“Time, ‘Remaindered Lives’, and the 26 Week Qualifying Period”
Talk by Dr. Emily Grabham, Reader in Law at Kent Law School
Monday, September 28, 2015
Room 2027 @ Osgoode
In a recent article published in South Atlantic Quarterly, Neferti Tadiar describes the experiences of apparently ‘unskilled’ women labourers in manufacturing centres in Mexico and China as the ‘remaindered lives’ of global capital. Tadiar’s forceful and eloquent account contrasts with the stories of capital’s total seizure of life that can be found in much global north thinking on the present economic moment, stories dominated by entrepreneurs, artisans, and cultivated selves. Arguing that the new political economy of life overlooks the racialised ‘broader immiserative logic’ that creates experiences of life as essentially ongoing degradation, Tadiar reminds us of the surplus and waste that is needed for capital to expand. Life, experienced by some as a project, portfolio or career in particular economic contexts, is experienced by many instead as ‘fate playing’ and wastage.
Yet ‘remaindered lives’ are legally as well as politically or economically achieved. This paper argues that a combination of often outlandishly short contracts with time-related qualifying conditions on employment rights contributes to many women’s experiences not only of work, but also of life, as fateful, full of unanswered hopes and essentially wasted chances. The right to claim ‘family friendly’ rights in UK law is often de-limited by a qualifying period of 26 weeks (6.5 months) work. Yet women working across a range of sectors in the UK find it increasingly hard to obtain contracts of over 3 months. For racialised and immigrant women, obtaining permanent or semi-permanent work is fraught with particular difficulty. Drawing on interviews of women in precarious work, I outline the strangely productive effects on lives that happen when new contractual practices meet apparently marginal provisions in apparently progressive labour legislation. Through a renewed focus on legal technicalities, the hope is that we can continue the work of accounting for the production of ‘remaindered lives’ through the regulation of labour.
About Dr. Emily Grabham (from her profile page at Kent Law School, found here):
BA (Law) University of Cambridge; LLM Queen’s University, Canada; MSc (Gender, Society & Culture) Birkbeck College, London; PhD (Law) University of Kent. Qualified Solicitor.
Emily Grabham is a Reader in the Law School. Emily’s primary research areas include labour law, law and time, interdisciplinary perspectives on labour and value, and feminist legal theory. She is particularly interested in interdisciplinary approaches to legal analysis, drawing on methods and perspectives from legal anthropology, feminist theory, science and technology studies, and critical legal theory. Her current research includes:
1. Law and time. Emily’s forthcoming monograph Doing Things with Time (University of Toronto Press, 2016) draws on perspectives from actor-network theory and legal anthropology, as well as empirical legal research, to think about how legal temporalities are ‘brewed’ in UK and Canadian Law. Case studies include debates about ‘progression’ and ‘likelihood’ in the context of HIV law, ‘work-life balance’ in labour law, and ‘transition’ in the context of transgender legal rights.
2. Work-life balance. Her current project investigates the development and rationale of ‘work-life balance’ laws as a means of resolving tensions in unpaid care and work, drawing on legal ethnography, doctrinal analysis, and feminist legal theory. This feminist genealogy of work-life balance law in the UK is partially funded through an ESRC ‘Future Research Leaders’ award:Balancing Precarious Work and Care.
3. Regulating Time Network. With Sian Beynon Jones (Sociology, University of York UK), Emily co-ordinates the AHRC-funded scholarly network Regulating Time: New Perspectives on Regulation, Law and Temporalities. This interdisciplinary network investigates how law and regulation are shaped by dominant concepts of time.
She is a member of the peer review colleges of the Economic and Social Research Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. She sits on the editorial board of Feminist Legal Studies.