Entangled worlds of labour

historical anthropology of labour, labour relations in Eastern Europe

Entangled worlds of labour: Generational futures and the advance of flexible capitalism in East-Central Europe

Between August 2019 and July 2021, I was the beneficiary of a Marie Curie postdoctoral fellowship at Goldsmiths, University of London, where I was a member of the Anthropology Department under the mentorship of Professor Massimiliano Mollona.

Entangled worlds of labour tackles the conundrum of flexible capitalism in East-Central Europe by investigating the incorporation of the Romanian car industry in global commodity chains and its impact on labour regulation, working conditions, and the social fabric around the factory. Moving between temporal and spatial scales, the project connects broader processes with their materialization in people’s lives, from an epistemological perspective that I call “political economy made flesh”. Building on long-term ethnographic engagement with the factory community, archival research, life histories, and expert interviews, I have investigated the impact global changes in production politics have had on the workers’ generational experiences and biographical imaginaries in the last fifty years.

My research focused on the case of an automobile factory located in the Southern part of Romania, in the city of Craiova. The car factory was opened in 1981 as a joint venture between the French automotive company Citroën and the Romanian socialist state, then taken-over by the South-Korean conglomerate Daewoo in the 1990s. In 2007, Ford became the factory’s main stakeholder and the factory got rapidly expanded. For decades now, the factory has been the most important employer and the biggest taxpayer in the otherwise deindustrializing region of Oltenia, being now placed in a position of “too big to fail” and central in local networks of political clientelism.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 792833.