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Agency at Work

Ethnographies in/of Late Industrialism


Edited By Monika Baer

Rooted in anthropological and ethnological traditions, this volume offers analytical insights into the workings of agency in late industrialism revealed in interactions between a coal power plant and a local community in Opole Silesia, in southwestern Poland. In this context, the authors show by the use of the ethnographic method, how variables and forces of various scales shape political events centered around the power plant; grassroots economic dynamics and entrepreneurship; the local semiosphere uniting the divided social group; affective dimensions of a social protest; (un)doing gender in the industrial workplace; and the mobile livelihoods of migrant industrial workers. By doing so, they concretize in different ways both the concept of late modernity and agency.

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Mobility, Affects, and Agency in Late Industrialism (Marek Pawlak)


Marek Pawlak1

Abstract: The chapter aims to analyze the relationship between mobility, affects and agency in the context of late industrialism. It focuses on the affective, spatial, and temporal aspects of mobile lives of the construction workers working on the expansion of the two new blocks of Opole Power Plant in the commune of Dobrzeń Wielki. By drawing on the ethnographic fieldwork at the power plant, the chapter highlights the ways mobile construction workers attune to and deal with their dwellings at the industrial site as well as points out the affective entanglements between future orientations, neoliberalism, and late industrialism.

Keywords: affects, agency, future orientation, late industrialism, temporalities.

According to Kim Fortun (2012, 2014) ours is an era of late industrialism. We thus live in a time of complex entanglements, which affect our localities, induce various emotions and affects, and inform our social understandings and actions. It is a time of global assemblages (Ong, Collier 2005), which “can refer to a subjective state of cognition and experience of society and culture in movement from a recent past toward a near future (the temporal span of emergence),” as well as “objective relations, a material, structure-like formation, a describable product of emergent social conditions, a configuration of relationships among diverse sites and things” (Marcus, Saka 2006: 102). In other words, the global assemblages of late industrialism create conditions, in which government and business, culture and politics, nature and science, intersect and impact the lived experiences of...

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