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22 May 2024 - 22 May 2024

3:30PM - 5:00PM

Durham University Business School

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Join us for a Centre for Consumers and Sustainable Consumption and Centre for Organisations and Society joint seminar with Dr Yingqin Zheng (Essex)

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Durham University Business School

Subjects of Luck: Affective Politics of Precarity in Platform Work

Yingqin Zheng, University of Essex, UK

Zhiyi Li, Hangzhou Normal University, China

Benedetta Cappellini, University of Durham, UK

This paper investigates the role of ‘luck’ in the affective politics of livestream influencing on China’s short-video platforms. Ethnographic study of 31 grassroots nano-influencers (NIs) in Yiwu city, China reveals how luck operates at an epistemological and affective level in the pursuit of ‘a good life’, which locks participants into a form of ‘cruel optimism’.  In showing how the NIs’ self-making process is framed around the overlooked concept of luck as structural, technological, and agentic, this paper proposes the concept of ‘fortunational labour’ to understand the intersection of entrepreneurial self, luck, and precarity. In doing so the paper provides a novel and theoretical perspective to the debate on the reproduction of precarity and inequality in the digital economy.

Key words: luck, affect, gig economy, social media influencing, platform work, China

About Yingqin Zheng