The Knotted Web of Dominations. Epistemological Investment in the Anthropology of Work

Pascale Absi, Laurent Bazin, Monique Selim


In the globalized world, work presents itself as a nub of actualization of intermixed relations of domination. How does the ethnological analysis study such intermixed relations? To answer the question the first part of the paper compares the anthropological approaches that Pierre Bourdieu and Gérard Althabe designed in the key period of decolonization. They both broke with colonial ethnography through the analysis of relations of colonial domination in the field of work. Bourdieu’s approach is structuralist and he combines ethnography and sociological analysis to display the symbolic structure of the social positions. Althabe’s ethnologic approach is constructivist and tries to show the production of social relations by the power of imagination.

In the second part of the paper three researches are briefly presented: prostitution in the brothels of Potosi in Bolivia, the job of the highly qualified women of University of Canton in China, work in the building industry in Oran in Algeria by way of a return to the Bourdieu’s work. In these very different situations, the analysis lays stress on the means by which the social agents build their social relations.

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