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A Place and Space for a Critical Geography of Precarity?



This article explores growing interest in the term ‘precarity’ within the social sciences and asks whether there is a place for a ‘critical geography of precarity’ amid this emerging field. Referring to life worlds characterised by uncertainty and insecurity, the term precarity is double-edged as it implies both a condition and a possible rallying point for resistance. Such areas should be of concern and interest to human geography yet engagement with the concept in the discipline thus far has not been widespread. This article covers four key aims. First, it reviews where the concept of precarity has made an appearance in work by geographers and in allied disciplines and relates this to the more sustained usage in European social science. Second, an attempt is made to clarify the meaning of the term and elucidate more precisely what it refers to. Third, the term precarity is explored alongside related concepts of risk and vulnerability and questions are asked about the conceptual distinctiveness of the term precarity. Finally, an argument is made for a potential critical geography of precarity through looking at the situation of migrant labourers working in low-paid sectors of the UK economy; individuals who may find themselves at the forefront of precariousness due to their labour conditions.

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