more conference adventures

I’ll be presenting a paper at the ECREA in Hamburg 3rd European Communication Conference in October. This will be the  Network Politics panel, chaired by  Maren Hartmann at the Digital Culture and Communication Section – and I’m very excited. I will be talking about using the Issue Crawler to map the network of feminist organisations in London and about how I think of the process of using digital tools for research.  The paper is based on the chapter I’ve drafted twice already during the past year – and I plan to redraft before Hamburg. The Issue Crawler as a digital research tool and mediation, representation and materiality have been issues that have been important for me in this analysis.

Last month I attended the Beyond Citizenship: Feminism and the transformation of Belonging, An international and interdisciplinary conference (30th June – 2nd July 2010) at Birkbeck, University of London. This was one of the most fruitful experiences of my DPhil life so far – papers and panels were diverse and I met many interesting people (I got to meet Jenny Gunnarsson Payne at last, though I missed her paper Blogging Trans* -itions. Blogging as Citizens’ Media and the Transgendering of Citizenship, see abstract booklet). I attended Katherine Gibson’s regional development talk A Feminist Project of Belonging for the AnthropoceneJ.K Gibson-Graham wrote the End of Capitalism (As We Knew It): A Feminist Critique of Political Economy and A Postcapitalist Politics. This was a paper about existing non-capitalist alternative economic activity and spaces (like community projects) and it was a talk charged with hope using the language of possibility – and I may be naive but I didn’t find it normative.

Exemplary by Canan was also screened, and the artist answered questions from the audience. It was interesting for me to listen to the questions posed and realise my cultural background similarities with Turkey – and the differences with Britain – that inform my understanding of patriarchy and sexuality. What I mean is that some of the questions posed suprised me. What I missed from this film was the mother – child relationship …

I’ve kept some notes from the panel ‘The body owner, the labourer and the victim citizen: citizenship and the female body in the age of biosciences’, chaired by Kathrin Braun & Teresa Kulawik, which is relevant to what I’m reading at the moment for my thesis chapter.  Kathrin Braun with Susanne Schultz (University of Hannover) gave a paper ‘Vendors or victims? Models of citizenship in current debates on egg procurement for research in Europe and the US’. Ute Kalender (Humboldt University of Berlin) did a paper called ‘Non/Desired reproductive citizens. A queer-crip perspective on concepts of reproductive citizenship’ which was brilliantly introduced – with a conscise positioning which I plan to adopt! And Teresa Kulawik (Södertörn University, Stockholm) talked about the historical, sociopolitical specificity of citizenship (‘Feminist concepts of bodily citizenship: a historical and comparative perspective’.

Of course one of the highlights of my 3 days in London was the free lunch outside SOAS (Birkbeck did not accommodate for special diets) by the ‘give food for good karma’ people – a tip from my friend Sam (revolutionary boredom) which I hugely appreciated – along with his fabulous hospitality!

Some notes fromThe body owner, the labourer and the victim citizen: citizenship and the female body in the age of biosciences’ panel

Braun and Schultz’s paper outlined the paradigms which operate in feminism regarding biotechnologies for research (not IVF). Research at the moment takes place in 4 EU countries- Spain, UK, Sweden and Belgium. They identified three main paradigms – which represent shifts from previous ones.

1 – liberal: based on discourses of autonomy, rights, choice. These previously focused on the ownership of the body and the relationship between the individual and her own body – now the focus is on contracts and, in particular, the language used in contacts which describe what is acceptable and what not. The focus is thus on the ‘contracting moment’ (see Thompson 2007). For that B&S find this paradigm problematic.

2 – citizen as regenerative labourer : (see Walby and Copper 2007, 2010). The body is a source of biovalue. An analysis of postfordist globalised bioeconomy in which the body is seen as continuing productivity. This value is then appropriated by researcchers so the donor of tissue/eggs will receive a fair share of the value which is generated (so the question here is how do we value this – especially if this stays in the lab where its status is unclear).

The aim here is exactly to make this generative process visible – and payment involved is one way to negotiate this idea. The problem for B&S with these approaches is that they adopt a universal aspect of productivity and are decontextualised.

3 – Technosceptic (the vulnerable citizen paradigm): HandsOffOurOvaries is an example of this, suggesting a moratorium in sourcing and research until risks are known. For them the idea of a free and informed consent cannot stand because women occupy weaker power positions by default in this system/ process (see Beeson and Lippman 2006,  Sexton 2006, Dickensen and Alkorta Idiakez 2006). The prevailling issues are contol and surveillance of the ‘bio-object’.

B&S propose a situated analysis of relationsips – for example in South Korea, where feminist discourses of objectification of bodies, or cosmetic surgery etc never gained ground, the donation is rerceived as sign of active citizenship.

As this is a speculative economy – it concerns the hopes about theraupetic promises of these technologies – for example the personalised tissue for wealthy patients. Repromedicine is based on IVF developments.

So they are considering what frameworks of citizenship allow these questions to arise, beyond the three paradigms.

They suggest

a) a situated (historically informed) study of the operation of feminist discourses in the British context – the religious, social, political aspects) and how they inform understandings of donation either for IVF or research is approapriate

b) how do the discourses of science inform ideas of citizenship through feminism – for example what is the meaning of participation and citizenship here.

Some biblio-

Susanne Schultz
Dissolved Boundaries and Affective Labor. On the Disappearance of Reproductive Labor and Feminist Critique in Empire. In: Capitalism Nature Socialism, Vol. 17, No. 1, March 2006

and I’m quoting here from After 1968. On the notion of the political in postmarxist theory site the short analysis for a workshop which analysed Schultz’s article.

‘Feminist comments on the relation between politics and labor: The arcane of reproduction

We are going to debate two texts which frame the feminist critique of labor within or against operaist Marxism: the second chapter of Leopoldina Fortunati’s “The arcane of reproduction” and “Dissolved Boundaries and Affective Labor” by Susanne Schultz , in which she criticizes Hardt’s and Negri’s theses on the transformation of the relationship between productive and reproductive labor. Mainly, she aims at deconstructing the argument formulated in “Empire” that there is no difference between production and reproduction any more. After the real subsumption of society by capital any sort of activity would be equally productive, life and production would coincide. In contrast, she argues that the border between productive and reproductive labor has not been dissolved but displaced, especially through a feminization of labor in which reproductive labor has been made invisible within the patchwork activities of a flexibilized everyday life, and through a new international division of labor between women, in which migrant women as low paid houseworkers take over parts of the reproductive labor.

Fortunati’s text testifies to the historical grammar with which feminist authors have expanded Marxian terms in Italian workerism. The main argument in this short chapter consists of the productivity of reproduction and the dual character of the capitalist mode of production that posits itself as production of value and non-value

Fortunati assumes, that it is the positing of reproduction as non-value that enables both, production and reproduction, to function as the production of value, and it is the positing of reproduction as natural production that enables two workers to be exploited with one wage and the entire cost of reproduction to be unloaded onto the labor force.

Fortunati’s rigid and repetitive analysis of the connection that links reproduction with production through a mythological process of separation, naturalisation and gender specific individualisation is part of a theoretical and militant process that started when a group of women left Potere Operaio in 1971 and organised the nucleus of Lotta Femminista.

It exemplifies an operation with which all transcendental aspects of Marxism present in its language of immanence are transferred to a feminist critique of capitalism by extending them to reproduction, especially the idea of a historical law of value that is immanent to the social relations transforming relations of humans into relations of things.

One theoretical counter-dicourse would be a Foucauldian analysis, examining the family as local centre of power in which the sexual is distributed and intensified, ascetism as mechanism to intensify sexual pleasure, homosexuality as invention that is coextensive to heteronormativity within a process of surveilling, mapping and inciting perversions in the body.

  • Leopoldina Fortunati: The Arcane of Reproduction, Housework, Prostitution, Labor and Capital (Chapter 2: The Kingdom of Nature), New York: Autonomedia, 1995, pp. 17-27
  • Susanne Schultz: Dissolved Boundaries and Affective Labor. On the Disappearance of Reproductive Labor and Feminist Critique in Empire. In Capitalism Nature Socialism, Vol. 17, No. 1 (March 2006), pp. 77-82′.
Feminist comments on the relation between politics and labor
The arcane of reproductionWe are going to debate two texts which frame the feminist critique of labor within or against operaist Marxism: the second chapter of Leopoldina Fortunati’s “The arcane of reproduction” and “Dissolved Boundaries and Affective Labor” by Susanne Schultz , in which she criticizes Hardt’s and Negri’s theses on the transformation of the relationship between productive and reproductive labor. Mainly, she aims at deconstructing the argument formulated in “Empire” that there is no difference between production and reproduction any more. After the real subsumption of society by capital any sort of activity would be equally productive, life and production would coincide. In contrast, she argues that the border between productive and reproductive labor has not been dissolved but displaced, especially through a feminization of labor in which reproductive labor has been made invisible within the patchwork activities of a flexibilized everyday life, and through a new international division of labor between women, in which migrant women as low paid houseworkers take over parts of the reproductive labor.

Fortunati’s text testifies to the historical grammar with which feminist authors have expanded Marxian terms in Italian workerism. The main argument in this short chapter consists of the productivity of reproduction and the dual character of the capitalist mode of production that posits itself as production of value and non-value

Fortunati assumes, that it is the positing of reproduction as non-value that enables both, production and reproduction, to function as the production of value, and it is the positing of reproduction as natural production that enables two workers to be exploited with one wage and the entire cost of reproduction to be unloaded onto the labor force.

Fortunati’s rigid and repetitive analysis of the connection that links reproduction with production through a mythological process of separation, naturalisation and gender specific individualisation is part of a theoretical and militant process that started when a group of women left Potere Operaio in 1971 and organised the nucleus of Lotta Femminista.

It exemplifies an operation with which all transcendental aspects of Marxism present in its language of immanence are transferred to a feminist critique of capitalism by extending them to reproduction, especially the idea of a historical law of value that is immanent to the social relations transforming relations of humans into relations of things.

One theoretical counter-dicourse would be a Foucauldian analysis, examining the family as local centre of power in which the sexual is distributed and intensified, ascetism as mechanism to intensify sexual pleasure, homosexuality as invention that is coextensive to heteronormativity within a process of surveilling, mapping and inciting perversions in the body.

Leopoldina Fortunati: The Arcane of Reproduction, Housework, Prostitution, Labor and Capital (Chapter 2: The Kingdom of Nature), New York: Autonomedia, 1995, pp. 17-27

Susanne Schultz: Dissolved Boundaries and Affective Labor. On the Disappearance of Reproductive Labor and Feminist Critique in Empire. In Capitalism Nature Socialism, Vol. 17, No. 1 (March 2006), pp. 77-82

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