Open Access (free)
A tool of environmental justice in Ecuadorian toxic tours
Amelia Fiske

Drawing on scholarship in citizen science that has documented the enrollment of lay practices of knowledge production to denounce assemblages of capitalism, pollution, and inequality, this chapter turns to “toxic tours” in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Toxic tours began informally in the 2000s by a non-profit organization affiliated with the plaintiffs in the Aguinda v. Texaco lawsuit. In these tours, Donald Moncayo takes journalists, tourists, lawyers, and politicians to visit contaminated oil sites, using ordinary objects to assist visitors in seeing, smelling, and touching oil pollution for the first time: a glove, a long stick, a large recycled water bottle, a hand auger. These assorted tools work together to enable a direct engagement with the materiality of toxicity and legacies of extraction that would not otherwise be possible. In focusing on ordinary tools, this chapter brings the auger to bear on the public discernment of contamination and accountability, exploring how questions of industrial contamination are adjudicated, and what tools of knowledge production illuminate and what they occlude in the process. Toxic tours constitute a critical move beyond a notion of toxicity based on the triad of causality, individual bodies, and bounded environments, and toward conceptions based on porosity, relationality, and justice.

in Toxic truths
Environmental enumeration, justice, and apprehension
Nicholas Shapiro, Nasser Zakariya and Jody A. Roberts

This chapter resituates discussions of community-based science beyond the emancipatory rhetoric of democratization, creative commons, and the blurring of the bulwarks of expertise to include consideration of the potentially constrictive instrumentalist scientific idiom produced by and through these practices. This chapter asks: what are the approaches to apprehending the environment that might not so easily boil down to binaries of benevolence or harm, or to renderings of uncertainty confined to the specifications of statistical confidence intervals, that in turn justify further scientific inquiry? We gesture toward an expansive conversation that we call “inviting apprehension.” Such approaches beckon multiple strata of apprehending the environment to provoke public inquiry and intervention into the questions that undergird what we assume are the problems of today and the avenues through which we must engage them.

in Toxic truths
Between emancipation and stigma
Patrícia Alves de Matos

Chapter three examines further the theme of unfulfilled generational expectations for those working in call centres by exploring how call centre work came to assume the iconic role of the main symbol of precarity in Portugal. A brief discussion is offered on the emergence of the precarity terminology and its associated category of the precariat in the context of European social movements of struggle and activism. This provides the reader with a general view of the phenomenon of precarious work and its particular form of development in Portugal. In the remainder of the chapter the analysis focuses on the politicisation of the sector, demonstrating how became the symbol par excellence of insecure employment in Portugal. In contrast to perspectives that have emphasised either the novel or the structural character of the condition of precarity, this chapter stresses that in Portugal the moral, political and ideological discourses in which the categories of precarity, precarious labour and the precariat are embedded can be a source of both emancipation and stigma.

in Disciplined agency
Patrícia Alves de Matos

Chapter 2 underlines the historical continuities and transitions of the Portuguese setting that have shaped the emergence of the sector, taking into account broader shifts and tendencies in global capitalism. The trajectories of the generation preceding that of today’s call centre workers are located in this historical landscape by exploring how the social aspirations of upward class mobility that they projected onto their children were embedded in national projects of freedom, modernity and economic progress. The chapter’s aim is twofold. First, it shows how the affinity between precarious labour and call centre employment in Portugal is as much an outgrowth of recent Portuguese economic history as it is the result of global processes of neoliberalisation. Second, it emphasises how the increasing precariousness of employment and deterioration of working conditions attached to the neoliberal turn in the 1980s have made it increasingly difficult for contemporary call centre workers to achieve the social expectations of middle-class distinction, based on educational achievement and stable employment, that were placed on them by the State, the nation and their parents’ generation. This chapter unravels how particular, historically bounded, intra-generational life goals of class mobility become embedded in broader transitions in economic and labour regimes.

in Disciplined agency
Matthew Kidd

One of the most controversial political and legal struggles of the Victorian era, the ‘Bradlaugh case’ has long been considered a broad-based populist movement in which social and political tensions were largely absent. This chapter, however, suggests that the campaign is better understood as an uneasy and fragile alliance of two mutually suspicious factions. By offering contrasting perspectives on the nature and importance of the case and the ‘true’ meaning of the English constitution, radicals and liberals unwittingly drew attention to the important differences that separated the two traditions. This chapter also uses newspaper reports, election songs, poems and posters to uncover subtle differences in the way that working-class and populist radicals handled political concepts and articulated their understanding of the social order. Establishing the existence of such tensions helps to account for the tone, strategy and ideological basis of newer forms of politics that began to emerge in Charles Bradlaugh’s final years.

in The renewal of radicalism
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Operationalising consensus, internalising discipline
Patrícia Alves de Matos

Chapter 5 considers the creation of client sovereignty within call centres, how it shapes the nature of the operator–client relationship and how it contributes to the overall specificity of call centre labour as a regime of disciplined agency. The client, as a figure of authority, shapes the way labour as a service is mobilised within the sector. To promote the everyday realisation of client sovereignty, firms engage in extensive marketing operations and ritualised collective gatherings with the purpose of creating what they designate the ‘transcendent client’. On the shop floor, the morally embedded nature of operator–client interactions mediates the conditions whereby the ideology of the ‘customer as king' comes to be accommodated or challenged by operators. One particular form of contestation that takes place on the shop floor is the construction of the ‘stupid client’ through gossip, humour and rumours.

in Disciplined agency
Abstract only
Patrícia Alves de Matos

The concluding chapter begins by providing a brief overview of the most recent developments in the Portuguese call centre sector, followed by a review of the book’s core argument: the Portuguese call centre labour process as a regime of disciplined agency. It is argued that the notion of disciplined agency aims to capture how the practices of recruitment and training, employment conditions, work organisation, and architecture of value-extraction are mediated by historically and morally contingent dimensions of neoliberal precarity and generational dispossession. The chapter also addresses how the notion of disciplined agency contributes to (a) a broader moral critique of precarity, focused on scrutinising the links between the historical development of precarious neoliberal service regimes and context-bound processes of moral dispossession; (b) expanding current approaches to value-extraction and subjectification in call centre work by jointly focusing on the alienable and inalienable properties that make a particular form of labour-power exploitable in an embedded historical, moral and relational reality; and (c) enhancing the analytical and emancipatory potentialities of the precarity terminology.

in Disciplined agency
Abstract only
Matthew Kidd

The conclusion summarises the book’s main arguments and suggests that its analysis has important implications for the study of modern British history. It recapitulates the theoretical and methodological approaches taken and argues that these could be used to understand political, cultural and ideological changes in other regions of Britain. The conclusion also offers some comments on contemporary debates regarding the Labour Party’s orientation, its ‘true’ identity and values, and its enduring relevance in a post-Blair, post-Brexit age.

in The renewal of radicalism
Open Access (free)
Community-based research amid oil development in South Los Angeles
Bhavna Shamasunder, Jessica Blickley, Marissa Chan, Ashley Collier-Oxandale, James L. Sadd, Sandy Navarro, Nicole J. Wong and Michael Hannigan

The Los Angeles basin contains one of the highest concentrations of crude oil in the world. Today, thousands of active wells are located among a dense population of 10 million people. In poor communities and communities of color, distances between wells and residences, schools, and healthcare facilities is closer than in wealthier neighborhoods. These communities are further exposed to contamination via outdated emissions equipment. In partnership with two South Los Angeles community-based organizations, we gathered data on health and experiences of living near to oil wells. The partnership utilized a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach to conduct bilingual surveys of 205 residences within 1,500 feet of the oil field and used low-cost sensors to measure methane emissions, correlated to CARB’s (California Air Resources Board) emissions inventory. Rates of asthma as diagnosed by a physician were significantly higher (18%) than in Los Angeles County (11%); 45% of respondents had no knowledge that they lived near active oil development; and 63% of residents reported they would not know how to contact the local regulatory authority. This research is part of an ongoing effort to support community organizing to establish a health and safety buffer between active urban oil development and neighborhoods.

in Toxic truths
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Neoliberal precarity, generational dispossession and call centre labour in Portugal

Call centres are a part of the daily lives of most people across the world, as they have become a privileged site of contact between firms and their clients. Drawing on the unusual advantage of long-term ethnographic fieldwork, this book describes the emergence of a regime of ‘disciplined agency’ within the Portuguese call centre sector. The notion of ‘disciplined agency’ is the guiding thread connecting the book’s account. Departing from a historical examination of the neoliberal economic restructuring of Portuguese capitalism shaping the emergence of the call centre sector, the analysis progresses through the ascendancy of call centres as icons of precarity in contemporary Portugal, and the specific features of the call centre labour process that configure a new means of commodifying the worker. This book engages in a discussion of the particular subjectivities and forms of personal dispossession attached to the value-extraction system of ‘disciplined agency’ deployed in call centre labour, and how it is facilitated by relationally and morally embedded structures of kin, generation and class.