2021 Abstracts Stage 3

The Precarious Worker as Homo Sacer

Mark Narayn-Lee, 2021, Stage 3

• This project will place the film ‘Sorry We Missed You’ (2019) within the territory of biopolitics, in order to understand the relationship between the worker and their employer.
• ‘Sorry We Missed You’ is a film set in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, following the Turner family where parents, Abby and Ricky, work within the gig economy.
o Abby works as an outsourced, in-home care worker.
o Ricky is a delivery driver, mockingly referred to by his son as a “white van man”.
 As a contemporary film, this project shall be contextualised against the backdrop of ‘Capitalist Realism’: the pervading atmosphere that capitalism is the only possible economic system.
• Workers that are self-employed or are on zero-hour contracts are referred to as ‘precarious workers’.
o Precarity is anxiety that lacks a definite object.
• Paolo Virno empirically observes these workers to contain the qualities of opportunism, fear and cynicism.
o These qualities alienate workers from their social ties as their morals are uprooted and knowledge is fixed to capital, creating ambivalence.
• Ivor Southwood’s first-hand account of this sector echoes Virno arguing that workers suffer from inertia as they can no longer separate work from their private life.
• The relationship is biopolitical as the relation between worker and employer is constituted by the originary bond of sovereignty to bare life.
• Over the course of the film, the bare life of the worker is demonstrated by the violence and exploitation exerted towards Abby and Ricky, for the goal of maximising their bodies potentiality to gain capital for their sovereign employer.

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