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Anaesthetizing the gig economy

Authors: David Bissell*, University of Melbourne
Topics: Cultural Geography, Social Theory, Geographic Thought
Keywords: affect, sensation, mobilities, gig economy
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In geographical debates on affective life, the question of what feeling does and what can be felt has become an important political question. This paper explores this question in relation to on-demand platforms associated with the ‘gig economy’. Through reflections on interview encounters with a range of consumers and workers differently positioned in the gig economy, the paper speculates on how anaesthesia is a pervasive but overlooked dimension of on-demand practices. Understood here as a diminution in capacities to be affected, anaesthesia draws attention to diverse forms of non-relating involving detachment, distancing and withdrawal which contrast with the emphasis on relationality that is championed in much contemporary geographical thought. Variously mobilised as a management strategy, a governance logic, and a technique of self, the paper evaluates the operative role of anaesthesia in both the perpetuation and alleviation of harm, and it speculates on the place of anaesthesia for geographical thought.

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