“We touch their heart”: Plastic Automaticity and Affective Labour at Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta Airport

Peter Adey, Weiqiang Lin, Tina Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Labour research in geography has long been fascinated with the role of affects and emotions in capitalism. This article foregrounds ambivalent moments when labour creatively uses affection and intimacy to make claims over autonomy and agency. Set against a backdrop of increasing automation of infrastructural work, we draw on interviews with personnel at Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta Airport (CGK). In culturally situating these automations, we evince how the ‘heart’ (or the Indonesian notion of curahan hati), with semblances to customer-facing labour management practices, and other affective dispositions under neoliberal life, is repeatedly deployed to ‘fill in the gaps’ for where automation may fail. We illuminate how these workers navigate wearying, uncertain and demanding facilitation, security and customer service situations by emphasizing ‘heart-to-heart’ relations, even as they stave off technology’s encroachments (and withdrawals). This plastic automaticity offers a template by which the pressures of capital’s technologization could be relieved, beyond emotional labour.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date24 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Jan 2024


  • affect
  • automation
  • heart
  • emotional labour
  • plastic automaticity
  • airport infrastructure

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