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Connectedness, activism and dignity at work

Work, Employment and Society 2020 Conference

2-4 September 2020
Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, North Rd, Cardiff CF10 3ER

Tuesday 01.09.2020 – Pre-conference doctoral workshop

Dramatic changes in the dynamics of work have fragmented the fabric of people’s lives, impacting on health, relationships and communities; for many, destroying the self-efficacy and social connections that extend dignity and a sense of citizenship.  

It is against this backdrop that the Work, Employment and Society conference 2020 (WES 2020) takes place in Cardiff, Wales. As the birthplace of the NHS, and with a long history of political and worker activism, Wales provides the perfect setting to reconnect, reactivate and reimagine the sociality of work.    

WES 2020 will bring together work and employment researchers from a range of different historical, geographical, cultural, methodological, sectoral and disciplinary perspectives. Our host institution, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, will offer these diverse voices a stage (more than one) to debate, inform and contest all matters of work, related to the theme of connectedness, activism and dignity.

For many, connectedness provides community or shared identity; a sense of belonging, which shapes the culture and operation of workplaces and working lives. Hence, fragmentation affects the relationships that form at work, and the forms of work that are possible and sustainable. Scholars working on the dynamics of work have stressed the surge in peripheralisation and precariousness of work, resulting in marginalisation and polarisation. WES 2020 will consider how such trends matter for a feeling of connectedness; in different sectors and roles, and for all workers.

Technology has altered all our lives, as well as labour markets and employment possibilities. Studies of flexible work, gig work, working across platforms, and working-at-home are thriving. Multi-tasking and multi-jobbing now coincide routinely. At the same time, algorithms ‘manage’, gamification makes a ‘game’ of work and Big Data are, apparently, getting bigger. Thus, technological innovation is often accompanied by changes in work organisation and employment relationships that increase non-standard forms of work. In this climate, competition for jobs can be fierce and the work isolating; yet workers are seeking solidarity to push back against exploitation in new ways. Is technology enabling new forms of activism? Is technology changing what matters at work? Do instances of solidarity and resistance by workers in the gig economy, creative industries, service sector and elsewhere represent new forms of organising that challenge the deregulation and fragmentation of work?

The political framing of workplace regulation is undergoing change at all levels, including via international trading arrangements, through federalist systems such as the European Union and at national and local government levels. At the grassroots level too, there have been attempts to involve the wider community and local stakeholders in improving working lives. The push for a minimum wage, living wage and decent work all feed into this. These campaigns have global and local implications. There is much more to be done, and to learn, about how to improve the dignity of work for all, taking account of persistent inequalities of class, race, gender and multiple other intersecting dimensions. WES 2020 invites discussion about the dignity of people at work; and how work and employment affects people’s lives, health, relationships and sense of citizenship.   

Alongside paper presentations, reflecting the venue, we call for short films, art-work, photographic displays, music and theatrical performances that ignite the senses and (maybe) show work in a different light. The stages, screens and walls of the venue are open to imagination, and the trying out of something new.

Also, new for WES 2020, we invite ‘On the Front Line’ presentations. The aim is to hear the ‘voice of the worker’ and their experiences of work and employment. This might involve workers as co-authors or co-presenters, or workers might be embodied within the presentation; through audio, photograph, art, film or other creative means.

We also welcome suggestions for Special Sessions or events on any topic that matters for work and the lives of workers. The topic should relate to the Aims and Scope of the journal Work, Employment and Society and the conference’s theme: this might involve staging a debate on a controversial topic, challenging orthodoxy or highlighting a misunderstood concept or practice. 

Important Dates

  • Abstract Submission Deadline: Friday, 14 February 2020
  • Abstract Decision emails: no later than Friday, 3 April 2020
  • Presenter booking deadline: Friday, 12 June 2020
  • Early bird registration fee ends: Friday, 31 July 2020