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Going Karura: colliding subjectivities and labour struggle in Nairobi’s gig economy

Iazzolino, Gianluca (2021) Going Karura: colliding subjectivities and labour struggle in Nairobi’s gig economy. Environment and Planning A. ISSN 0308-518X

[img] Text (EPA-2019-0336.R1_GI_220521) - Accepted Version
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Identification Number: 10.1177/0308518X211031916


Based on an ethnography of Uber drivers in Nairobi, my article explores practices of contestation of the gig economy taking place both in the digital and physical space of the city. It argues that the labour struggle against the price policies and the control mechanisms of ride-hailing platforms such as Uber foregrounds the tension between a subjectification from above, in which the platforms construct the drivers as independent contractors and the shaping of subjectivities through the interaction of the drivers with the digital platforms and with one another. It also suggests that, through contestation, as the one catalysed by the call to ‘go Karura’, logging off from the app, the workers connect their struggle to a broader critique of processes of exploitation, dependency and subalternity involving the state and international capital. While contributing to the growing literature on the gig economy in low- and middle-income countries, my article brings the labour geography scholarship exploring how workers collectively shape economic spaces in conversation with the intellectual tradition of Italian Operaismo (workerism). In doing so, it highlights the nexus of labour subjectivity and collective agency as mutually constitutive.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 Sage
Divisions: Firoz Lalji Institute for Africa
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2021 13:51
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2021 04:13

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