The Ant Tribe: An Investigation Into Modern Precarity

Alia Jabbar Mohammad

Student thesis: Master thesis


Each year in China over two million graduates end up in the ever-growing group known as The Ant Tribe, consisting of hardworking graduates that cannot find permanent employment. Although a short period of internships and temporary jobs have been expected for the newly graduated, these have often functioned as a steppingstone to a more permanent job with a pension and security. The problem, however, is that the temporary has become a permanent state. The graduates often have no prospect of recruitment, but can rather look forward to becoming project workers or academic day labourers who make up the core of the ‘precariat’ as described by Guy Standing. However, the precariat also contains individuals who are known as urban nomads, who choose to work as day labourers rather than being bound to a specific organisation or employment. This thesis is an investigation into modern precarity, with a special emphasis on the educational system and the ambivalence of the precariat subjectivity, between exposure and opportunity, with regard to their search for work. The empirical data for this research is the documentary ‘Education, Education’, and will be analysed through the concepts of both Agamben and Derrida. More specifically, by applying Agamben’s concept of potentiality to rethink education from learning society to an act of study. Furthermore, Agamben’s notion of apparatus shows how modern employees must sacrifice their time and impotentiality in order to be included in the labour market. However, by focusing on pause as an act of profanation the precariat can deactivate the apparatus of the labour market. Using Derrida’s concept of pharmakon, the precariat figure’s ambiguity between exposure and opportunity is shown which can make Formof-life as a politically ethical life possible.

EducationsMSc in Philosophy, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages78