Spring 2020 - SA 375 D100

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

Class Number: 3069

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 6 – Apr 9, 2020: Thu, 1:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Natasha Ferenczi
    Office Hours: Th 11:00-12:30
  • 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.


Social movements occurring all over the world and financial crises such as that of 2008 have rekindled anthropological interest in labour.  Labour is so central to understanding human experiences and the rising anthropological interest in labour issues includes the well-trodden areas of kinship, gender and community, as well as emergent areas of exploration that pertain to precarity, retheorizations of labour in contexts of neoliberal capitalism, informal and casualized labour arrangements, unemployment, and relationships between economic productivity and citizenship, to name a few.  In describing current arts of living, the concept of precarity has become particularly salient, giving rise to new social movements, new forms of innovation, agentive interventions in exploited labour environments, informal kinds of work and new ways of imagining working lives.  This course will explore these states of emergence in people’s everyday lived experiences, and the meanings that come to be attached to labour, from a global perspective.  The variety of international perspectives engaged in course readings will bring out important concepts in the sociocultural study of work, including precarity, informality, unemployment, wage-less life, work and citizenship and post-work politics. Students will be encouraged to reflect upon their own experiences, which often involve work while earning a university degree, to address the ways in which working conditions shape lives, and the ways in which life aspirations and embodied experiences shape the place of work, as well as the tensions that might arise between the desire for meaningful employment and self-expression, and social and economic realities.


  • Reading questions (4 x 5%) 20%
  • Essay proposal 5%
  • Essay outline and annotated bibliography 5%
  • Final essay 25%
  • Discussion facilitation 10%
  • Learning activity 10%
  • QQTP (question, quotation talking points) 10%
  • Participation 15%


Grading: Where a final exam is scheduled and the student does not write the exam or withdraw from the course before the deadline date, an N grade will be assigned. Unless otherwise specified on the course syllabus, all graded assignments for this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned. An N is considered as an F for the purposes of scholastic standing.

Grading System: The Undergraduate Course Grading System is as follows:

A+ (95-100) | A (90-94) | A- (85-89) | B+ (80-84) | B (75-79) | B- (70-74) | C+ (65-69) | C (60-64) | C- (55-59) | D (50-54) | F (0-49) | N*
*N standing to indicate the student did not complete course requirements

Academic Dishonesty and Misconduct Policy: The Department of Sociology & 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.

Centre for Accessible Learning: Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need classroom or exam accommodations are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (1250 Maggie Benston Centre) as soon as possible to ensure that they are eligible and that approved accommodations and services are implemented in a timely fashion.



Kasmir, S. and Carbonella, A. (2014). Blood and Fire: Toward a Global Anthropology of Labor. Berghahn Books.

This book is available online through the SFU Library here.
ISBN: 978-1-785337482

Millar, Kathleen. (2018). Reclaiming the Discarded: Life and Labor on Rio’s Garbage Dump. Duke University Press.

This book is available online through the SFU Library here.
ISBN: 978-0-822370505

Tsing, A. (2015). The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton University Press.

This book is available online through the SFU Library here.
ISBN: 978-0-691178325

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