Precarious Work: Domination and Resistance in the US, China, and the World
Friday 19 August 2016
Seattle, USA

Today precarious work presents perhaps the greatest global challenge to worker well-being, and has become a major rallying point for worker mobilization around the world. This conference focuses on analyzing the growth of precarious employment and informal labor, its consequences for workers and their families, the challenges it poses to worker organizing and collective mobilization, and how workers and other social actors are responding to precariousness. We seek to understand the patterns of social and economic domination of labor shaped by the state, capital, gender, class, age, ethnicity, skills, and citizenship, and examine the manifestations of labor resistance and acquiescence in their specific contexts.

The conference is initiated by the American Sociological Association (ASA)’s Labor and Labor Movements Section, the International Sociological Association (ISA)’s Research Committee on Labor Movements (RC44), and the Chinese Sociological Association’s China Association of Work and Labor (CAWL). It builds in part on an ongoing scholarly exchange between the ASA Labor Section and the CAWL. The conference program will focus on the United States and China, but will include a range of global cases and perspectives. Interdisciplinary approaches and innovative research methods are welcomed.

We invite original contributions from academics (including young scholars, graduate students, post-docs, and early career researchers), labor organizers, and other practitioners. Completed papers are expected for the conference, and the selected papers will be peer-reviewed for academic publications. Special issues may appear in:

  • Critical Sociology
  • Global Labour Journal
  • International Journal of Comparative Sociology
  • and an edited book series of Brill Publications

    The conference will take place on Friday 19 August 2016 (the day before the ASA Annual Meeting), in a downtown Seattle location close to the ASA site. It will run all day from 8:30am to 6:00pm. It is a valuable opportunity for participants to present new research projects, to find out about cutting edge scholarly work, and to network with researchers at home and abroad.

    We encourage people to submit abstracts aimed at a number of provisionally planned sessions:

    Planned panel session topics

  • Precarious labor in the United States and Canada

    Migrant labor, precarious work, and development in comparative perspective: Lessons from China

    Countering precarious work: Labor activism, state policy, and trade union reform in China

    Gender and sexuality in precarious work in China

  • The organization of precarious work
  • Resistance and mobilization in non-traditional workplaces and the “gig economy”
  • Informal worker organizing around the world
  • State policy: Regulating or facilitating precarious work?
  • Labor and broader sociopolitical mobilizations in a world of precarious work

Apart from the proposed session topics, we also encourage participants to submit work that examines how precarious work is supported, challenged, and complicated by other social categories, processes, and lenses, such as:

  • Cross-cutting themes
  • Migration
  • Gender, work, and social reproduction
  • Identity in worker action
  • New and old organizational forms
  • Public policies to address precarious employment
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Young workers
  • Global comparisons and contrasts
  • Global production networks and workers’ solidarity networks

    The highlighted themes are in line with emergent and consequential developments related to the organization and proliferation of precarious work in the United States, China, and the world. Your specific topics that fit the conference aims are also welcome.

    Submission deadline

    The deadline for abstract submission is 23:59 on 31 January 2016 (UTC or Coordinated Universal Time, which is US Eastern Time + 5 or Beijing Time – 8). Please write in English. Send your maximum 250-word abstract (including title of session to which you would like to submit it), full name, institution, and email contact to Brittney Lee at [email protected]

    Results will be notified by email on 1 March 2016.

    Paper submission

    Each presenter should submit a maximum 9,000-word full paper, including notes and references, by 15 July 2016.

    Conference registration fee

    No charge for conference registration.


    ASA Labor and Labor Movements Section
    China Association of Work and Labor
    International Sociological Association Research Committee on Labor Movements (RC44)

    Other sponsors

    ASA Collective Behavior and Social Movements Section ASA Organizations, Occupations, and Work Section ASA Political Economy of the World System Section ASA Section on Inequality, Poverty, and Mobility Critical Sociology Journal

    Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies, University of Washington Puffin Foundation
    Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP)
    UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment

    Planning Committee Members

    Jon Agnone, University of Washington
    Jenny Chan, University of Oxford
    Wilma Dunaway, Virginia Tech
    David Fasenfest, Wayne State University
    Elizabeth Ford, Seattle University
    Andrew Hedden, Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies Jasmine Kerrissey, UMass Amherst

    Chun-Yi Lee, University of Nottingham
    Manjusha Nair, National University of Singapore Amanda Pullum, Duke University
    Chris Rhomberg, Fordham University
    Jennie Romich, University of Washington
    Jeffrey Rothstein, Grand Valley State University Brian Serafini, University of Washington
    David A. Smith, University of California, Irvine
    Chris Tilly, UCLA
    Carolyn Pinedo Turnovsky, University of Washington Lu Zhang, Temple University

For further information: or contact Chris Tilly, [email protected]

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