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Precarity Reading Schedule

Eli Thorkelson

Course Outline: Social Anthropology 344
Theories & Debates in Social Anthropology

Aim of the module

This module is an introduction to contemporary theory and ethnographic writing. During the course, you will read texts that question conventional understandings and approaches. Through lectures and course readings, you will learn about the different approaches to ethnography that have developed over time as well as some of the key debates and issues that have emerged within anthropological research on precarity and disgust.

The aims of the course are the following:

  • To introduce students to a range of anthropological concepts and debates through reading ethnographies.
  • To explore contemporary theories of precarity and disgust in anthropology.
  • To improve students’ academic reading, analytical and writing skills.
  • To improve students’ ability to develop convincing arguments through writing and debate.

COURSE OUTLINE - Unit 1: Precarity

11th September: Introduction to Precarity

General introduction to the course and to Unit 1 (Precarity).

12th September: Precarious normal

Cross, Jamie. Neoliberalism as Unexceptional: Economic Zones and the Everyday Precariousness of Working Life in South India. Critique of Anthropology 30, no. 4 (2010): 355-73.

Millar, Kathleen. The Precarious Present: Wageless Labor and Disrupted Life in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Cultural Anthropology 29, no. 1 (2014): 32-53.

13th September: Precarious histories

Barchiesi, Franco. "The Changing World of Work in Gauteng." In Precarious Liberation: Workers, the State, and Contested Social Citizenship in Postapartheid South Africa. Albany: SUNY Press, 2011: 139-163.

See also:
Dubbeld, Bernard. How Social Security Becomes Social Insecurity: Unsettled Households, Crisis Talk and the Value of Grants in a Kwazulu-Natal Village. Acta Juridica 21, no. 1 (2013): 197-217.

Davies, Christopher S. Dark Inner Landscapes: The South Wales Coalfield. Landscape Journal 3, no. 1 (1984): 36-44.

15th September: Precarious migration

Lucht, Hans. "Migrant Work Situations." In Darkness before Daybreak: African Migrants Living on the Margins in Southern Italy Today. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011: Ch. 2.

18th September: The precarious classes

Standing, Guy. "The Precariat." In The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2011: 1-25.

19th September: Precarious representation

Comaroff, Jean, and John Comaroff. Alien-Nation: Zombies, Immigrants, and Millennial Capitalism. South Atlantic Quarterly 101, no. 4 (2002): 789-805.

See also:

Millar, Kathleen. Toward a Critical Politics of Precarity. Sociology Compass 11, no. 6 (2017): e12483.

Murgia, Annalisa. Representations of Precarity in Italy. Journal of Cultural Economy 7, no. 1 (2014): 48-63.

Neilson, Brett, and Ned Rossiter. Precarity as a Political Concept, or, Fordism as Exception. Theory, Culture and Society 25, no. 7-8 (2008): 51-72.

20th September: Precarious morality

Muehlebach, Andrea. "The Private Face of Privatization." In The Moral Neoliberal: Welfare and Citizenship in Italy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012: 201-228.

21st September: Long Paper Due

There will be no class meeting today, but note that Long Paper 1 is due (electronically) by 18:00.

22nd September: Precarious activism

Thorkelson, Eli. Precarity Outside: The Political Unconscious of French Academic Labor. American Ethnologist 43, no. 3 (2016): 475-87.

25th September: Public Holiday

No class.

26th September: Critique of method

Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. "Arts of Noticing." In The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015: 17-25.

27th September: Critique of labor

Weeks, Kathi. "Marxism, Productivism and the Refusal of Work." In The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics, and Postwork Imaginaries. Durham: Duke University Press, 2011: 79-111.

29th September: Unit Test

A written test on the first unit will be administered electronically.