Rachel Lee Lecture Tomorrow

Here is the info about the lecture tomorrow. I hope to see some of you there.

Associate Professor Rachel Lee, English and Women’s Studies, UCLA, will present “Disaggregating Racial Bodies: Biopolitics and Borderlands in Literature, Theory, and Culture” Tuesday, March 29, 2011 – 4:00 p.m. in the Maple Room, IMU.

Marxism and Cultural Studies conference

Many accounts of the emergence and development of Cultural Studies
accord a central place to Marxism, both as a body of knowledge and as
an important ideological component of the New Left. The rediscovery of
the writings of Antonio Gramsci, George Luckacs, Walter Benjamin, and
Theodor Adorno, among others, along with the formation of the
Birmingham Centre for Cultural Studies, led to a general renaissance of
Marxist theory and cultural analysis, which in turn resulted in
ground-breaking studies of working class culture, the political role of
new social movements that were not class based, the power of ideology
and mass culture in sustaining existing social relations, and critical
analyses of state-authoritarianism. As Cultural Studies crossed the
Atlantic and gained an institutional foothold in the United States,
some have feared that its engagement with Marxism has been diluted
through an over emphasis on the subversive potentialities of mass media
and consumer capitalism.

The 2011 conference, “Marxism and Cultural Studies,” will explore the
role of Marxism in the field. Some questions that motivate this year’s
conference are: How do we understand the relationship between the base
and superstructure today? Does ideology critique still have an ongoing
usefulness? Do globalization and the world recession require new
objects of study? To what extent does Marxism provide a utopian impulse
for existing social movements? Do iterations of Cultural Studies in
South Asia, Africa, Central and Latin America, the Middle East, and
Eastern Europe retain a commitment to Marxism and how is this work
revitalizing the field more broadly? Does the Marxist imperative to
historicize challenge current paradigms of cultural analysis such as
the “New Formalism”? What exactly does a historical materialist
methodology enable? How do we articulate media analyses with questions
of political economy, geo-politics, and activism? What is the role of
the intellectual and Cultural Studies more generally?

Panelists will address some of these issues during three sessions:
“Marxism and Cultural Analysis,” “Marxism and Social Movements,” and
“Marxism and History.” Invited speakers include: Dianne Feeley (UAW
and Against the Current) Laura E. Lyons (University of Hawai’i), Ursula
McTaggart (Wilmington College), and Janet Sorensen (University of
California, Berkeley). S. Charusheela (University of Nevada) will
deliver the keynote address which will consider the “return” to Marx
and the political limitations of a too-easy embrace of economic
determinism for cultural analyses.
——————————————————————————–
FRIDAY, April 1 (Ernie Pyle Auditorium, Room 220)
4:00-6:00 pm; Opening Keynote:
Delivered by S. Charusheela “Rethinking Marxism in Times of Turmoil”

SATURDAY, April 2 in the Faculty Club on the Second Floor of IMU
10:00 am-12:00pm; Panel I: Marxism and Cultural Analysis
1. Laura E. Lyons “‘I’d Like My Life Back’: BP, Corporate Personhood
and the Intimate Public Sphere”
2. Patrick Dove “Muddying the Waters: The Politics of Populism in
Peronist Argentina”
3. Lessie Frazier:”(Counter)Revolutionary Cultures”
Moderator: Nick Williams

1:00 pm-3:00 pm; Panel II: Marxism and Social Movements
(Faculty Club on the Second Floor of IMU)
1. Gardner Bovington “What’s class struggle got to do with it? Social
mobilization and framing”
2. Dianne Feeley “Building Feminist Consciousness in a Male Workplace.”
3. Jeff Gould “Marxism and Christian Base Communities: Notes from
Morazan, El Salvador”
Moderator: Micol Siegel

3:15 pm–5:15 pm; Panel III: Marxism and History
(Faculty Club on the Second Floor of IMU)
1. Janet Sorenson TBA
2. Ursula McTaggart “Change as Code for Black Radicalism: Barack Obama
and Right-Wing Charges of Socialism”
3. Matt Guterl “Class Passing and Cosmopolitanism in the Age of Globalization”
Moderator: Patrick Brantlinger

Random Thoughts on Week 12

Was there a gender divide in who was identified for treatment by the Friendship Centre?  Were men more likely to be picked than women because women were/are socially educated not to speak up or share their thoughts, and so would be less likely to participate in discussion groups?

When Treichler lists all the competing (mis)conceptions of HIV/AIDS in the mid-80s — particularly the published scientific shift from viewing AIDS as a homosexual disease in ’85 (illustrated by the “rugged vagina” quote!) to a possibly heterosexual disease in ’86 — I was struck by what we in philosophy of science refer to as “underdetermination.”  This is when the same set of facts can be used to advance/support two or more entirely different theories, and this happens quite frequently in science.  Thus, science is heavily influenced by shared social values which people use to choose between two underdetermined theories.  As Treichler observes, the science (facts) of HIV/AIDS hadn’t changed at all from ’85-’86, but prevailing public opinion was beginning to, thus the resulting change in theory.

Minnesota proposed welfare legislation

Hi all, I mentioned I was going to post these in class on Monday, but then sorry, things have been really hectic and I didn’t get the chance to post them until today. The articles I was referring to are here and here.

And I brought it up in class already that what reminded me of this in our readings were a few parts in the Wanning Sun article. First on p.277 is the discussion of the “stratified politics of consumer desire”; of who gets to yearn and whose longings are legitimate. A lot of the attempts to police spending of people who are on welfare so they don’t “waste their money” on things they are defined as not needed seems to spring from that place. The later comment on p.284, that “the refashioning of the migrant body is more beneficial to employers than to the migrants themselves” also kind of made me think of some similarities, although as we discussed in class, these situations have significant differences. I think in the Sun article when it articulates that these employers might view their preference for “country bumpkins” as “doing their part” to advance a modernizing nation-building project, and that is part of why it’s more beneficial to themselves to exert their parental authority in that way, there seem to be some differences/similarities. This discussion of this potential law in Minnesota has some of the same air of parental authority in directing behavior, but not as much about advancing modernizing project. Also, there is more there perhaps under the surface about specifically promoting certain businesses maybe owned by congressmen, that people are welfare are restricted to through the debit card.

As an important difference, of course, the Sun piece concentrates on the feminization of labor migration, a central point in a lot of these pieces, which is something that is not directly present in this Minnesota situation (neither migration, nor specific feminization of labor, though in the larger situation of this story there may be a feminization of people on welfare? I’m not sure, myself).

feminized labor/work

It is clear from these articles that capitalist modes of production have as a precondition the division of labor which is cut along sexual difference; in other words, the marginalization of women as a class, which is the valorization of men as a class, was a necessary condition for the transition into capitalism. Extending Foucault’s definition of racism, biopower (and capitalism) require differences in the field of the managed organism, the species; race, gender, and class seem to be these archetypal, all-important divisions needed for the initial primitive accumulation of capital but also for the perpetual primitive accumulation for whose existence Boutang argues (c.f., John Lennon’s song “Woman is the Nigger of the World” – this song has been really important to me recently because it hits most of my strongest feelings about conceptualizing women as an oppressed class).

Waldby and Cooper echo Boutang (further echoing de la Costa) in their correction to Marx’s theory of primitive accumulation (the “pre-capitalist mode of often violent primary resource acquisition” which is supposedly replaced by the wage contract) in saying that this form of slave labor in which the laborer is not considered to be the Lockean property owner/seller of their labor is not exclusive to the pre-capitalist mode but is in fact one of the primary conditions for the reproduction of capitalist conditions. Much of this slave labor that is necessary for capitalism to function is feminized labor or “women’s work.” One example is from this article, “The Biopolitics of Reproduction”: “Egg donors spend 56 hours in the medical setting, undergoing interviews, counseling, and medical procedures related to the process,” the procedure involves 7-10 days of hormone injections, not to mention the 5% risk of developing a possibly fatal disease called ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome. The hours, the emotional and physical effects of hormone therapy, and the risk of having to treat a disease by your own means which you contracted “on a job,” all are examples of the hidden costs for the women undergoing these supposedly lucrative egg donations. The act of making the laborer pay for certain costs related to or necessary for the performance of a job Immanuel Wallerstein calls externalizing costs of the labor process to the laborer. So the laborer pays to work when the capitalist externalizes costs to them, making the laborer internalize costs. Other examples of this are an employee’s drive to work or an employee having to buy food at the job or even paying for supplies, such as tools. But another example of this is when a family supports one worker and thus all of the costs of reproducing that worker are externalized to the family, which oftentimes means the women of the family. Thus, women “work for free” in this way, and this seems to be one of the main methods of externalizing onerous costs of capitalist ventures to the people: a process of wealth expropriation. This is what Fortunati speaks to when they write that it is by both the extension of the work day to the limits of human possibility and also the conceptualizing of reproductive labor as “natural production” “which has enabled two workers to be exploited with one wage, and the entire cost of reproduction to be unloaded onto the labor force.”

What seems important to me about these insights, starting with Boutang and ending with Wallerstein, is that the “social contract” never extends itself in a linear fashion in which more and more people are brought into the fold. Instead, capitalism depends on much cruder forms of exploitation, as well as the more sophisticated contract form with all of its philosophical technology, to sustain itself.

The ambivalences of being a woman, the multiple modes of existing throughout the world that are signified by being of this class, come to the center in these pieces. It is the emancipated first world woman who puts off child-rearing for her career and then decides to mine fertility from poor, younger women in often poor countries. This is what Waldby and Cooper mean when they write that feminist theorist Kempadoo “makes clear that the sexual division of labour is inseparable from issues of race, imperialism and unequal exchange, including the power relations that exist between women.” (side note: the idea of poor women “gifting” their eggs to mostly business women in the first world, as though there were no other antagonisms between them, is just as disgusting as the idea that women should “gift” their productive labor in the household or their reproductive labor to men, or better, to capital: “[Reproduction] is an exchange that appears to take place between  male workers and women, but in reality takes place between capital and women, with the male workers acting as intermediaries” (Fortunati, 9).) This also makes me think critically of the difference between sex work in the first world and sex work in the post-colonies.

Women, in general, do more work than men, meaning that they are disproportionately exploited. This is a consequence of their having to perform “natural production” (reproductive labor and other domestic work) and most often the production of exchange value which is waged labor, too.

I am at a loss for how to extend support to the hundreds of millions of women being exploited in the post-colonies: how does one reconcile their feminism with the realities of the two papers regarding the conditions of women in countries which have undergone IMF restructuring programs and thus the collapse of their economies? I suppose the indebtedness of those countries to the rest of the world is most painfully embodied by the women performing clinical or biotechnical labor in which parts of their bodies are most explicitly given up in order for them to procure the necessities of living. Just my existence in the first world means that I am a beneficiary of their indebtedness and servitude. At least the women’s issues in America can be helped by responding to points made in the Fortunati piece, for instance. But maybe women’s issues on the national level only seem to be more accessible to leverage, but are they really without attention to the periphery?

 

 

Daniel’s Notes on Feminized Labor

It is clear from these articles that capitalist modes of production have as a precondition the division of labor which is cut along sexual difference; in other words, the marginalization of women as a class, which is the valorization of men as a class, was a necessary condition for the transition into capitalism. Extending Foucault’s definition of racism, biopower (and capitalism) require differences in the field of the managed organism, the species; race, gender, and class seem to be these archetypal, all-important divisions needed for the initial primitive accumulation of capital but also for the perpetual primitive accumulation for whose existence Boutang argues (c.f., John Lennon’s song “Woman is the Nigger of the World” – this song has been really important to me recently because it hits most of my strongest feelings about conceptualizing women as an oppressed class).

Waldby and Cooper echo Boutang (further echoing de la Costa) in their correction to Marx’s theory of primitive accumulation (the “pre-capitalist mode of often violent primary resource acquisition” which is supposedly replaced by the wage contract) in saying that this form of slave labor in which the laborer is not considered to be the Lockean property owner/seller of their labor is not exclusive to the pre-capitalist mode but is in fact one of the primary conditions for the reproduction of capitalist conditions. Much of this slave labor that is necessary for capitalism to function is feminized labor or “women’s work.” One example is from this article, “The Biopolitics of Reproduction”: “Egg donors spend 56 hours in the medical setting, undergoing interviews, counseling, and medical procedures related to the process,” the procedure involves 7-10 days of hormone injections, not to mention the 5% risk of developing a possibly fatal disease called ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome. The hours, the emotional and physical effects of hormone therapy, and the risk of having to treat a disease by your own means which you contracted “on a job,” all are examples of the hidden costs for the women undergoing these supposedly lucrative egg donations. The act of making the laborer pay for certain costs related to or necessary for the performance of a job Immanuel Wallerstein calls externalizing costs of the labor process to the laborer. So the laborer pays to work when the capitalist externalizes costs to them, making the laborer internalize costs. Other examples of this are an employee’s drive to work or an employee having to buy food at the job or even paying for supplies, such as tools. But another example of this is when a family supports one worker and thus all of the costs of reproducing that worker are externalized to the family, which oftentimes means the women of the family. Thus, women “work for free” in this way, and this seems to be one of the main methods of externalizing onerous costs of capitalist ventures to the people: a process of wealth expropriation. This is what Fortunati speaks to when they write that it is by both the extension of the work day to the limits of human possibility and also the conceptualizing of reproductive labor as “natural production” “which has enabled two workers to be exploited with one wage, and the entire cost of reproduction to be unloaded onto the labor force.”

What seems important to me about these insights, starting with Boutang and ending with Wallerstein, is that the “social contract” never extends itself in a linear fashion in which more and more people are brought into the fold. Instead, capitalism depends on much cruder forms of exploitation, as well as the more sophisticated contract form with all of its philosophical technology, to sustain itself.

The ambivalences of being a woman, the multiple modes of existing throughout the world that are signified by being of this class, come to the center in these pieces. It is the emancipated first world woman who puts off child-rearing for her career and then decides to mine fertility from poor, younger women in often poor countries. This is what Waldby and Cooper mean when they write that feminist theorist Kempadoo “makes clear that the sexual division of labour is inseparable from issues of race, imperialism and unequal exchange, including the power relations that exist between women.” (side note: the idea of poor women “gifting” their eggs to mostly business women in the first world, as though there were no other antagonisms between them, is just as disgusting as the idea that women should “gift” their productive labor in the household or their reproductive labor to men, or better, to capital: “[Reproduction] is an exchange that appears to take place between male workers and women, but in reality takes place between capital and women, with the male workers acting as intermediaries” (Fortunati, 9).) This also makes me think critically of the difference between sex work in the first world and sex work in the post-colonies.

Women, in general, do more work than men, meaning that they are disproportionately exploited. This is a consequence of their having to perform “natural production” (reproductive labor and other domestic work) and most often the production of exchange value which is waged labor, too.

I am at a loss for how to extend support to the hundreds of millions of women being exploited in the post-colonies: how does one reconcile their feminism with the realities of the two papers regarding the conditions of women in countries which have undergone IMF restructuring programs and thus the collapse of their economies? I suppose the indebtedness of those countries to the rest of the world is most painfully embodied by the women performing clinical or biotechnical labor in which parts of their bodies are most explicitly given up in order for them to procure the necessities of living. Just my existence in the first world means that I am a beneficiary of their indebtedness and servitude. At least the women’s issues in America can be helped by responding to points made in the Fortunati piece, for instance. But maybe women’s issues on the national level only seem to be more accessible to leverage, but are they really without attention to the periphery?

A brief response focusing on Parisi

I found the three responses that have already been posted for this week very useful and insightful. No one has discussed the excerpt from Luciana Parisi’s book Abstract Sex very much. I found it the most difficult reading to get through this week. I could definitely use some help unpacking some of the theoretical framing, especially in the opening pages of “Parthenogenic Sex.” I found Parisi’s discussion of entropy really fascinating. One passage in particular seemed, to me, to theorize and connect up a lot of the issues we have been discussing, particularly the management of populations through reproductive labor and the extraction of surplus value from biological processes and materials.

“The notion of entropy…was crucial to Marx’s study of the dynamics of reproduction of capital involving a capacity of extracting surplus value by deadening human labour. Capital is a homeostatic system. It incorporates and discharges energy-flows outside it’s semi-open cycle so as to ensure constant reproduction. By sucking in all useful flows capital deprives the vital lymph of the forces of production distorting the equal relationship between life and death: the more wealth or balance the more death. In a similar way, this entropic death is fundamental to the psychoanalytical and anatomical study of the reproductive forces of the body. Death becomes the principle of finitude of life spreading across the pathology of sexual reproduction” (94).

Sorry to quote at such length, but I hope this excerpt might provide us with an entry point for bringing Parisi into the discussion.

On another note, I reread Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake this past weekend, one of the novels I am planning on writing about for the seminar paper this term. Although it can definitely be classified as a future-dystopian novel, Atwood insisted at the time of publication that all of the technologies she describes in the book are already happening or are beginning to happen. Reading the novel alongside Waldby and Cooper brought the truth of this statement home. The “promissory claims” and bank-like structure of companies like Cordlife creepily echo the use of human clone banks (for “spare parts”- organs and tissues) in the future world of the novel.