Fall 2022 - SA 375 D100

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

Class Number: 3538

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Th 11:30 AM – 2:20 PM
    BLU 10655, Burnaby

  • Instructor:

    Kathleen Millar
    Office: AQ 5062
    Office Hours: 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 2016 are not eligible to 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 post-work 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.


By the conclusion of the course, you will:
• Gain a conceptual toolkit to trace connections between global forces, labour conditions, and everyday life in contemporary capitalism.
• Identify and explain differences in the ways precarious forms of labour are experienced in diverse parts of the world.
• Explain why and how jobs, workplaces, and other forms of labour have changed in recent years;
• Practice skills in critically reading and analyzing texts, films, and other media through peer review exercises and in-class writing workshops.
• Apply the sociocultural study of work to your own life experiences and aspirations.


  • Seminar participation 10%
  • Reading responses 15%
  • First short essay 20%
  • Second short essay 25%
  • Film Review 30%


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 Honesty and Student Conduct Policies: The Department of Sociology & Anthropology follows SFU policy in relation to grading practices, grade appeals (Policy T20.01), and academic honesty and student conduct procedures (S10‐S10.05). 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.

The Sociology and Anthropology Student Union, SASU, is a governing body of students who are engaged with the department and want to build the SA community. Get involved!  Follow Facebook and Instagram pages or visit our website.



All required reading will be made available through the SFU library and Canvas.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website 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