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Anthropology of Work Review

Fragmented Work in Post-Bubble Japan: Negotiating Identity, Gender, Age, and Class in Triangular Employment Relationships

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Abstract

The ascendance of neoliberalism, often subsumed under the rubric of globalization, has a profound impact on the nature of work. Based on yearlong ethnographic fieldwork, this article examines the rise of temporary agency work in post-bubble Japan where an increasing number of workers are assembled and dispatched by staffing agencies to receiving firms on limited-term contracts. Such a distinct triangular employment structure provides an exemplary field in which to explore recurring issues of labor flexibility and inequality that characterize contemporary globalization. By delving into minute details of how “dispatched workers” engaging in temporarily and spatially fragmented work make sense of themselves, the article aims to accentuate the role of power in the social construction of reality as well as the complexity of everyday practice.

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