Tabacco, Giacomo

Giacomo Tabacco has completed his Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Milano-Bicocca in 2017. His doctoral research is an ethnography of gold mining work in the post-disaster society of Aceh, Indonesia. In 2015 he co-authored REZEKI: gold and stones mining in Aceh, an ethnographic film that is based largely on his doctoral research and was shot at his field site. He is currently working on a monograph about the utilization of local resources in the outer region of Aceh. He is part of the EASA Anthropology of Mining network and has worked with the International Centre for Aceh and Indian Ocean Studies (ICAIOS) and the EU-funded project Integration in Southeast Asia: Trajectories of Inclusion, Dynamics of Exclusion (SEATIDE).

Summary of Project: 

Generations of workers in Riau Island

My work is an ethnography of work in the frontier-like Indonesian province of Kepulauan Riau (KEPRI). This region is part of the “Indonesia–Malaysia–Singapore Growth Triangle” (SIJORI) and includes Batam, an important industrial center for electronic components, oil and shipbuilding since the late 1970s, and an established regional “mobility hub” for Indonesian migrant workers, capitals and technologies. I will study the dynamic dimensions and the socio-economic metamorphoses that characterize today’s KEPRI society.

First, I will diachronically analyze the intersections between capitals, work, and workers. This analysis will address the following questions: how people conceptualize different categories of work, that are currently available or used to be (skilled, menial, informal and illegal work, men’s and women’s jobs)? How workers relate to their kin and communities of origin? How work is accessed and how jobs are held down (middlemen, recruitment agencies, skills, discipline, clientelist connections)? Are interrelated generations of workers and cohorts of second-generation migrants emerging in KEPRI? How autochthonous people navigate the shifting economy?

Second, I will study the relationships between work and health. I will look at how people cope with sickness and aging and study the construction of a “safe self”. Third, I will address the socio-ecological transformations and the environmental threats in this insular ecosystem.

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