Lara McKenzie Precarious Work Scholarship Report

I was extremely grateful to receive financial support from TASA (in the form of a Precarious Work Scholarship) in order to attend the 2018 conference and present my paper ‘Personal Precarities: The Insecure Careers and Intimate Lives of Aspiring Academics’. I began this unfunded research project shortly after completing my PhD, in large part due to my own experiences of precarious academic work. For the project, I carried out interviews, participant observation, and analysed university and government policies relating to casualisation in Australia.

At the TASA conference, I presented my findings on precarious academics’ intimate lives in relation to their often uncertain careers, unstable jobs, insecure finances, and unsettled locations. I argued that recent scholarship on universities has been (justifiably) concerned with how academics’ families and relationships restrict their careers, as well as how academic labour limits people’s personal lives, particularly in terms of gender. Yet such research often fails to consider how people’s personal lives might unevenly support them in taking on short-term, poorly-paid precarious roles; relocating; and dedicating unpaid time to ‘career development’. My paper explored how women, in particular, raised concerns over how their relationships and work interacted. Here, particular kinds of workers—men and single women, unencumbered by family responsibilities and restrictions on travel, and with access to financial resources—were better able to navigate the move to more secure work. My paper thus argued for an approach that conceptualises the personal and precarious as both restrictive and productive.

The feedback I received on this paper during the conference—as well as my participation in the ‘Work, Employment, and Social Movements’ stream overall—has proved invaluable to my scholarship. I have since developed the conference paper into a journal article, currently under review.

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