‘That’s where my perception of it all was shattered’: oral histories and moral geographies of food sector workers in an English city region
journal contributionposted on 2023-06-09, 00:36 authored by Ben RogalyBen Rogaly, Kaveri Qureshi
Geographers and oral historians continue to have much to learn from each other. The subfield of labour geography in particular can enrich its understanding of workers’ lived experiences, both in employment and beyond the workplace, through greater use of interpretative, collaborative oral history methodologies. Attentive to the temporal specificity and inter-subjectivity of people’s narratives, oral history reveals how workers’ moral geographies emerge and change. This article documents the spatio-temporalities and institutions of food sector employment in Peterborough, England, a city-region from which urban-based workers are bussed out daily to rural jobs. The analysis draws on four extended case studies of people who migrated to the UK and worked in the sector in the 2000s, building on recent research that has highlighted harsh employment conditions in the food production, packing and processing sector. It complements this work by viewing narrative itself as an agentic act and listening to how research participants crafted their life stories. These stories revealed diverse, complex and context-specific moral geographies, with participants variously placing value on small acts of rebellion or refusal, dignity and the time to speak with others at work. The article advocates greater engagement by labour geographers with the subjective experiences of workers, and with individual as well as collective agency.
Places for all? A multi-media investigation of citizenship, work and belonging in a fast-changing provincial city; G0355; AHRC-ARTS & HUMANITIES RESEARCH COUNCIL; AH/J501669/1
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