizing Multiple Lives of Work

Panel Organizers: Casey Golomski (University of Massachusetts Boston) and Mrinalini Tankha (Brandeis University)

Discussants: TBD

Panel Abstract: Labor as a concept and mode of action is embedded in varied socio-economic conditions of neoliberalism, structural adjustment, post-colonialism and postsocialism. Due to these historical contingencies, labor in everyday circuits of productive action does not always emerge as we might expect. Does labor emerge in specie, that is (1) in a precise, predetermined or recognizable form and (2) exclusively for purposes of remuneration? What forms might labor take instead? Marxist ideas of wage labor under conditions of capitalism are now limiting to think with. It is therefore critical to interrogate labor as constituted by multiple schema of evaluating social action. How can we explain productive action and forms of value without recourse to solely Marxist inflected categories of labor? Moreover, how can we rethink labor in a way that renders Marxist-related notions like a universal “species-being” as diverse and unstable? This panel tasks anthropology with rethinking the terms and conceptual apparatus for cases where conventional wage labor is piecemeal, disrupted and merely one articulation in the incoherent lives of work. Our approach, hence, situates labor in the numerous transecting forces that animate peoples’ motivations and strategies for economic survival and socio-cultural realization.