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The Fight For TimeMigrant Day Laborers and the Politics of Precarity$
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Paul Apostolidis

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190459338

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190459338.001.0001

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Fighting for the Job

Fighting for the Job

(p.115) 3 Fighting for the Job
The Fight For Time

Paul Apostolidis

Oxford University Press

Day laborers describe their experiences seeking work on street corners through the theme of “fighting for the job.” This theme encodes a contradictory sense of embodied time: workers wait for long stretches while their weariness and anxiety mount, but burst into combat at moments when employers appear. Imagining the corner as a venue for initiating steady upward mobility, even as power dynamics there negate basic premises of market contracting, workers exacerbate this temporal contradiction. Hagar Kotef’s analysis of corporeal mobility-governance under liberalism suggests that under legal and economic imperatives, day laborers inevitably violate (neo)liberal norms for bodily movement in public spaces and invite exceptionalizing punishment. Meanwhile, workers’ dreams of material progress follow the self-defeating pattern of “cruel optimism” that Lauren Berlant identifies with precarity culture at large. Nevertheless, “fighting for the job” evokes a militancy that can fuel antideportation politics and a refusal of work, as Voz’s documentary Jornaleros suggests.

Keywords:   embodied time, mobility, power dynamics, liberalism, corporeal mobility, cruel optimism

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