Force and Shadow in the Making of Precarity: Racialized Bodies and State Power

  • Eileen Boris Temple University Press


This article illuminates the ways that citizenship status and race enter into the making of precarity under social policies beyond the exclusions from labor protections, social security, and public assistance (the welfare we hear about) that historians commonly discuss to explain the workings of what I have named the “racialized gendered” state. That is, over the last quarter century, women and gender historians have reshaped the narrative of social politics to show the differential treatment of women by race and class that has reinforced and intensified, even while it has reflected, economic and social inequality. To explore how force generates a shadow, pushing some outside the law to live unnoticed and toil in low-waged and temporary jobs, I turn to immigration policy, especially the threat of deportation that has generated fear for those classified as “alien” or “illegal.” In focusing on the violence of both immigration restriction and segregation, I argue that state power has particularly targeted racialized gendered bodies for the low wages of precarity.  That is, we cannot fully understand women and precarious labor without accounting for the ways that race, gender, and citizenship status work together.