with Andrew Sanchez, University of Cambridge
Part of spring term seminar series
For the employees of an Indian scrap-metal yard, work is a process of disassembling things that other people no longer want. Despite the difficult conditions of the labor and the social stigma attached to it, employees express satisfaction in the work process itself. This observation raises questions for theories of labor, alienation and value, which see artisanal satisfaction as arising from an act of ‘making’. Based on research in the Indian industrial city of Jamshedpur, this paper suggests a conceptual framework for understanding why some types of work are experienced in more satisfying ways than others. Engaging with questions of skill, value and agency, the paper argues that the core of a satisfying work task is a process of transformation, rather an act of creation.
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