Precarity, by comparison: the uncertain transnationalization of labor politics between Korea and the Philippines
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Shipbuilding is a remarkably mobile industry. After the center of gravity moved from Northern Europe to South Korea and Japan, of late, low–labor cost countries like China and the Philippines are increasingly cutting into the market share of more established players. Before delving into a discussion of how workers in places such as Germany, South Korea, and the Philippines have tried to make sense of recent large-scale shifts, at times pitting their narratives of insecurity and loss against imagined lower-quality workforces elsewhere, I investigate what an anthropological understanding of precarity as an umbrella term within such a heated terrain may be able to achieve. Finally, I propose an ethnographically informed reading of David Harvey’s and Beverly Silver’s works on spatio-temporal fixes, and argue that their combined approaches can bring about new openings when brought into conversation with anthropological theorizing that is alert to local historical nuances and encounters.
KeywordsShipbuilding Precarity South Korea Philippines Spatio-temporal fix
I would like to thank Sian Lazar, Andrew Sanchez, Keir Martin, and the anonymous peer reviewers for their extremely useful comments on an earlier draft of this article, and I wish to extend my sincere gratitude to the labor activists who have given me their time in South Korea and the Philippines.
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