Dialectical Anthropology

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 217–243

Call center labor and the injured precariat: shame, stigma, and downward social mobility in contemporary Portugal


DOI: 10.1007/s10624-012-9276-8

Cite this article as:
Matos, P. Dialect Anthropol (2012) 36: 217. doi:10.1007/s10624-012-9276-8


Drawing on fieldwork conducted in a call center belonging to a private telecommunications company in Lisbon, in this article I examine the particular history and contemporary feelings of shame, resentment, and failure which afflict young people currently working in call centers in Portugal as a result of their inability to fulfill the generational social hopes of middle-class distinction which were cast upon them and the specificities attached to the call center regime of labor. It is argued that fixed theoretical typologies associated with neoliberal changes should be critically reviewed in light of empirical grounded analysis of contingent and national histories of neoliberalization processes. Thus, I suggest a reading of the phenomenon of the precariat which stresses its simultaneous contingent and structural role in historical processes of neoliberalization—as in the Portuguese context—rather than its novel (or primordial) character or revolutionary and emancipatory potential role.


Precariat Neoliberalization Downward social mobility Shame Call centers Portugal 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Research in Social Anthropology (CRIA)FCSH/UNLLisbonPortugal

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