Producing permanence : employment, domesticity and the flexible future on a South African border farm

Maxim Bolt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
155 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

What does it mean to be ‘permanent’ in an increasingly flexible world of work? On the Zimbabwean-South African border, white farmers guard against risk by investing in portfolios of estates and emphasizing their mobility. But the farms rely on core black workforces of resident ‘general workers’, known as mapermanent. The lives of mapermanent embody temporal contradictions in South African agriculture. Work regimes depend on arrangements established through long-term residence in labour compounds, a stability threatened by employers’ pragmatism in a volatile sector. Here, short-term ‘permanence’ coexists with longer-term insecurity. Moreover, what I call provisional permanence is built on others’ transience: mapermanent draw on the domestic labour of temporary contract workers and the order enforcement of rotating border garrisons. Tensions between temporalities characterize workers’ assertions of ‘permanence’, and their limitations, in an economy of flexibility and shifting investments.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Pages (from-to)197-225
Number of pages28
JournalEconomy and Society
Volume42
Issue number2
Early online date11 Mar 2013
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2013

Keywords

  • commercial agriculture
  • migrant labour
  • time
  • flexible capitalism
  • Zimbabwe
  • South Africa

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