Managing Precarious Work: Economic Anthropological Approaches to Informalized and Low-wage Labor

CEU, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology,

Institute for Minority Studies, Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences


Karl Polanyi Center for Global Social Studies, Corvinus University of Budapest

invite you to the conference

Managing Precarious Work: Economic Anthropological Approaches to Informalized and Low-wage Labor


This co-hosted workshop engages with the intellectual heritage of Karl Polanyi as an economic anthropologist on the basis of recent ethnographic works on the livelihood of marginal groupings. The presentations depart from the idea that the current epoch is marked by the global expansion – as well as new configurations – of informalized and precarious labour. The livelihood practices and coping strategies of marginalized populations, including the poor or the sub-proletariat, have been among the classical themes of inquiry in economic anthropology. Especially since the outbreak of the financial crisis at the end of the 2000s, academic scholars and policy-experts seem to share a renewing preoccupation with the rise of social insecurities induced by the retrenchment of the welfare state and the expansion of the precariat.

The case studies presented at this workshop – about practices of informal money lending in Hungary, scrap metal trading in Romania and waste-collection and recycling in Serbia - aim to provide ethnographic evidence for the changes in the configurations of formal and informal labor in post-transitional/post-socialist societies.


Date: 16 April, 17:00-20:15

Venue: CEU, Budapest (Nádor u. 15., Room 103 – tiered room)



17:00 ‑ 17:30 Chris Hann (Max Planck Institute)

Introductory Talk: Karl Polányi’s intellectual heritage on economic anthropology and its relevance today

17:30 ‑ 18:00 Judit Durst (UCL and MTA TK KI)

Informal (money) lending and informalized low-wage factory labour in times of insecurity in North Hungary

18:00 ‑ 18:30 Gergő Pulay (CEU)

The management of precarity: Livelihood and value among scrap-metal-traders in Bucharest

18:30- 18:50 Coffee break

18:50 ‑ 19:20 Eva Schwab (CEU)

Who is going to earn what? Informal waste pickers and calculations of the value of recycling work in the course of Public Waste Management reforms in Serbia

19:20 ‑ 19:50 Martha Lampland (University of California, San Diego and CEU)

Concluding notes: Anthropological contributions to the study of economic phenomena

19:50 ‑ 20:15 Q&A Session

Moderator of the Workshop: György Lengyel (Corvinus University)