The Social Life of Work

12 October 2018 - 13 October 2018

SG1 and SG2, Alison Richard Building

Registration for this conference is now open. Fees are £40 (full price) or £20 (student/unwaged); one-day registration is also available. Fees include lunches and refreshments. The deadline for registration is Sunday 7 October.



Asiya Islam (University of Cambridge)



This two-day conference aims to generate engaged, imaginative, and creative scholarship on work. Through the pressing demands of global capitalist development, not only has waged work acquired a ‘moral charge’, it has also undergone transformation. While some of these transformations – emergence of the ‘gig’ economy, increased precariousness of work and unemployment, instability of employment – are globally observable, they manifest in disparate ways in different parts of the world, often rendering mainstream theories of work inapplicable to understandings of work in the Global South. 

Further, the focus on emerging or new forms and structures of work tends to side line continued (and new) forms of unpaid work, thus neglecting crucial analysis of inequalities of gender, race, class, caste and so on. In this context, this conference defines work broadly to encompass not only waged and unwaged work, but also repudiation of work, particularly in but not limited to the Global South. 

Through engaged qualitative scholarship on work and non-work, this conference seeks to develop theoretical and analytical insights into the organisation and experience of work as informed by social inequalities, hence ‘The Social Life of Work’. By facilitating conversation among scholars from various disciplines – History, Sociology, Anthropology, International Development, Gender Studies – this conference will generate critical interdisciplinary understandings of work and non-work through varied methodological, analytical, and theoretical tools. 




Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), Gates Cambridge, and the University of Cambridge's Department of Sociology.


Administrative assistance:

Day 1 - Friday 12 October

10.30 - 10.55


10.55 - 11.00

Welcome and Introduction

11.00 - 12.30

Panel 1: Work and Non-Work 

Elizaveta Fouksman (University of Oxford)

'Universal social protection and the imperatives of work: Support and resistance from Southern Africa'


Miranda Sheild Johansson (University College London) 

'“Working for the municipality is like ploughing the land” – The definition and value of work in an Andean ayllu'

12.30 - 13.30


13.30 - 15.00

Panel 2: Rhythms of Work 

Hatice Yildiz (University of Oxford) 

'Women’s Time and Men’s Time in the Age of Mass Production (A Study on Labour Patterns in the Indian Cotton Industry)'


Agustin Diz (London School of Economics) 

'Unemployment, Roadblocks and the Rhythms of Hydrocarbon among the Guaraní of the Argentine Chaco'

15.00 - 15.30


15.30 - 17.00

Panel 3: Work in Transition 

Samita Sen (Jadavpur University)

'Domestic workers in transition in India'


Kate Meagher (London School of Economics) 

'Formalizing or Informalizing?: The Effect of Digital Ridehailing on Work and Transport in Nigeria'

17.00 - 17.30

Concluding Comments

Day 2 - Saturday 13 October

9.30 - 11.00

Panel 4: Work and Subjectivity 

Nandini Gooptu (University of Oxford)

'Changing the mind and behaviour of the poor at work: Political subjectivity of low-end service workers in India's corporate sector' 


Garima Jaju (University of Oxford) 

'Friends, enemies and "dirty politics": studying petty politics on the workfloor'

11.00 - 11.30


11.30 - 13.00

Panel 5: Work, Wage, Space 

William Monteith (Queen Mary University of London)

'The post-wage economy: Re-theorising "work" from a Ugandan marketplace' 


Sibylla Warrington (University of Cambridge) 

'Social networks, urban knowledge and place: low-income and indigenous women’s work in Santa Cruz'

13.00 - 14.00


14.00 - 15.30

Panel 6: Work and Working Lives 

Mechthild von Vacano (Freie Universität Berlin)

‘"Conduct of Life": A subject-oriented approach to the study of (non-)work arrangements'


Asiya Islam (University of Cambridge)

'Resignation(s): Gender, precarious work, precarious lives'

15.30 - 16.00


16.00 - 17.00