I am attempting to assemble a panel on the topic of what I'm calling "Informal and Unconventional Strategies for Getting by in Postindustrial America." The proposed session would take place at the Working Class Studies Association meeting in Stony Brook, New York between June 7-9, 2012.
I've written a standard abstract and pasted it below, but the basic idea is this: As a consequence of America's long-term economic decline, there just are not enough full-time, living wage jobs to go around. Many working class people therefore have no choice but to find other ways of making ends meet. What are they doing? What kinds of strategies are they devising and pursuing? I envision this panel as a survey of informal and unconventional ways that people are making ends meet in contemporary America. This approach is meant to encompass more than just what are traditionally conceived of as varieties of informal economy labor. Here is a sample of some of the kinds of things that I am thinking about as alternatives to a single full-time job:
• Working multiple part-time jobs
• Reliance upon public welfare, food stamps, housing assistance, and what else remains of the welfare state
• Borrowing from payday lenders
• Selling things online
• Selling things to pawn shops
• Gambling online
• Using student loans to cover living expenses
• Selling metal, plastic, glass, and other recyclables
• Splitting and selling firewood
• Making and selling homemade meals, candies, and baked goods
• Seasonal work
• Day labor work
• Under-the-table work of all kinds
• Illegal enterprises such as theft, prostitution, and drug dealing
• Operating unlicensed day care operations from one's home
• Donating plasma
• Participating in drug trials
If you are interested in participating in this proposed session, please email the following to me at firstname.lastname@example.org by December 9, 2011: 1. a title of your proposed presentation; 2. a maximum 250 word summary of the main points, methodology, and slice of experience that you will be considering; 3. relevant personal information indicating institutional affiliation (if any) and what training or experience you bring to the proposal; 4. your name, address, telephone, and email address.
For more information on the Working Class Studies Conference, see these links:
Proposed Session: "Informal, Unconventional, and Atypical Strategies for Getting By in Postindustrial America"
Abstract: The long-term decline of the American economy has ravaged working-class labor markets from coast to coast. The divide between working-class reality and the Promised Land of the American Dream is wider today than it has been in generations. High unemployment rates persist. More and more of the jobs that are available are part-time and insecure. Fewer and fewer of them provide wage and benefit packages capable of ensuring a decent standard of living. As a consequence, vast numbers of working-class Americans cannot secure the full-time work with a single employer that would allow them, either as independent householders or as family members, to cover living expenses. The ideal of building a life for oneself and one's family on the basis of a single full-time job is closed off to a significant portion of the population. What, then, are these men and women doing to make ends meet day in and day out? From where are they drawing their resources? What kinds of endeavors are enabling them to avoid homelessness, hunger, and total destitution? This panel aims to address these and related questions by surveying some of the survival strategies that working-class Americans employ to make ends meet in lieu of a single full-time job. While many of these strategies involve informal economy work, many do not. People collect and sell recyclables, for example, but they also work multiple part-time jobs and visit food pantries on a regular basis. This panel aims for maximum inclusivity by considering both survival strategies that entail informal economy work and those that do not.
Dept. of Anthropology
Graduate School and University Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10016 Email: email@example.com
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