Shouldering the West: An Imaginary Ride on a Bus Transporting Workers from Eastern to Western Europe

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Who are the Eastern workers shouldering the profits of the West? What are current struggles inside and outside the labor union context? What are the differences and commonalities between labor struggles in East Germany and Eastern Europe at large? What role does the rise of platform labor play here? And, last but not least, since “Eastern” workers are in demand at home and abroad (hence doubly needed and doubly exploited), what does it mean for mobile workers to struggle at home and abroad? At the “Black Box East” conference (September 23, 24, and 25, 2021) Sana Ahmad, Rutvica Andrijasevic, Miglè Bareikytè, Anna Calori, Stefan Candea, Slobodan Golušin, Adela Hincu, Holger Kral, Dunja Kučinac, and Rena Raedle looked for answers to these questions. The centerpiece of their resulting workshop project (available here) is a radio play set on a bus that transports workers (and agents) from Eastern to Western Europe. All the characters are fictional but are informed by the workshop participants’ collective histories and knowledge of labor migrations: personal, family, collective as well as by their respective field works. The setting of the bus, various characters and the approaching border, is a vignette from Rutvica Andrijasevic’s fieldwork experience that the workshop group adopted and re-imagined for the radio play. It can be listened to by pressing the play button above.

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