Labour Studies Index

Precarious Life, Work and Culture

Document type Thesis
Author Berggold, Craig Josef Condy
Degree M.A. (History)
Publisher Queen's University; Kingston, Ont.
Date 2014-10-02
URL https://qspace.library.queensu.ca/handle/1974/12556

Abstract

The contemporary precarious condition, ‘precarity,’ in life, work and culture parallels transformations in national and global economies, in part through the rise of immaterial production. Precarity has led to destabilization and reconfiguration of a class /class system and the creation of a new majority precarious class including domestic and farm workers, academic workers, care givers, part-timers and more. The thesis identifies how a historical moment of the Canadian Farmworkers Union (1979-1999) experienced marginal social protection, racial discrimination, limited legal rights, short-term contracts, vulnerable working conditions and precarious life without health care. The transnational lessons of the CFU include a better understanding organizing precarious citizens today — including what has not worked; importance of visual cultural analysis and counter-visuality to inform resistance. Theories of immaterial labour; porousness of international borders; lack of social protections; shorter career cycles; challenges to traditional craft unions; shift in social values as citizens organize across sectors, geographies and borders; and, migrant experiences as central to the experience of precarity. Confronted with the difficult task of re-imagining old ‘modernist’ visions of ‘class,’ ‘people,’ ‘nation-states’ and many established perspectives of resistance that have been stalemated. The thesis also includes a short survey of visual cultural expressions from twenty-first century precarious citizen groups. The Master of Arts - Cultural Studies major project is a 96-page illustrated history book (12” x 9”) titled Fields of Power: The Canadian Farmworkers Union with photographs and text by Craig Berggold.