Making Workers Real: regulatory spotlights and documentary stepping-stones on a South African border farm

Maxim Bolt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
104 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Documents are central to the infrastructure through which formal workforces are constituted. They thus offer a privileged vantage point onto how formality is asserted and experienced as real. On the Zimbabwean–South African border, where formality is a plural and uneven patchwork of “formalizations,” thousands of migrants are employed on export-oriented commercial farms. Connections between state institutions and workplaces are regulatory spotlights. More complex than employee protection or domination, or than window-dressing fiction, they make workers by recognizing them as different from “border jumpers.” Workers make their own use of spotlights. Documents become stepping- stones, as migrants broker conversions toward more durable forms of worker identity. They navigate the constellation of fixed points that documents represent, bringing coherence to fragmentary encounters. Spotlights and stepping-stones lie at the point where formal regulation and livelihood plans constitute one another, and thereby establish the shared ground for negotiating the “reality” of a wage economy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-324
Number of pages20
JournalHAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory
Volume7
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017

Keywords

  • Zimbabwe
  • South Africa,
  • real economy
  • farm labor
  • formality
  • documents
  • marginality

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Making Workers Real: regulatory spotlights and documentary stepping-stones on a South African border farm'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this