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 Research Projects at the MPIfG

Positional Uncertainty: Contingent Workers Seeking a Place in Unstable Times

Kathleen Griesbach


 
The rise of on-demand platform work punctuates a decades-long shift from standard employment relations toward contingent work. Without employment protections or stable temporal or spatial boundaries, platform workers shoulder more risk. Yet other workers have long faced temporal and spatial instability at work. How do time and space matter for work experience, and for inequality? This project draws on 120 interviews with agricultural and oilfield workers in Texas and adjuncts and on-demand delivery workers in New York City to examine how workers across these “old” and “new” kinds of work and rural and urban landscapes experience positional uncertainty – not knowing when, for how long, or where they will have work. The project identifies the short- and long-term consequences of conflicts between the rhythms, plans, and pathways of workers’ lives and the temporal and spatial demands of their work, and how they actively maneuver these conflicts – working to get by, to bring meaning to the present, and to anticipate and move toward a coherent future. Project duration: October 2020 to September 2022.
 

 
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