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Call for Papers: Racialization and Gig Economies

This special issue of the Anthropology of Work Review calls for papers that take up the historically determinate conditions of work within gig economies and the processes of racialization constitutive of and produced through these conditions.

Published onMay 15, 2023
Call for Papers: Racialization and Gig Economies

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Call for Papers: Racialization and Gig Economies

Christien Tompkins and Shreya Subramani invite submissions to a special issue of the Anthropology of Work Review

Proposed Publication Date: Winter 2024

Due date for abstracts: July 15, 2023


This special issue of the Anthropology of Work Review calls for papers that take up the historically determinate conditions of work within gig economies and the processes of racialization constitutive of and produced through these conditions. 

Amidst global transformations in the structure of labor and accumulation regimes over the last century, the United States has experienced an ongoing decomposition of Fordist structures of work and move toward post-Fordist valorizations of idea and niche economies (Harvey 1990). This shift was in step with global patterns in which neoliberal forces privatized and financialized public goods and institutions by devolving and dispersing public responsibilities onto atomized subjects (Harvey 2005; Brown 2015; Freeman 2014). Recognizable features of such changes include: the development and expansion of gig economies, novel managerial ideologies of “doing what you love” (Weeks 2017), and broader moves to deskill and cut contractual benefits (Graeber 2019). These phenomena all exist in relation to the valorization of new technologies of intelligence, mechanization, digitization, and mobility (Shibata 2021; Anwar, M. A., & Graham, 2021).

At the same time, large-scale and violent displacements in local and global contexts produce differentiating vulnerabilities for workers (Mezzadra & Neilson 2013). Migrants traverse borders and oceans to support kin and survive. These displacements are subtended by punitive stakes of imprisonment, military/paramilitary mobilization, and forms of organized abandonment in neighborhoods and nations (Gilmore 1999, 2007, 2008; Camp 2016; Besteman 2019). Alongside these volatile diasporic movements for workers, are the growing humanitarian and development economies of care work (Agier 2010; Andersson 2014). While these conditions mark our contemporary historical conjuncture (Gramsci 2011 (1971); Hall & Massey 2012), such global dynamics have always produced racializing assemblages (Weheliye 2014) constitutive of global political economies (Robinson 2000 (1983); Gordon 2005; Appel 2019).

These changing political economies continue to create modes of flexibilized and precarious dislocations of work characteristic of gig economies. Such shifts provide valuable ethnographic terrains for emergent critiques of (1) labor (waged and unwaged); (2) ideology (from bourgeois reproduction to anti-work resistance); and (3) material conditions (destruction of land, harm to ecological/bodily health, and the distribution of shelter and resources).

This special issue explores the emergence of “gig economies” as historical formations within racial capitalism:

●       How do we understand the racialized historical contexts and racializing processes that produce “gig economies”?

●       How do gig economies transform the practices, discourses, and ideologies of skill, capacity, expertise, and forms of intelligence?

The editors of this special issue welcome submissions from diverse historical and geographic contexts and methodological and theoretical traditions of critique in conversation with anthropological and ethnographic conversations on labor and work. Moving beyond research which merely engages with or includes racialized populations or simply documents workers’ racial discrimination, submissions should offer historically situated critiques of transforming political economies in order to theorize how the racialized/racializing phenomena of gig economies articulate within the following sites:

technological development (Benjamin 2020, Irani 2019, Jobson 2021, Noble 2018); labor struggles (DuBois 1935, Kelley 2015, Winant 2021); carceral logics (Burton 2021, Sojoyner 2016); pedagogical methods (Apple 1988, Shange 2019, Sims 2017, Tompkins 2015); labor precarity, surveillance, and (in)security (Browne 2015, Monahan 2022)

Submissions may also present ethnographic explorations of racializing/racialized (re)valorizations of skill, capacity, expertise, and intelligence in work (Amrute 2016, Iskander 2022, Suchman 2007) that:

foreclose or potentiate collective solidarities (Blanchette 2019, Kassem 2023, Sargent 2020); reinforce or undermine work as a primary site of domination/authority and mode social/political organization (Anderson 2017, Hall 1980, Weeks 2011); or reify or unsettle normative subjectivities (Freeman 2014, Graeber 2019, Subramani 2022, Urciuoli 2008).

We welcome abstracts of no more than 500 words for consideration of inclusion by July 15, 2023 (email with contact information to [email protected]). Following a short review period:

●       Prospective authors will be invited to contribute a full manuscript to the special issue by August 1, 2023.

●       If selected, full submissions can be original research articles, long-form interviews, multimodal, auto-ethnographic, or theoretical in content but should be no more than 8,000 words to be submitted before or by December 1, 2023. Instructions for submission will be sent in August along with invitations to contribute.

●       Contributors are also invited to pitch ideas for supplementary materials to be published in the Society for the Anthropology of Work’s short-form, open access web publication, Exertions. These materials might include media objects or other materials that would help instructors and students to engage with the article more deeply or provide reflections on the relationship between teaching, learning and laboring as an academic. An optional one-page précis may be included as a supplementary document with the full submission.

Questions and inquiries can be directed to the special issue’s coeditors.

Christien Tompkins, [email protected]

Shreya Subramani, [email protected]



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2016    Encoding Race, Encoding Class: Indian IT Workers in Berlin. Durham: Duke University Press.

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Andersson, Ruben
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Anwar, Mohammad Amir, and Mark Graham
 2021   Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Freedom, Flexibility, Precarity and Vulnerability in the Gig Economy in Africa. Competition & Change 25(2). SAGE Publications Ltd: 237–258.

Appel, Hannah
 2019   The Licit Life of Capitalism: U.S. Oil in Equatorial Guinea. Durham: Duke University Press Books.

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2015    Dark Matters: on the Surveillance of Blackness. Durham: Duke University Press.

Burton, Orisanmi

2021    “Captivity, Kinship, and Black Masculine Care Work Under Domestic Warfare.” American Anthropologist 123 (3): 621–32.

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2019    Chasing Innovation: Making Entrepreneurial Citizens in Modern India. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

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2021    Does Skill Make Us Human?: Migrant Workers in 21st-Century Qatar and Beyond. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

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2023    Work and Alienation in the Platform Economy: Amazon and the Power of Organization. Policy Press.

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2015    Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression. 2nd ed. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

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2021    “Dead Labor: On Racial Capital and Fossil Capital, by Ryan Cecil Jobson.” In Histories of Racial Capitalism. United States: Columbia University Press.

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 2013   Border as Method, or, the Multiplication of Labor. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Monahan, Torin

2022    Crisis Vision: Race and the Cultural Production of Surveillance. Durham: Duke University Press

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 2000   Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition. 2nd edition. Chapel Hill, N.C: The University of North Carolina Press.

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2019    Progressive Dystopia: Abolition, Anthropology, and Race in the New San Francisco. Durham: Duke University Press.

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2022   Digitalization or Flexibilization? The Changing Role of Technology in the Political Economy of Japan. Review of International Political Economy 29(5). Routledge: 1549–1576.

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2017    Disruptive Fixation: School Reform and the Pitfalls of Techno-Idealism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Sojoyner, Damien M.

2016    First Strike: Educational Enclosures in Black Los Angeles. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

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2022    The Entrepreneurial Catch: Toward an Analytic of Racial Responsibilization. Current Anthropology, 63(4), 367-385.

Suchman, Lucille Alice

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 2017   Down with Love: Feminist Critique and the New Ideologies of Work. WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly 45(3–4): 37–58.

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 2014   Habeas Viscus: Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human. Durham: Duke University Press Books.

Winant, Gabriel

2021    The Next Shift: The Fall of Industry and the Rise of Health Care in Rust Belt America. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

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