Working at Living
This working group explores the social relations of precarious labor, both formal and informal, from an interdisciplinary, global, and intersectional approach that considers how sociocultural inequalities are and have been magnified and countered during times of financial crises, technological development, and increasing unemployment. Attentive to social contexts that shape, even as they are shaped by, constructs of gender, ethnicity, race, sexuality, ability, age, and citizenship, it considers categorical questions of what counts as work and who counts as a worker from feminist, ethnic, and cultural studies perspectives. The Working Group brings to the conversation insights from the humanities sometimes missing from investigations of the informal sector and too often ignored in discussions of the global economic and employment crisis.

The Year in Review
Over the past year, the Working Group held four in-person meetings, one virtual meeting, and several small working group meetings. They also hosted a webinar with Ai-jen Poo and Premilla Nadasen on the topic of working at living and the domestic worker. They likewise hosted Selma James— “legendary women’s rights activist, anti-racist campaigner, and author” at UCSB to talk about reproductive and caring labor performed by women and the way in which women are critical in the struggle against the hegemony of the logics of the market economy in everyday life. The year’s engagement concluded with a conference entitled: “Working at Living: A Conference on the Social Relations of Precarity.” The group also contributed posts to the Humanities Forum about the progress of their work.

Principal Investigator:

Eileen Boris, Chair of Feminist Studies, UC Santa Barbara

Eileen Boris holds the Hull Endowed Chair in Women’s Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara. Her project on how home care workers, mostly women of color, became the new face of the labor movement brings together many concerns including the home as workplace, the valuing of women’s labors, the connection between public and private, the ways that state policy reinforces inequality, and the failure of welfare reform. She has been able to combine scholarship with activism in working with trade unionists, disability rights activists, senior advocates, and others to improve in-home care. She has engaged in participatory action research as part of the Women’s Economic Justice Project in our region. Her new project considers the making of the woman worker as a distinct kind of worker through a history of the International Labor Organization. She looks at various labor conventions and discourses of protection, equality, development, gender, and decent work over the last century from its founding in 1919.

Participants:

Lalaie Ameeriar, Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies, UC Santa Barbara

Lalaie Ameeriar received an Honors B.A. in Socio-cultural anthropology from the University of Toronto, and a Masters degree and Ph.D. from the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University. From 2008-2011, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at Stanford University. Professor Ameeriar’s research interests include globalization, immigration, multiculturalism, and labor. Her research draws from multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in Lahore and Karachi, Pakistan, and Toronto, Canada. She is currently working on a book manuscript, “Downwardly Global: Recolonizing Immigrant Bodies in the Age of Multiculturalism,” which focuses on the transnational labor migration of Pakistani Muslim women and examines the ways that questions of unemployment are increasingly being rationalized and understood by governmental bodies and policy makers as questions of culture and racialized bodily difference. In her research she seeks to contribute to the ongoing project of extending the parameters of Asian American studies to include the experiences of those in “the Americas” specifically by including the experiences of Asian Canadians.

Maurizia Boscagli, Associate Professor of English, UC Santa Barbara

Maurizia Boscagli is an Associate Professor in the English Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She received her Ph.D. from Brown University in 1990. Her central interests include: gender studies and feminist theory; the body; theories of subjectivity; British and European Modernism; fin de siecle literature; critical and cultural theory; and theories of mass culture. She is the author of Eye on the Flesh: Fashions of Masculinity in the Early Twentieth Century (1996); a translation of the book Constituent Power, by Antonio Negri(forthcoming); and various articles on Masculinity, Walter Benjamin, and James Joyce.

Piya Chatterjee, Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies, Scripps College

Piya Chatterjee is the Dorothy Cruikshank Backstrand Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies at Scripps College. She is the author of A Time for Tea: Women, Labor, and Post/Colonial Politics on an Indian Plantation and coeditor of States of Trauma: Gender and Violence in South Asia and The Imperial University: Academic Repression and Scholarly Dissent.

Leigh Dodson, Graduate Student in Feminist Studies, UC Santa Barbara

Leigh Dodson is a graduate student in Feminist Studies at UC Santa Barbara. She received her BA in Women’s Studies from Vassar College and an MA in American Studies from New York University. Her research interests include gender and sexuality studies, labor studies, critical geography, critical race theory, queer theory, cultural studies, working class studies, feminist economics.

Fatima El-Tayeb, Associate Professor of African-American Literatures and Cultures, UC Los Angeles

Fatima El-Tayeb is an Associate Professor at the University of Los Angeles with a joint appointment in the departments of Literature and Ethnic Studies and is the Associate Director of the Critical Gender Studies Program.Prof. El-Tayeb received an MA in American Studies and a PhD in History from the University of Hamberg. Her research interests include African Diaspora Studies, Queer Theory, Transnational Feminism, Film Studies, European Migrant and Minority Cultures, Queer of Color Critique, Visual Cultural Studies, Media Theory. She is the author of European Others. Queering Ethnicity in Postnational Europe and Schwarze Deutsche. ‘Rasse’ und nationale Identität 1890 – 1933.

Aisha Finch, Assistant Professor of Gender Studies and Afro-American Studies, UC Los Angeles

Aisha Finch is an Assistant Professor of Gender Studies and Afro-American Studies at the University of California Los Angeles. Prof. Finch is the author of Insurgency Interrupted: Cuban Slaves and the Resistance Movements of 1843-1844. Her interests include African Diaspora Studies, Black Feminism, Caribbean and Latin American History, Race and Gender in Cuba, Comparative Slavery, and Black Cultural Studies.

Noah Zatz, Professor of Law, UC Los Angeles

Noah Zatz’s interests include employment & labor law, welfare law and antipoverty policy, work/family issues, feminist legal & social theory, and liberal political theory.  His writing and teaching address how work structures both inequality and social citizenship in the modern welfare state.  Zatz’s primary focus is on which activities become recognized and protected as “work,” how work is defined in relationship to markets, and how the boundaries of markets are themselves mediated by gender and race, among other things.  His published scholarship engages these questions by studying the legal concepts of “work” in welfare work requirements and “employment” in labor & employment law, especially with regard to the status of family caretaking, prison labor, workfare, and sex work.  Another major interest is how antidiscrimination law, and employment law more generally, address labor market inequality that is jointly produced by workers’ interactions with employers, coworkers, and actors outside the workplace.

Chris Newfield, Professor of American Culture, UC Santa Barbara

Christopher Newfield is professor of American culture at UCSB. His research focuses on the processes of creativity and innovation, with a double focus on cultural and technological factors. He publishes on a range of topics that include the effects of higher education on society, corporate culture, culture and economics,  the role of identity in socio-economic development, civil rights history, and the future of the middle class, He has conducted extensive fieldwork in a range of technology-dependent industries and has wide experience with  the university side of copyright, patenting, and technology transfer. In addition to his service at UCSB, he has served on the UC system wide committees for planning and budget, technology transfer, and  the advisory board for UC’s Industry-University Cooperative Research Program.  He has recently published Ivy and Industry: Business and the Making of the American University, 1880-1980, and is working on its sequel, entitled The Innovation Crisis: Business and the American University, 1975-2005.

Tiffany Willoughby-Herard, Assistant Professor of African American Studies, UC Irvine

Tiffany Willoughby-Herard is an Assistant Professor of African American Studies at the University of California, Irvine. Prof. Willoughby-Herard is the author of Revolt at the source: the black radical tradition in the social documentary photography of Omar Badsha and Nadine Hutton. My research examines the international dimensions of racialization, racial identities, and the racialization of poverty. She studies philanthropic and educational organizations that have had a global reach to talk about the production of traveling academic and popular debates about race, culture, poverty, and work. She is particularly concerned with the influence that scholars from South Africa and the United States have had on each other in the framing of their distinctive national debates about race and post-raciality. As a comparative political theorist she is concerned about the function of race and enslavement in national identity which has important implications for theories of citizenship, immigration, democracy, and justice.

Kalindi Vora, Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies, UC San Diego

Kalindi Vora is Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, San Diego. Prof. Vora is the author of a number of articles including most recently “Limits of Labor: Accounting for Affect and the Biological in Transnational Surrogacy and Service Work” published in The South Atlantic Quarterly. Her research interests include Science and Technology Studies, Postcolonial Theory, Critical Race and Gender Studies, South Asian Area and Diaspora Studies, Globalization, Marxist Theory, and Cultural Studies.

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