Negotiating precarious lives: young women, work, and ICTs in neoliberal South Korea

Chae, Suk Jin (2016) Negotiating precarious lives: young women, work, and ICTs in neoliberal South Korea. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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This thesis investigates the link between the precarious lives of underemployed young Korean women in the post IMF crisis and their use of digital media. It draws on precarity and immaterial labour, key concepts in studies on new forms of labour and life in neoliberal, post industrial society. The thesis contributes to this field of research in two main aspects. Firstly, moving away from an ahistorical, Eurocentric, and androcentric tendency, through ethnographic fieldwork, it reveals the particular gendered nature of precarity historically formed in a particular geographical site, South Korea. Secondly, it links the two concepts, which are closely related theoretically but located in different fields. It demonstrates how precarity is a condition leading to individuals taking up forms of immaterial labour in an attempt to manage their precariousness.

The research underpinning this argument consisted of a year of ethnographic fieldwork in Seoul, investigating young women’s life stories, work trajectories and, following media anthropologists, use of digital media as part of their communicative ecology. The thesis shows how fifteen underemployed young women with different education levels and social backgrounds negotiated precarity, producing various ways of living: lives encircled to an extreme level of social withdrawal; lives juggling with various part-time jobs; lives stuck in permanent training; lives protesting on the street. Their respective modes of underemployment meant that they experienced personal isolation, frustration, and fear of people, forming a strong desire to be ‘normal’ in society. Their digital media use was deeply integral to attempts to become normal in everyday life. In this respect, I argue that precarity is a condition to form a vast amount of ‘free labour’ workforce for the digital economy.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > Media and Film
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology > GN301 Ethnology. Social and cultural anthropology
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 06 Jun 2016 13:54
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:37

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