Spring 2019 - SA 375 D100

Labour and the Arts of Living (A) (4)

Class Number: 3124

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 3 – Apr 8, 2019: Mon, 9:30 a.m.–1:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Kathleen Millar
    Office: AQ 5062
    Office Hours: WE 14:00-15:00, or by appointment
  • Prerequisites:

    SA 101 or SA 150 or SA 201W.



Introduces sociocultural approaches to labour by examining the relationship between work and life in different parts of the world. Students will be given opportunities to reflect on their own working lives and aspirations for future employment. Topics include precarity, informality, unemployment, wageless life, work and citizenship, and post-work politics. Students who have taken SA 360 in Spring 2014 or Spring 2016 may not take this course for further credit.


Most of us, including as students, spend a significant portion of our waking hours at work. How do our working conditions and experiences shape the way we live our lives? And inversely, how do our life aspirations, commitments, values, and relationships impact the place of work in our everyday existence? These questions are especially important today, given the rise of precarious employment (and unemployment) throughout the world. Temp work can make it difficult to plan for the future. An unpaid internship can both tap into and complicate the mantra that “you should do what you love.” Prolonged unemployment can erode a worker’s identity or require that new bases for social belonging be found. As more informal kinds of work proliferate, there are also unintended or unforeseen consequences. New social movements arise around the identity of precarious labour. Other possibilities for fashioning work and life emerge.

This course examines these recent changes in the lived experience and meaning of work from a global perspective. We will explore the lives of former steel workers in deindustrialized Chicago, unemployed youth in Japan, call center operators in India, volunteer workers in Italy, cooperative leaders who took over factories in Buenos Aires, and itinerant vendors on the streets of Peru (among others). These cases will introduce students to important concepts in the sociocultural study of work including precarity, informality, immaterial and affective labour, Fordism and post-Fordism, the work society, wageless life, social reproduction, worker subjectivity, and postwork politics. Finally and perhaps most importantly, students will be given opportunities to reflect on course material in relation to their own working lives and to their aspirations for future employment after graduation.


  • Seminar participation 10%
  • Reading responses 10%
  • First short essay 20%
  • Second short essay 25%
  • Drafts and peer review 5%
  • Film review 30%


Grading: Where a final exam is scheduled and you do not write the exam or withdraw from the course before the deadline date, you will be assigned an N grade. Unless otherwise specified on the course outline, all other graded assignments in this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned.

Academic Dishonesty and Misconduct Policy: The Department of Sociology and Anthropology follows SFU policy in relation to grading practices, grade appeals (Policy T 20.01) and academic dishonesty and misconduct procedures (S10.01‐S10.04). Unless otherwise informed by your instructor in writing, in graded written assignments you must cite the sources you rely on and include a bibliography/list of references, following an instructor-approved citation style.  It is the responsibility of students to inform themselves of the content of SFU policies available on the SFU website: http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student.html.



Walley, C. J. (2013). Exit Zero: Family and Class in Postindustrial Chicago. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
ISBN: 978-0-226871806

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html