Vai alla Homepage del Portale di Ateneo Curriculum Global cultures Second cycle degree/Two year Master in History and Oriental Studies


Jocelyn Olcott (Duke University)

from 12 March 2019 at 17:00 to 15 March 2019 at 18:45

Aula SPECOLA – Piazza San Giovanni in Monte, 2 – Bologna, Italy

The seminar centers on rethinking the commodification care work, or what one pair of social scientists has dubbed “love labor” — the emotional, physical, and material resources fundamental to producing and sustaining every society, community, family, and individual. This “love labor” is ascribed value in many different ways, whether in uncommodified forms such as parenting and community service, semi-commodified forms such as informal labor and servitude, or hypercommodified forms such as sex work, domestic service, and the emergent platform or gig economies. Amid this diversity, this labor remains structurally undervalued in our economies, despite many decades of research and writing about this critical issue, much of it inspired by Italian feminist writings from the 1970s and early ‘80s. Despite decades of research and data collection, the debate has not moved beyond efforts to commodify this labor and mitigating the hyper-exploitation of care workers.

The problem lies not with a lack of awareness but rather with an absence of policies and the political will to address what has long been identified as a — perhaps the — fundamental problem of sex inequality. Revaluing care labor has far-reaching implications for how we understand labor and its commodification more generally and will require, as the economist Lourdes Benería puts it, rethinking economies “as if all people mattered.” Early considerations of care work have inspired scholars to extend its paradigm further to include biological and digital technologies, environmental sustainability, and challenges to commodification as the principal metric of social value.

In this seminar, we will explore some of the central debates over care economies with particular consideration for how the decolonial turn to explore ways that knowledge produced from the global south — where informal and subsistence labor occupy more economic and political space — offers possibilities for economic reimagining. We will start by considering current debates about the concept of affective labor. We then will go backwards in time to examine the important influence of Italian autonomist feminists in the debates about caring labors and their value. In the third meeting, we will discuss some critical takes on the question of economic measurement and the challenges of developing policies around labor that exists in such a wide range of relationships to commodification. Finally, we will discuss ways that the conceptual and epistemological challenges emerging from debates about care economies have shaped conversations about artificial intelligence, environmental sustainability, and reproductive technologies.

Seminar 1: “Love Labor”:

Sara Cantillon and Kathleen Lynch, “Affective Equality: Love Matters,” Hypatia 32, no. 1 (2017): 169-186.

Encarnacion Gutierrez-Rodriguez, “Domestic work–affective labor: On feminization and the coloniality of labor," Women's Studies International Forum 46 (2014): 45-53.

Shiloh Whitney, “Byproductive labor: A feminist theory of affective labor beyond the productive–reproductive distinction,” Philosophy & Social Criticism (2017): 637-660.


Seminar 2: Italian Feminist Critique and Its Legacies

Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Selma James, The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community (Bristol, Eng.: Falling Wall Press, 1972).

Christine Delphy, Close to Home: A materialist analysis of women's oppression (New York: Verso Books, 2016 [1984]), Chapter 5 (Housework or domestic work).

Silvia Federici, Wages against Housework, (London: Falling Wall Press, 1975): 1-6.

Maria Mies, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale: Women in the International Division of Labour (London: Zed Books, 2014 [1986]): Preface to critique influence change edition; Chapter 4 (Housewifization International: Women and the New International Division of Labour).


Seminar 3: Accounting for Affect

Lourdes Benería, Gender, Development, and Globalization: Economics as if All People Mattered, (New York: Routledge, 2015): Chapter 5 (Paid and Unpaid Work: Meanings and Debates)

Nancy Folbre, “Measuring care: Gender, Empowerment, and the Care Economy,” Journal of Human Development 7, no. 2 (2006): 183-199.

Timothy Mitchell, “The work of economics: how a discipline makes its world,” European Journal of Sociology/Archives Européennes de Sociologie 46, no. 2 (2005): 297-320.


Seminar 4: Caring for the Future

Melinda Cooper and Catherine Waldby, Clinical Labor: Tissue Donors and Research Subjects in the Global Bioeconomy, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014): Part I (What Is Clinical Labor?)

Leopoldina Fortunati, “Robotization and the domestic sphere,” New Media & Society (2017): 2673-2690.

K. Gibson-Graham, “Being the revolution, or, how to live in a ‘more-than-capitalist’ world threatened with extinction,” Rethinking Marxism 26, no. 1 (2014): 76-94.