Call for Papers: Living in an Age of Precarity: Living and Lives in 21st Century Asia

call for papers [150-2]Precarity, once a French neologism (precarite), is today purportedly the word for our time. It is a description of a specific subjectivity, an existential angst of living a life of ambient insecurity, strongly suggestive of the breakdown of stable social bonds and identities, and the disappearance of old reliances.

Conceptually, the rise of precarity has a lot to do with the retraction of the state and its responsibility to promote social protection, to preserve entitlement, and to foster a sense of belonging among its citizens.  Instead, workers, for whom the condition of precarity is most pronounced, are left to fend for themselves, bearing all the risks of impermanent jobs while receiving limited or no social benefits and statutory entitlements.  In the sphere of geography, precarity is manifested in the tenuous borders of the nation-state, as subject peoples demand for greater spaces to express their separate (ethnic/racial) identities and the nation-state becomes a site for contestation, negotiation, and adjustment. Further, the once hard and fast borders of delineated territories are being silently redrawn according to commodity and transportation lines, for example, oil and gas pipelines, railways, large-scale plantations dedicated to monoculture production. The term ‘spatial fix’ has been used by David Harvey to describe “capitalism’s insatiable drive to resolve its inner crisis tendencies by geographical expansion and geographical restructuring” (Harvey 2001). Finally, in the realm of affective life, precarity is an experience of hyper-mobility and compression of time. “Dependence networks” that previously defined personhood and belonging — “a relation among the members of a morally binding membership group” (James Ferguson 2013) — have collapsed and disappeared particularly in the Global South. These networks of affect have been replaced by atomized individuals with little or no social attachments, giving rise to asocial inequalities in much of the Global South. Belonging has become “mobile.”

In this conference, we invite scholars and researchers to tackle the notion of precarity as the new social condition of the Global South, but specifically in the Asian region. In particular, the conference seeks to advance the study of precarity through addressing the following questions:

  1. How is precarity expressed and experienced in the Asian context? What are its concrete manifestations and how do they differ from conditions in the global North?
  2. How is precarity produced? What are the specific political/power relations that give rise to conditions of precarity? Who are the precarity-producing agents (e.g. transnational capital, multilateral institutions)?
  3. What are the spaces for resistance/renegotiation/creativity/personal autonomy which impermanence can engender? What possibilities exist for the return to co-dependent networks that are re-valorized and accepted as socio-economic mechanisms for staving off asocial inequalities?


Paper proposals should include a title, an abstract (250 words maximum) and a brief personal biography of 150 words for submission by 17 October 2016. Please send proposal using the provided template found in the event listing (ARI Website) to Successful applicants will be notified by mid November 2016 and will be required to send in a completed draft paper (5,000-8,000 words) by 13 January 2017.


Dr Teresita Cruz-del Rosario
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

Prof Jonathan Rigg
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

Contact Email:


About Paula

Paula lives in the vortex of academic life. She studies medieval Japanese history.
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