PhD Doctoral Defense by Julius-Cezar MacQuarie on Invisible Migrants: Glocturnal Cities' 'Other Workers' In The Post-Circadian Capitalist Era

Doctoral Defense
Open to the Public
Nador u. 9, Monument Building
Senate room
Friday, April 27, 2018 - 10:00am
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Friday, April 27, 2018 - 10:00am to 1:00pm

Defense Committee

Chair: Eva Fodor, Department of Gender Studies, CEU
Supervisor: Violetta Zentai, Center for Policy Studies,
CEU Internal examiner: Prem Kumar Rajaram, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, CEU
External examiner: Ger Duijzings, University of Regensburg and Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies (LMU Munich and University of Regensburg)

London’s 24/7 rhythms throb with lives of nocturnal workers. Migrant workers service cities that never sleep, unseen by the dominant, diurnal gaze. By and large glocturnal city’s ‘other workers’ act according to the 24/7 demand-clock at the expense of the dysfunctionalities created to their circadian rhythms of night-sleep, day-awake/rest. Based on the analysis of the relationship between three factors, the dissertation explores the destructive creation of bio-automaton labour force sustaining the night-time economy. The structural factors analysed are the intensification of labour, time alterations and the glocturnal city as locality that offers the night-time space as the continuation for day structure, the labour force, and also its strategic position in wealth production.
Night shift work depletes the workers’ bodily resources. The workers’ bodies’ physical supply translates into stamina to withstand the strenuous night work, overall duress and sleeplessness. This dissertation investigates to what extent permanent night shift workers manage bodily precariousness, as an essential aspect of human condition subordinated to the post-circadian capitalist climate. Enacting migrants’ lives by doing night shifts at the Spitalfields fruit and vegetable market and drawing on 12 months of close participant observation amongst loaders, servers and forklift drivers, an ethnographer puts considerable strain on her/his daily life. The dissertation addresses the difficulties and practical aspects of enacted ethnography to observe the less-visible forms of cooperation in the workplace.

Migrant night shift workers do something together but not with one another. Night shift workers survive precariousness because they are immune to coworkers’ needs, and not because they offer each other mutual support out of humanness. Through the analytical lens of learned bodily knowledge, the dissertation interrogates the modes of the embodiment that over time enhance night workers’ social life skills. The becoming of embodied cooperation not only involves routinised, rhythmic practices ingrained in the body through repetitive, physical tasks, but also physical gestures that build friendly social relations amongst workers who learn to engage meaningfully in dealing with ambiguity, resistance and difference. The relevant aspects of embodied forms of interaction investigated involve workers’ trajectories being disrupted from naturally cooperative to socially competitive.

Post-circadian capitalist era disrupts capabilities for sociality. In other words, contemporary capitalism turns cooperative people into competitors through organised forms of labour that limit workers’ economic rights. The dissertation not only contributes to our understanding of the structural mechanisms that involve competition and systematically weaken cooperation between workers but also advances the idea that social encounters are predicated on systematic learning and practising of bodily cooperation. Thus, it extends practice theory and migration studies on knowledge constructed and accumulated through labour that migrants apply to the conduct of everyday life in global cities. Last, engaging these works in conversation with social anthropologists to explain work-based embodied knowledge, in effect the thesis offers an innovative method for social inquiries to capture the glocturnal cities’ strategic power generating the drive for economic expansion beyond the night frontier that functions 24/7 on the backdrop of the bodily precariousness of workers.