The Humanities and Changing Conceptions of Work

2012 Working Groups: Changing Work, Changing Workforce: Immigrants and their Impact on the Meanings of Work | Santa Cruz Commons: Activist Research and the Public Humanities | Working at Living: The Social Relations of Precarity

Changing Work, Changing Workforce: Immigrants and their Impact on the Meanings of Work

The proposed working group will explore the relations between the changing economy, changing meanings of work, and the changing labor force by addressing a central animating question: how does WHO does the work affect the conceptions of work itself?  The group will examine the topic by focusing on a particular type of work: “immigrant work” and a particular locus of labor: immigrant workers in California.  The working group will explore immigrant work and workers across a broad range of historical periods in California as well as from multiple disciplinary perspectives and methodologies. Most generally, the working group will address the theme of the humanities and the changing conceptions of work by highlighting the roles work and the workplace play in the quest for human dignity.  The working group will convene two workshops, culminating in a larger workshop or conference on the theme of immigrant work and a scholarly collective publication.  The working groups will also develop an interactive online space to facilitate on-going communication, as well as to serve as an online, publicly available repository for teaching, research and educational materials concerning immigrant work. 

Principal Investigator:

Steven McKay, Sociology, UC Santa Cruz; Director of the UC Santa Cruz Center for Labor Studies

Faculty Participants:
Eva Bertram, Politics, UC Santa Cruz
David Brundage, History, UC Santa Cruz
Catherine Ceniza Choy, Ethnic Studies and Asian American Studies, UC Berkeley
Dana Frank, History, UC Santa Cruz
Gilbert G. Gonzalez, Chicano/Latino Studies, UC Irvine
Evelyn Nakano Glenn, Ethnic Studies and Asian American Studies, UC Berkeley
L.S. Kim, Film and Digital Media, UC Santa Cruz
Shannon Marie Gleeson, Latin American and Latino Studies, UC Santa Cruz
Mario Sifuentez, School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts, UC Merced

Graduate Participant:
Megan McNamara Abed, Sociology, UC Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Commons: Activist Research and the Public Humanities

Increasingly, members of the working and middle classes feel excluded as economic agents in a society shaped by globalization and technological innovation, by massive unemployment and a devastated housing market, by deepening social inequities and the truncation of public resources. In social, political and psychological terms, those who are unemployed experience themselves as marginal to an economy that rests on waged labor, commodity markets, and capitalist enterprise. For these reasons, citizens, community activists and activist academics around the country have begun to seek solutions at the local level to economic and social problems that seem intransigent in a national context. Their goal is the conceptualization and mobilization of alternative economies that can support forms of work that are creative, innovative, productive, collaborative—and committed to social justice. Strategies and forms of knowledge that humanists have defined can be particularly effective in helping to advance this kind of effort. They are pivotal in the conception of "Santa Cruz Commons: Activist Research and the Public Humanities." The project's Work Group will consider how humanists can help to create such an alternative economy, redefining the meaning of work and exploring the influence of a social movement on the formation and experience of subjectivity.

Principal Investigator:
Nancy Chen, Anthropology, UC Santa Cruz

Faculty Participants:
Sharon Daniel, Film & Digital Media and Digital Arts & New Media, UC Santa Cruz
George Lipsitz, Black Studies and Sociology, UC Santa Barbara
Helene Moglen, Literature, UC Santa Cruz
Michael J. Montoya, Anthropology, Chicano/Latino Studies, Public Health and Nursing Science, UC Irvine

Graduate Participant:
Jason Alley, Anthropology, UC Santa Cruz

Working at Living: The Social Relations of Precarity

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. We bring 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. A website containing scholarly essays and teaching modules will represent the major deliverable. Participants will create a module based on their research area. We envision this website as a living resource that can be added to and will be maintained by UCSB's Center for Research on Women and Social Justice or another appropriate open access site. Our purpose is three-fold: to stimulate theoretical and empirical research, encourage creation of additional modules, and model a practice of scholarship that is both collective and accessible.

Principal Investigator:
Eileen Boris, Feminist Studies; Director of the Center of Research on Women and Social Justice, UC Santa Barbara

Facuty Participants:
Lalaie Ameeriar, Asian American Studies, UC Santa Barbara
Piya Chatterjee, Women’s Studies, UC Riverside
Fatima El-Tayeb, African-American Literature and Culture and Critical Gender Studies, UC San Diego
Aisha Finch, Women’s Studies and Afro-American Studies, UC Los Angeles
Christopher Newfield, English, UC Santa Barbara
Leslie Salzinger, Gender and Women’s Studies, UC Berkeley
Kalindi Vora, Ethnic Studies, UC San Diego
Tiffany Willoughby-Herard, African American Studies, Women’s Studies and Queer Studies, UC Irvine

Graduate Participant:
Leigh Dodson, Feminist Studies, UC Santa Barbara