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Class, migration and bordering at work: the case of precarious harvest labour in the UK

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posted on 2023-11-02, 12:36 authored by Karen OReillyKaren OReilly, Sam Scott
This paper draws on symbolic bordering perspectives as a conceptual frame to highlight practices that shape the reproduction, justification, masking and distancing of precarious work. Via a case-study of the UK harvest labour market in 2020–2021, at a time of Brexit and COVID-19, we use media, employer and locally-based worker insights to show how us–them bordering practices are embedded within low-wage horticultural work. Three interrelated everyday bordering tropes are identified from the analysis of the data. First, while migrant harvest work is celebrated as valuable and essential, it is also portrayed as work achieved by, and suitable for, a constantly shifting, multi-dimensional, and therefore ambiguously defined ‘other.’ These ‘others’ and their work are notably valued in so far as they perform their work in particular ways that define them as ‘good neoliberal agents.’ Finally, a particular focus at the height of COVID-19, was on how low-wage ‘others’ were portrayed as providing service and duty to align with a national ‘community of shared values.’ These interrelated symbolic forms of bordering help to mask the exploitative nature of low-wage work and perform an important role in contemporary (transnational) class production/ reproduction.

Funding

University of Gloucestershire

Norwegian Research Council (grant no. 261854/F10)

History

School

  • Social Sciences and Humanities

Department

  • Criminology, Sociology and Social Policy

Published in

Nordic Journal of Migration Research

Volume

13

Issue

2

Pages

1 - 17

Publisher

Helsinki University Press

Version

  • VoR (Version of Record)

Rights holder

© The Author(s)

Publisher statement

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons NonCommercial-NoDerivatives Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0), which permits unrestricted distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited, the material is not used for commercial purposes and is not altered in any way. See https:// creativecommons.org/ licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/.

Acceptance date

2022-10-25

Publication date

2023-06-07

Copyright date

2023

eISSN

1799-649X

Language

  • en

Depositor

Prof Karen O'Reilly. Deposit date: 1 November 2023

Article number

3

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