by Ben Rogaly and Kaveri Qureshi

This paper argues that geographers and oral historians continue to have much to learn from each other. In it, Ben Rogaly and Kaveri Qureshi demonstrate how the subfield of labour geography in particular can enrich its understanding of workers’ lived experiences, both in employment and beyond the workplace, through greater use of interpretative, collaborative oral history methodologies. Attentive to the temporal specificity and inter-subjectivity of people’s narratives, the article argues that oral history reveals how workers’ moral geographies emerge and change.

The authors document the spatio-temporalities and institutions of food sector employment in Peterborough, England, a city-region from which urban-based workers are bussed out daily to rural jobs. The analysis draws on four extended case studies of people who migrated to the UK and worked in the sector in the 2000s, building on recent research that has highlighted harsh employment conditions in the food production, packing and processing sector. It complements this work by viewing narrative itself as an agentic act and listening to how research participants crafted their life stories. These stories revealed diverse, complex and context-specific moral geographies, with participants variously placing value on small acts of rebellion or refusal, dignity and the time to speak with others at work. The article advocates greater engagement by labour geographers with the subjective experiences of workers, and with individual as well as collective agency.

Read and download the paper here.