Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for the Anthropology of Work
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: Labor
Secondary Theme: Identity and Equity
Anthropologists have long studied inheritance across the four fields at intersections of heredity, kinship investment, class formation, and juridico-economic transactions. These studies demonstrate that inheritance, as an embodied object of life anticipation and aspiration, requires a dynamic and robust web of social relations and actions in order to operationalize and stay in motion. For instance, inheritance can be put away, promised, and handed down. It can speculate new potentialities but at the same time engender stricturing conditions. It can be transferred and accepted for generating new capital, but it can also be misused and refused--two sets of acts that are at once deeply intimate and public in their desires to sustain and disrupt relations of care and exchange. Assuming these forms, inheritance, as both an anthropological concept and constitutive feature of social relations, remains resilient because of its contingent relationship with material and immaterial forms of investment.
But how do the temporal and relational modalities of inheritance transform when work and its accompanying aspirations and expectations take its form? How do conditions of commodity extraction, state and local forms of governance, and industrial-legal valuations of human labor challenge how we think about inheritance as an embodiment of anticipation and expectation? This panel explores the work of inheritance and inherited work as forms of investment and modalities of extraction. In doing so, we ask the following: on one hand, how does work challenge the resilience of inheritance as a socially practiced expectation? On the other hand, how does the productive labor of inheritance remain relatively flexible in its capacities to adapt to conditions of emplacement and circulation?
Each presentation explores relational and temporal dimensions of work. In sites of agricultural and industrial production, work is inherited within legal-historical entanglements of colonial and postcolonial movements around caste and class stigmatization, bonded labor, and gendered dispossession. In sites of migration and displacement, work practices, like the bodies that enact them, move across generations and state and local boundaries. But such conditional expectations of work and mobility, which are inherited through relations of care, can also afford and exclude new possibilities of intimacy, autonomy, and aspiration. Lastly, work is inherited through singular and historicized experiences of loss and rupture; but this singularity is often collectively produced and invested in by state and bureaucratic techniques of control and recognition beyond the individual’s aspirations. In examining the above relational dimensions of labor, this panel encourages a rethinking of why work, as a potentially enduring but inevitably consumable life experience, challenges the conditions of inheritance that individuals commit to in their lives. In doing so, it asks how inherited forms of work are taken on or refused, and in turn, how individuals desire to accommodate or reject the work of inheritance.