Special Forum | Contract & Contagion: From Biopolitics to Oikonomia

This coming week, the Digital Labor Working Group will host what promises to be a fantastic (and timely) conversation on Angela Mitropoulos’ work Contract and Contagion: From Biopolitics to Oikonomia. For those of us interested in post-Fordist labor arrangements, Contract and Contagion offers a rich nexus of literatures (and connections between those literatures) to think through, particularly as we consider the naturalization of domestic labor contra “productive” or waged labor. The desire to host this forum comes from an interest in offering new terrains for thought and expanded vocabularies to an ongoing and emerging conversation that we see happening online among feminists, scholars, activists, labor journalists, and students, particularly around the use of the Wages for Housework campaign, the nature of affective labor and emotional labor, the long histories of racism and oppressive subjectification at play in history of such labor, and reconsiderations of the “feminization” of labor in light of the digital. Contract and Contagion is particularly helpful as we come to see ourselves as new laboring subjects/entities in a shifting political economy and reformulating ontology of labor and value—an ontology that the digital and its attendant surveillance/”big data”/ police state now plays no small part in.

Our forum will be a bit informal, developing as a series of posts by a number of participants over the week. We hope to foster a conversation and we hope you can join us–  in the comment section of our blog, on your own blog, or on Twitter.  Many thanks to our forum participants for their time and energy. We hope the forum is a useful conversation for many.  Our first post will be Sunday, March 2nd.

If you are interested in reading Contract and Contagion, the book can be downloaded from Minor Compositions here:

Participants include:

Aren Aizura, Assistant Professor in Women and Gender Studies at Arizona State University. He researches how queer and transgender bodies shape and are shaped by technologies of race, gender, transnationality, medicalization and political economy. Aizura is the editor of the Transgender Studies Reader 2 (Routledge 2013) and is working on a book entitled Mobile Subjects: transnational imaginaries of gender reassignment (under contract with Duke UP). His work has appeared in Medical Anthropology, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, and Asian Studies Review, as well as the books Queer Bangkok, Transgender Migrations, and Trans Feminist Perspectives. He earned a PhD in Cultural Studies from the University of Melbourne in 2009.

Anne Boyer, Assistant Professor of the Liberal Arts, Kansas City Art Institute. Boyer is a poet whose works include Anne Boyer’s Good Apocalypse, Art is War, The 2000s, Selected Dreams with a Note on Phrenology, The Romance of Happy Workers, and My Common Heart.  She teaches in critical theory, gender studies, literature, technology, and experimental writing.  Lately she has been doing work on reproductive labor and the intellectual history of the left, particularly 19th century revolutionary and materialist feminisms.

Tom Buechele, PhD candidate in Sociology and Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of Culture, Technology and Work  at the CUNY Grad Center (https://csctw.commons.gc.cuny.edu), and Adjunct Lecturer in Sociology at CUNY John Jay and Hunter College. He is also on the editorial board of Situations: Project of the Radical Imagination. His research deals with how notions of subjectivities shift, transform, and modulate through technological forms.  Of particular interest to this project is the blurring of the distinctions between work and “life”, as the affects of “motivation”, “energy”, and “endurance”, as well the means of communication itself, are commodified through industries such as “life coaching” and through the digital machinery which present these affects in the form of apps.  Needless to say, the very conceptions of commodity, labor, and affect requires reexamination given the ever shifting nature of the technological apparatus and the increasing ”aestheticization” of everyday life through digital technology.

Patricia Ticineto Clough, professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies at the Graduate Center and Queens College of the City University of New York. She also is a psychoanalytic candidate at the Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy. Clough is author of Autoaffection: Unconscious Thought in the Age of Teletechnology (2000); Feminist Thought: Desire, Power and Academic Discourse (1994)and The End(s)of Ethnography: From Realism to Social Criticism (1998). She is editor of The Affective Turn: Theorizing the Social (2007), with Craig Willse, editor of Beyond Biopolitics: Essays on the Governance of Life and Death (2011) and with Alan Frank and Steven Seidman, editor of Intimacies, A New World of Relational Life (2013). Clough’s work has drawn on theoretical traditions concerned with technology, affect, unconscious processes, timespace and political economy. More recently she has been creating performance pieces bringing together sound and images with theoretical and autobiographical discourses that also draw on ethnographic work in Corona Queens. Her forthcoming book is The End(s)of Measure.

Mark Gawne, who is finishing a PhD at the University of Sydney, which develops a critique of the political impasse produced in the ontological turn of recent post-operaista theory, specifically through a critique of the particular postworkerist entwining of labour, affect and value. I have also been a casual tutor at the University of Sydney in recent years, and have been involved with the Casual’s Network and the University Worker and Student Assembly.

Karen Gregory, Lecturer at City College’s Center for Worker Education and a doctoral candidate in sociology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). Her dissertation, entitled “Enchanted Entrepreneurs: The Labor of Psychics in New York City”, is an ethnographic account of the labor of alternative practitioners and is drawn from two years of work at an esoteric school in the city. Her dissertation explores the intersection of contemporary spirituality, entrepreneurial cultures, and digital labor. Most recently, she helped found the CUNY Graduate Center’s Digital Labor Working Group. She is the co-author, with Patricia Clough, Benjamin Haber, and Josh Scannell, of “The Datalogical Turn”, which will appear in the forthcoming Nonrepresentational Methodologies: Re-Envisioning Research (Taylor & Francis). Her writing has been published in Women’s Studies Quarterly, Women and Performance, Visual Studies, as well as in The New Inquiry and The State.

Robin James, Associate Professor of Philosophy at UNC Charlotte, and faculty affiliate of the UC Santa Cruz Digital And New Media program. She is also a contributor to Cyborgology. Her theoretical work addresses the interaction between music, sound, and systems of political organization (like gender or race). She is currently working on two manuscripts. The first one, under contract with Zer0 Books, is about pop music, feminism, and neoliberalism. The other manuscript is about the role of sound in neoliberal epistemology and aesthetics. Her work in digital sound art creatively examines the issues in feminist/queer/critical race/disability studies, continental philosophy, and music studies that she explores in her theoretical writing.  Robin has published articles in The New Inquiry, Hypatia, Contemporary Aesthetics, and The Journal of Popular Music Studies, and a book titled The Conjectural Body: Gender, Race, and the Philosophy of Music. For info about her current projects, and links to un-paywalled copies of her published research, visit her blog, its-her-factory.blogspot.com.

Andrew McKinney, Doctoral Candidate in Sociology and Digital Fellow at the City University of New York Graduate Center and a Community Facilitator at the City Tech OpenLab.  His research is primarily concerned with the collapse of the differences between several classic binary pairings in the contemporary American economy (labor and play, work and leisure, production and consumption, for example) and the role technology has played in this process. His dissertation studies the role  that fan labor, specifically that of American sports fans, plays in the political economy of the Internet.

Angela Mitropoulos, Researcher Fellow at the University of Sydney and political theorist whose corpus spans the registers of radical movements and sustained philosophical enquiry. Her writing has appeared in numerous journals, including Social TextSouth Atlantic QuarterlyMuteCultural Studies ReviewBorderlands, and ephemera; and it has been widely translated, disseminated and taught in both academic and activist contexts.

Kara Van Cleaf, PhD candidate in Sociology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). Her academic interests include feminist and social theory, cultural studies of technology, digital labor, and the affective economies of motherhood. Her research on mommy blogs explores how, through both digital and affective labor, mommy bloggers bring the experience of motherhood into public and economic circulation as they refine and disperse data, fantasy, and affect. Mommy blogs provide a register of both the labor of motherhood and the labor of digital participation, blurring the line between production and consumption, labor and leisure, public and private, and nature and machine. Her research considers the political implications of this digital mother-machine attachment. She currently works as an Instructional Technology Fellow at Macaulay Honors College, CUNY and is an adjunct professor at The Fashion Institute of Technology, SUNY.

Constantina Zavitsanos, an artist whose practice engages the sculptural surfaces and temporalities of performance, text, projection and sound. She works with concepts of intimacy, consent, and contraction—especially as related to debt and dependency. Zavitsanos attended the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, and has shared work at Slought Foundation in Philadelphia, with Cage at MoMA PS1, and at the Hessel Museum at Bard College. She lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.



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