“A po ka punë?”
“Is there any work?”, you’re asked. A common question, a colloquial phrase. It’s a greeting or conversation starter, a statement of interest in the wellbeing of others. But as with any culturally specific expression, there are underlying and unspoken values being communicated.
The ubiquity of “A po ka punë?” in daily life shows the central role work has in our understanding of life and wellbeing. This question isn’t just a personal inquiry; the greeting comments on the everyday struggles many face in finding or keeping a job, and then in surviving off that job. It shows the degree to which work underpins the way we experience ourselves and our society.
That is why at K2.0 we decided our third annual Carnival would focus on labor. The Carnival’s title is Sweat — a tribute to workers’ struggles and a recognition of their rights. Thinking about sweat helps us see how ideas about labor are founded not on the rights of workers, but on extracting their sweat. “Gjithçka duhet me e fitu me djersë,” one often hears in Albanian, “Everything should be earned with sweat.” Sweat, as many sayings show, is the quintessential marker of exploitation. “Hajde, djersitu pak, jepi, puno. Për çka po t’paguj?”, a boss might say, “Come on, sweat a little, work. What am I paying you for?”
So today, we kick off a four-day program of inspiring and thought-provoking discussions and speakers on sweat, work and labor. At the same time, we are publishing our latest online monograph, which explores similar themes. In this monograph issue you’ll find personal stories of hardship and perseverance, not just in struggling through a difficult job, but in fighting so that workers don’t have to face dangerous or exploitative conditions. Our monograph highlights the difference between equity and equality, an important distinction that helps us understand the structural inequalities that maintain systems of oppression and discrimination, and we bring you in-depth and explanatory pieces about how state policies and legislation fail to adequately protect and promote workers’ rights.
Our Carnival program and the Sweat monograph tap into various aspects of work — how labor is fundamentally gendered; how sectors such as construction, mining, hospitality or child care are structured in ways that exploit the vulnerable; how the world of arts and culture can be a place not only where injustice is articulated and critiqued, but where labor struggles materialize as well; how a lack of contracts harms workers; and how ultimately the planet, our common home, is sweating under the weight of environmental degradation and climate change.
All of this is tied to what we are constantly engaged in at K2.0. As a magazine, we have always been devoted to highlighting perspectives and experiences that are all too often misconstrued, misrepresented and misunderstood. We are committed to identifying the conversations that need to be taking place in order not only to respond to the world around us, but to try to create the world in which we want to live.
Over the years, K2.0’s journalism has tackled unsafe working conditions, unjust labor practices and discriminatory policies in various forms. But this year, we are placing labor — as a concept, practice and experience — at the center of inquiry.
Cultural expressions will always remain important in how they both describe and create the world around us. But maybe “A po ka punë?”, which represents scarcity and dependence, can shift to something more empowered and self-confident. We hope that our Carnival program and monograph contribute to that, as we undermine some of the more pernicious societal ideas about labor and work, all while keeping Sweat, either literal or metaphorical, at the center.