Precarious Bodies: Occupational Risk Assemblages in Bolivia and Trinidad

Research paper by Rebecca Prentice, Mei Trueba

Indexed on: 29 May '18Published on: 31 Jan '18Published in: Global Labour Journal


This article develops the concept of “precarious bodies” to theorise the lived experience of labour precariousness in the twenty-first century and its implications for workers’ health, well-being and household reproduction. Drawing on ethnographic research with Bolivian miners and Trinidadian garment workers, we explore the relationship between workers’ exposure to global market forces and their everyday experiences of work, health and risk in these industries. “Precarious bodies” is a heuristic that takes into a single frame the macro-level economic and regulatory processes that create risks for workers, and the various ways in which workers negotiate these risks through their work practices and livelihood choices. We show precarious bodies to be both vulnerable and strategic. Positioned in situations of exploitation and risk, their choices to protect their livelihoods can harm their health and reinforce – rather than counteract – the precarious circumstances of their households.