Forthcoming in Antipode 54(1) in January 2022, and available open access now, David Bissell’s “The Anaesthetic Politics of Being Unaffected: Embodying Insecure Digital Platform Labour” builds on critical geographic research on the embodied politics of labour to explore not only the labouring body’s capacities for action, but also its capacity to be affected.
The paper develops the concept of anaesthesia in relation to work by explaining how a reduced capacity to be affected can be both politically constraining and enabling for the bodies involved. Through qualitative fieldwork with digital platform workers, the paper presents three narratives that express the embodied complexities of this insecure work. Concealment, projection, and resignation are explored as anaesthetic bodily tactics that constitute a refusal to inhabit certain depleting experiences. By drawing attention to such survival strategies, the paper highlights how workers’ changing capacities for feeling are just as significant for understanding worker agency as their changing capacities for action.
David’s paper joins a growing collection of papers published in Antipode on the politics of (digital) platforms, including:
- Jathan Sadowski’s “The Internet of Landlords: Digital Platforms and New Mechanisms of Rentier Capitalism”;
- Lizzie Richardson’s “Platforms, Markets, and Contingent Calculation: The Flexible Arrangement of the Delivered Meal”;
- Casey Lynch’s “Contesting Digital Futures: Urban Politics, Alternative Economies, and the Movement for Technological Sovereignty in Barcelona”; and
- Niels van Doorn and Adam Badger’s “Platform Capitalism’s Hidden Abode: Producing Data Assets in the Gig Economy”.
David Bissell is Director of Research Capability at the Melbourne Centre for Cities and Australian Research Council Future Fellow at the School of Geography at the University of Melbourne. David has published some brilliant work on the geographies of mobility and labour, including essays in Environment and Planning A and Urban Geography, and in a new book (co-edited with Mitch Rose and Paul Harrison), Negative Geographies: Exploring the Politics of Limits. The full list of publications at https://findanexpert.unimelb.edu.au/profile/792958-david-bissell is well worth a look, and readers should also check out Social & Cultural Geography, the journal which David is Managing Editor of.