HCCW: Working at Living

Eileen Boris
Feminist Studies
UC Santa Barbara

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.