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CALL FOR PAPERS: Being in/at Work: Repositioning Knowledge about Work, Disability and Chronicity

This special issue for the Anthropology of Work Review (AWR) intends to shed light on how people navigate disabling, chronic, debilitating and/or enabling experiences in and through work, and how these experiences are shaped by the social localities from which they emerge.

Published onJun 07, 2023
CALL FOR PAPERS: Being in/at Work: Repositioning Knowledge about Work, Disability and Chronicity

CALL FOR PAPERS Special Issue: Being in/at Work: Repositioning Knowledge about Work, Disability and Chronicity

GUEST EDITORS: Stefanie Mauksch (University of Leipzig) and Giorgio Brocco (University of Vienna)

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION: Abstract: June 30th, 2023; Full Paper (upon invitation): December 30th, 2023

This special issue for the Anthropology of Work Review (AWR) intends to shed light on how people navigate disabling, chronic, debilitating and/or enabling experiences in and through work, and how these experiences are shaped by the social localities from which they emerge. We invite papers that focus on how work becomes significant for people whose body-mind conditions or appearances are produced as ‘other’ in respective societies, or who experience pain or chronic illness that delimit (but maybe also reshape or expand) their possibilities to contribute to communities and other social arrangements. With such dedicated focus on work and work-related embodiment and meaning-making, we depart from the focus on economic exclusion put forward in previous inquiries in anthropology and related disciplines. While recognizing the effects of systemic exclusion and stigma, our special issue attends to positive and affirmative relations between occupational identities and work embodiments, on the one hand, and experiences of disability and chronicity, on the other. Exploring new angles on the interplay between ‘being disabled’/‘being in chronic living’ and ‘being in/at work’, we ask whether and how work also ‘works’ as a form to abandon or to problematize constructions of disability and incapacity.

Anthropologists have long focused on the production of social difference through medical categories, but they have rarely approached disabled people or chronically ill people as working subjects. This is an effect of a tendency to explore the historical emergence of disability and chronicity (more recently) as categories in contexts of Fordist and post-Fordist, neoliberal industry production, mainly, in the Global North. These historical developments have led to the institutionalization of categories of ‘unproductive’ people who are being excluded from expectations of capitalist production and have, meanwhile, meandered into humanitarian contexts in the Global South. Such framing of disabled individuals and people with various chronic conditions as those who cannot fully participate in production has concealed the ways in which precarious and labor-intensive forms of work, that capitalism demands, may also produce a capitalist and colonial politics of impairment (Meekosha 2011). In a range of contributions, however, some scholars not only attest exclusion, but explore ambivalent relations between different modalities of work and experiences of disability and chronicity (e.g. Friedner 2015; Muyinda 2020; Boellstorff 2022). Work may here emerge as form of social participation and opportunity to contribute. Various anthropological studies show that performing ‘defect’ may even become instrumental to work. People with visible ailments tactically use their appearances to make an income (Staples 2014). New types of business models draw from stereotyped ideals of disability to frame and commodify disability in new ways (Mauksch and Dey 2023).

A thorough focus on socio-political, economic and historical meanings of disability and chronicity, including the everyday activities of people with such conditions, can help us in a twofold way. To emphasize emic conceptions of work, and to reconceptualize the phenomenological dimensions of what ‘to work’ means in various social settings and geographical areas. Our attention to intertwinements among work, disability and chronicity lead us to approach such relations in situational, experiential, historical and circumstantial terms.

More specifically, the special issue aims to bring together papers which address various interrelated concerns. Notably, (1) we seek contributions that address forms of coconstitution by inquiring into the manifold ways in which types of disability and/or chronicity are defined in connection to ideals of work. Vice versa, the focus of our special issue is concerned with how disability and chronicity shape extant forms of labor. Additionally, (2) we are keen to receive articles that explore values, narratives and practices around disability and chronicity meaning-making in order to understand how, and in which terms, people with disability and/or chronic conditions, in various localities around the globe, perform and talk about their work, employment and daily activities. (3) A further point of analysis concerns the socio-political and cultural engagement in forms of critique. In other words, we look forward to receiving scholarly contributions that show how embedded understandings of disability, chronicity, and work are brought to estrange the workings of administrative procedures, ideologies and political arrangements. Finally, (4) our special issue may include articles that are based on reflection and auto-ethnography as strategies and dynamics of knowledge production. In particular, we welcome papers that are able to question to what degree the labor of anthropologists is, or can be, shaped by ableist conceptions; as well as what potential a disability and chronicity positionality holds to explore exclusionary dimensions of anthropological work.

With this special issue, we therefore invite scholars and activists to explore new insights at the intersection of work/employment and disability/chronicity. More specifically, papers and articles from Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) scholars and activists with chronic conditions and/or disability coming from Global Southern contexts or working on these topics from underfinanced global Northern settings are welcome. While our Special Issue will emphasize on these connections and concepts, we are also open to welcome, and look forward to receiving, contributions that build on many different citational engagements that go beyond our research focus.

Our selection process pursues in two steps. We invite interested scholars to submit a 500- word abstract, author(s) affiliations and keywords by June 30th 2023 to the corresponding editor Giorgio Brocco [email protected]. Upon positive response, we invite you to submit a full paper until December 30th, 2023. The manuscripts submitted will then undergo a double-blind peer review process supported by Anthropology of Work Review. Publication of the issue is planned for mid-2025, depending on peer-reviewed process and responses from the journal’s reviewers.

Contact details: [email protected] (corresponding editor); [email protected]


The Anthropology of Work Review (AWR) is an international forum for multidisciplinary research on work and labor in the broadest sense. As the peer-reviewed journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Work, a section of the American Anthropological Association, AWR's mission is to facilitate ethnographically-informed discussions of work politics and practices, including struggles over the absence of work, as well as to promote dialogue around a plurality of emerging theoretical, epistemological, and methodological approaches. The journal invites submissions that concern all aspects of human and nonhuman labor, from inquiries into its structure and organization to novel propositions for rethinking its implications and emerging forms. AWR welcomes perspectives that challenge hegemonies of work, linked as they are to historical and contemporary forms of patriarchy, racism, fascism, and colonialism. The journal is especially committed to amplifying the scholarship of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), as well as perspectives that spring from feminist, queer, and other historically and currently marginalized positions. In the journal, we endeavor to create a space for constructive feedback, mentorship, mutual care, and solidarity in our peer review, editorial, and publication processes. AWR strives to center ethnographic approaches to labor that challenge entrenched ideas about the anthropological canon and that contribute to the project of rebuilding the field based on anti-colonial, anti-racist, and antipatriarchal principles.

For further details see:


Stefanie Mauksch is senior lecturer and research associate in anthropology at Leipzig University (Germany) who has specialized in economic anthropology, organizational ethnography and critical entrepreneurship studies. She has conducted research on startup communities and the effects of entrepreneurial initiatives in the Global South, in particular Nepal and Sudan, and in specific social fields, such as meanings and experiences of disability.


Giorgio Brocco is a postdoctoral fellow and lecturer at the University of Vienna (Austria). His work focuses on people with albinism in Tanzania and people with chronic diseases/disabilities living in “toxic environment” in Martinique. Since his PhD degree (2021), Giorgio has taken part in various international conferences and workshops as well as published peer-reviewed book chapters, articles and blog posts.



Boellstorff, Tom (2022). The opportunity to contribute: Disability and the digital entrepreneur. Research Handbook on Disability and Entrepreneurship. Edward Elgar Publishing, 262-278.

Friedner, M. (2015). Valuing Deaf Worlds in Urban India. New York: Rutgers University Press.

Manderson, L., Wahlberg A. (2020) Chronic living in a communicable world. Medical Anthropology, 39(5), 428-439.

Mauksch, S. Dey, P. (2023). Treating disability as an asset (not a limitation): A critical examination of disability inclusion through social entrepreneurship. Organization, 0(0).

Meekosha, H. (2011). Decolonising disability: Thinking and acting globally. Disability & Society, 26(6), 667-682.

Muyinda, H. (2020). The Skilling Journey: Disability, Technology, and Sociality in Postconflict Northern Uganda. Current Anthropology, 61(S21), 123-131.

Rapp, R., Ginsburg, F. (2013). Disability Worlds. Annu. Rev. Anthropol., 42, 53–68.

Staples, J. (2014). Leprosy and a Life in South India: Journeys with a Tamil Brahmin. Lanham: Lexington Books.

Whyte, S. R., & Ingstad, B. (2007). Disability in Local and Global Worlds. Berkeley: University of California Press

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