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Engaging Precarity: A Seminar with Marcel Paret

December 2, 2016 @ 11:00 am - 1:00 pm  |  Humanities 2, Room 259


Inaugurating Session II of Non-citizenship, UC Santa Cruz’s 2016-17 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation John E. Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Culture, labor scholar Marcel Paret of the University of Utah and University of Johannesburg leads a seminar on Guy Standing’s concept of the precariat. Professor Standing of the School of Oriental and African Studies takes part in a half-day symposium on labor mobility and precarity with Alejandro Grimson of Universidad Nacional de San Martín in Buenos Aires and Biao Xiang of the University of Oxford on Tuesday, February 7, 2017, at the Merrill Cultural Center.

Session II of Non-citizenship focuses on global labor mobility and rising precarity, two concepts that highlight the broad and tiered spaces between citizen and non-citizen and their consequences. Linking labor mobility and precarity and holding them in dynamic tension is the notion of denizenship (residence without citizenship). Precarity—the experience of insecurity and constant risk of exclusion—is also central to the experience of many labor migrants and citizen-workers in our time. Today’s labor migrants are new denizens, something short of full members. They are differentially incorporated into host societies that desire their labor, but reject their presence. From Irish helots, to Chinese “coolies,” to Mexican Braceros, to Silicon Valley’s high-tech guest workers, mobile laborers with limited rights face new opportunities abroad, along with new forms of vulnerability, contingency, and expendability. Meanwhile, citizen-workers are exposed to new forms of labor precarity as social rights (for example, education, health care, and retirement protection) and access to their benefits are increasingly privatized and made contingent.

*Steve McKay, Associate Professor of Sociology and director of the Center for Labor Studies at UC Santa Cruz, will moderate the seminar with Professor Paret.


Marcel Paret is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Utah and Senior Research Associate with the South African Research Chair in Social Change at the University of Johannesburg. His research examines the politics of class formation and how they vary over time and across space. He is especially interested in globalization and marketization, race and migration, labor and social movements, protest and community politics, and the causes and consequences of precarity. He is the author of numerous articles and editor of “Politics of Precarity: Critical Engagements with Guy Standing,” a speical issue of Global Labor Journal (Vol. 7, No. 2 [2016]).

Steve McKay is an internationally renowned scholar of labor, migration, globalization, and race; and author of the award-winning Satanic Mills or Silicon Islands: The Politics of High-tech Production in the Philippines (Cornell University/ILR Press, 2006) and co-editor with Sukanya Bannerjee and Aims McGuinness of New Routes for Diaspora Studies (Indiana University Press, 2012). He is the principal investigator of Working for Dignity, a project on low-wage labor in Santa Cruz County, and is now working on a study of the affordable housing crisis in Santa Cruz County. In addition to serving on the CLRC Steering Committee, he directs the Center for Labor Studies and is also a co-principal investigator of Non-citizenship.


Please make sure to register here by Monday November 21,2016. 

Attendees are also asked to read the following essays prior to the seminar:

Guy Standing, “Denizens and the Precariat,” in A Precariat Charter:  From Denizens to Citizens (London:  Bloomsbury Academic, 2014), 1-32.

Marcel Paret, “Politics of Solidarity and Agency in an Age of Precarity,” Global Labor Journal Vol. 7, No. 2 (2016): 174-188.

Judith Butler, “Performativity, Precarity and Sexual Politics,” AIBR Vol. 4, No. 3 (2009): 1-13.