The lack of work has been a recurrent grievance for working people and a site of protest since the early days of labour movements. This conference will bring together the latest international research into the protests of the workless in different countries.
Papers will be considered that address the following topics:
i) Explaining the protests of the unemployed.
There is a distinctiveness to the protests of the unemployed that requires explanation. These peculiarities exist at the level of the forms, geographies, time-scales and the organizations of protest. In the existing research, the principal modes of explanation have been: unemployment as a social location, the social psychology of unemployment, attitudinal models, institutional factors and questions of activism and agency.
ii) Protests of the unemployed and identity.
The protests of the unemployed have complex relationship to identity. The experience of unemployment and its relief have been highly differentiated according to nationality, ethnicity, region, gender and industry. The current research is divided over whether there is an unemployed condition or whether unemployment is a fragmented multiplicity of unconnected situations. The interplay between identity and protest is therefore a suggestive one at a number of levels. Different responses are possible. Identity could be seen as a constitutive feature of protest, or alternatively, the transcendence of particular identities could be viewed as part of a process of protest. Furthermore, the remembering or forgetting of these protests has a bearing on formation of collective identities.
iii) Impacts of protest
The problem of the impact of protest confronts all those who study social conflict. Some protests of the unemployed have been directed to specific, sometimes local, alterations in circumstances such as an improvement in benefit rates or the prevention of an eviction. Beyond such events, where success and failure is easily attributable, the impact of protest is more problematic and contentious.
iv) Representations and discourses of the protests of the unemployed.
The protest of the unemployed has been represented in every conceivable media: film, novels, painting, sculpture, photography and plays. Contested contemporaneous and historical meanings and discourses of the protests of the unemployed can be identified and analyzed through these cultural forms.
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