Title

Uniting labor geography’s “spatial fix” and occupational science’s “occupational possibilities” to theorize unemployment experiences

Start Time

5-10-2012 10:20 AM

End Time

5-10-2012 10:50 AM

Session Type

Event

Abstract

The 2012 Ruth Zemke Lecturer in Occupational Science, a geographer-cum-occupational scientist, embodies the discipline’s dynamic, interdisciplinary focus. Following his lead, this paper intends to analyze a pair of concepts from labor geography and occupational science. Labor geographers use the term “spatial fix” to theorize workers’ construction of employment-related practices, highlighting how workers reproduce themselves in conditions beyond their control (Herod, 2003). Recent research on ‘discouraged’ workers (Aldrich & Callanan, 2011) provides a space for bringing the “spatial fix” into occupational science. A key finding of this research framed discouraged workers’ limited finances and routines around Rudman’s (2010) notion of “occupational possibilities” (Aldrich & Dickie, accepted). Encompassing a broader sphere than that of the “spatial fix,” “occupational possibilities” underscores sociopolitical influences on what people can or should do across the spectrum of occupations, including (but not restricted to) work. The concept of “occupational possibilities” derives from Foucauldian governmentality theories, and its juxtaposition with the Marxist-derived “spatial fix” may be helpful in framing the experiences of ‘discouraged’ and other marginalized workers. Within a transactional view of democracy and occupation (Aldrich, & Cutchin, in press), these two concepts may more fully articulate workers’ occupations as active responses within and through situational factors.

This paper will use a case from Aldrich’s research on ‘discouraged’ workers to argue for the theoretical pairing of “spatial fixes” with “occupational possibilities.” The research was based on 10 months of interviews, participant observations, and questionnaires with five discouraged and unemployed workers and 25 community members between 2009 and 2010. In this paper, we focus on the daily geographies of one study participant, Allen (pseudonym), a 20 year-old Caucasian resident of a small rural North Carolina town. Our discussion explores the ways in which Allen’s navigation and negotiation of local geographies influenced his daily occupations, and we represent interview and questionnaire data and participant observations along a map of study experiences. By bringing together the “spatial fix” and “occupational possibilities” under the umbrella of “geographies of possibility,” we demonstrate how discouraged workers construct daily geographies to reproduce their occupations in light of constraining sociopolitical forces. Given larger reconsiderations of labor agency, transforming work, and employment insecurity, we conclude that “geographies of possibility” offers a promising avenue of interdisciplinary conceptual collaboration for the future.

Questions for discussion period:

  1. What is the utility of the “spatial fix” concept for occupational science theory?
  2. In what ways does the notion of “geographies of possibility” build upon interdisciplinary endeavors in occupational science?
  3. How might this concept be extended to support greater dynamic and interdisciplinary idea exchange between occupational science and other disciplines?

References

Aldrich, R. & Cutchin, M. P. (in press). Dewey’s concepts of embodiment, growth and occupation: Extended bases for a transactional perspective. In M. Cutchin & V. Dickie (Eds.), Transactional Perspectives on Occupation. Springer.

Aldrich, R. & Callanan, Y. (2011). “We disappear off the planet”: Insights about studying discouraged workers. J Occupational Science, 18(2), 153-166. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14427591.2011.575756

Aldrich, R. & Dickie, V. (accepted). “It’s hard to plan your day when you have no money”: Discouraged workers’ occupational possibilities and the need to reconceptualize routine. Work: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment, & Rehab.

Herod, A. (2003). Workers, space, and labor geography. Int Labor & Working-class Hist, 64, 112-138. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S014754790300022X

Rudman, D. L. (2010). Occupational terminology: Occupational possibilities. J Occupational Science, 17(1), 55-59. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14427591.2010.9686673

Comments

Theoretical paper

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Oct 5th, 10:20 AM Oct 5th, 10:50 AM

Uniting labor geography’s “spatial fix” and occupational science’s “occupational possibilities” to theorize unemployment experiences

The 2012 Ruth Zemke Lecturer in Occupational Science, a geographer-cum-occupational scientist, embodies the discipline’s dynamic, interdisciplinary focus. Following his lead, this paper intends to analyze a pair of concepts from labor geography and occupational science. Labor geographers use the term “spatial fix” to theorize workers’ construction of employment-related practices, highlighting how workers reproduce themselves in conditions beyond their control (Herod, 2003). Recent research on ‘discouraged’ workers (Aldrich & Callanan, 2011) provides a space for bringing the “spatial fix” into occupational science. A key finding of this research framed discouraged workers’ limited finances and routines around Rudman’s (2010) notion of “occupational possibilities” (Aldrich & Dickie, accepted). Encompassing a broader sphere than that of the “spatial fix,” “occupational possibilities” underscores sociopolitical influences on what people can or should do across the spectrum of occupations, including (but not restricted to) work. The concept of “occupational possibilities” derives from Foucauldian governmentality theories, and its juxtaposition with the Marxist-derived “spatial fix” may be helpful in framing the experiences of ‘discouraged’ and other marginalized workers. Within a transactional view of democracy and occupation (Aldrich, & Cutchin, in press), these two concepts may more fully articulate workers’ occupations as active responses within and through situational factors.

This paper will use a case from Aldrich’s research on ‘discouraged’ workers to argue for the theoretical pairing of “spatial fixes” with “occupational possibilities.” The research was based on 10 months of interviews, participant observations, and questionnaires with five discouraged and unemployed workers and 25 community members between 2009 and 2010. In this paper, we focus on the daily geographies of one study participant, Allen (pseudonym), a 20 year-old Caucasian resident of a small rural North Carolina town. Our discussion explores the ways in which Allen’s navigation and negotiation of local geographies influenced his daily occupations, and we represent interview and questionnaire data and participant observations along a map of study experiences. By bringing together the “spatial fix” and “occupational possibilities” under the umbrella of “geographies of possibility,” we demonstrate how discouraged workers construct daily geographies to reproduce their occupations in light of constraining sociopolitical forces. Given larger reconsiderations of labor agency, transforming work, and employment insecurity, we conclude that “geographies of possibility” offers a promising avenue of interdisciplinary conceptual collaboration for the future.

Questions for discussion period:

  1. What is the utility of the “spatial fix” concept for occupational science theory?
  2. In what ways does the notion of “geographies of possibility” build upon interdisciplinary endeavors in occupational science?
  3. How might this concept be extended to support greater dynamic and interdisciplinary idea exchange between occupational science and other disciplines?