I would like to submit a volunteered session to the Society for the
Anthropology of Work for the AAA meeting in New Orleans.
If your research is with indigenous peoples and relates to issues of
work, I would like to hear from you.
Scott Simon, associate professor
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
University of Ottawa
Indigenous Peoples and the Circulation of Labor
Economic anthropologists have long demonstrated how the circulation of
goods in different societies occurs not only through markets, but also
through reciprocity and redistribution. With the spread of the
capitalist market, accelerated in our era of neo-liberal
globalization, labor has become one of the most widely circulated
commodities. Yet labor remains a fictitious commodity, as workers are
never pure commodities like agricultural products or minerals that can
be relatively easily standardized, measured, and traded as equivalent.
Instead, the entry of workers into the labor market is mediated
through various mechanisms of gender, ethnicity and nationality. These
processes are quite visible in the working lives of indigenous people,
who often continue to hold different economic values than those of
Indigenous peoples have very different relations to the labor markets.
Some of them may leave their home communities as temporary labor
migrants, circulating between rural villages and urban worksites.
Others may become permanent labor migrants, constructing ethnic
enclaves in urban areas. In fact, these two forms of circulation have
led to a situation internationally where there are now more indigenous
people in urban than in rural areas. These forms of labor circulation
may be regional or national, but are also international, as when Mayan
indigenous people become Mexican workers as soon as they cross the Rio
Grande. At the same time, the market-based circulation of commodities
changes social dynamics in rural indigenous communities.
This session will explore the meaning of labor circulation for
indigenous peoples worldwide. How are indigenous people embedded in
labor markets in different ways depending on gender, ethnicity and
nationality? How do they negotiate labor markets in situations of
temporary and permanent migration? How do social values influence
their circulation in labor markets? How do new forms of circulation
influence the working lives and the meaning of work for men and women?