Call for Abstracts: Essential but Excluded: Surviving precarity in essential economic sectors during and after the pandemic

Liberty Chee's picture
Call for Papers
November 28, 2022
Subject Fields: 
Immigration & Migration History / Studies, Labor History / Studies, Political Science, Social Sciences, Women's & Gender History / Studies

20th IMISCOE Annual Conference ‘Migration and Inequalities: In Search of Answers and Solutions.’ 
July 3-6 2023 
Warsaw and Online

Essential but Excluded: Surviving precarity in essential economic sectors during and after the pandemic 

Organizers: Liberty Chee (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice) and Cecilia Vergnano (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) 

At the height of Covid, it became clear what kinds of workers were ‘essential’ – i.e. the ones whose labour were absolutely necessary and could not easily be replaced in times of an emergency. They performed work that were needed in order to sustain the rest of us (cleaners, care workers, meatpackers, farm workers, delivery persons, etc.) but they were not considered essential in themselves.  Indeed, the irony is that these workers, among which migrants and racially-subaltern workers are overrepresented, are deemed ‘low-skilled,’ and their value is reflected in low wages and poor social and labour protections.  When they are migrants, their precarity increases as regimes often exclude or prevent them from accessing social security.  In other words, while their labour works to ‘secure’ populations in their host country and to guarantee their ‘material reproduction’, they are denied the same security. This panel is interested in exploring these contradictions. 

-    Why is ‘essential’ labour also cheap and disposable? What are the consequences of disposability?
-    What are the gendered and racialized aspects of deeming certain kinds of work ‘low-skilled?’ 
-    Which were the implicit ideological assumptions of the pandemic management in different national contexts? Whose lives matter?
-    How did the pandemic management rearticulate labour and class relations, as well as models of work organization?
-    What do ‘risk’ and ‘care’ mean in a context where state protection cannot be taken for granted? Which strategies do essential and exploited workers enact to ensure survivability in and beyond pandemic times?

We seek locally-grounded research that addresses historical context and cultural specificity as well as relevant transnational dynamics at work in case studies.

Key words: de-skilling, feminization, racialization, subsistence and social provisioning, social reproduction 

Please submit your 200-word abstract to this link  by November 28, 2022.  For any questions, kindly contact the organizers Liberty Chee and Cecilia Vergnano