“Human Capital or Toxic Asset: After the Wage”
Reartikulacija, 2010. [link]
This is a sequence of reflections on affirmation and negation, on identification and severance: determinate negation as strategic affirmation, the identification of concrete universals and severance from a defunct relation. These lines will be explored with reference to the current situation of the waged and unwaged working class, most proximately in Britain, as “debt” becomes the ideological white noise and the practical horizon of all social and political imagination. Household indebtedness is confused with the state deficit in the spontaneous ideology of the Conservative austerity agenda, as what remains of the crisis-riddled economy is sacrificed to the “debt” – as poor people to loan sharks, so Britain to the bond investors. The nationalist narrative of “we’re all in this together” eliminates any space for discussion as to who might bear greater responsibility for the crisis, and who should be paying for it. The announced cuts make it all too clear – it’s the bloated public sector and welfare payments which are responsible, and those that have the least shall have even that taken away, as the Biblical parable goes. Yet a fatalistic consensus prevails for now, transfixed by a menace beyond dispute: the “debt.” Read more…
“Just Do It! Bodies and Images of Women in the New Division of Labor”
“Representation needs to be contextualized from several points. The representation of texts and images does not reflect the world as a mirror, mere translation of its sources, but is rather remodeled, coded in rhetorical terms. (…) Representation may be understood as a visible formal ‘articulation’ of social order “.
Griselda Pollock, Vision and Difference, 1994
WORK> NON WORK: REDEFINITIONS FROM FEMINISM
“What do you do? What is your occupation?” Although every day we all reply quite easily to this apparently simple question, if we stop and carefully think what is our interlocutor demanding, we conclude that, in fact, what he/she really wants to know is the job we have or the activity or activities we make for a living and does not expect us at all to enumerate the wide range of actions, relations and productions that we unfold throughout the day.
Defining work and its limits in abstract terms at the present time, where the times and locations of production became blurred and extended, is not an easy task. However, experiencing its consequences on our bodies seems to be less complicated, especially if we consider a definition of work that goes beyond the economistic view (whether neoclassical or Marxist) and, especially, if we understand our sustainment of a daily life and our daily incorporation of personalities and social actions as spaces and (re)productive efforts. Everything that tires, that occupies, that disciplines and stresses our body, but also everything that constructs it, that takes care of it, that gives it pleasure and maintains it, is work. Read more…
“The Housewives’ Wages Debate in the 1920s”
Journal of Australian Studies, No. 78, 2003 [PDF]
The topic of housewives’ wages has received almost no Australian historical consideration. Dorothy Campbell’s fleeting reference is an extremely rare exception.  This article provides a much-needed historical examination of a neglected topic. Such examination shows that progressive and conservative arguments were mounted on both sides of the debate over housewives’ wages in Australia in the 1920s. Both sides of the debate are also found to have sometimes pursued contradictory aims. Furthermore, this article contests sociologist Ann Oakley’s claim that support for housewives’ wages always has conservative ends. 
The closest a housewife’s wage came to being awarded in 1920s Australia was in 1921, when the matter was debated in the Western Australian parliament.  This debate continued throughout the decade in the press, where arguments over financial remuneration for a housewife’s domestic labour focused on the value of woman’s domestic work and woman’s place in marriage. The press both reflected and shaped the debate. It fulfilled the former role by reporting statements by key public figures on the issue. It fulfilled the latter role through publishing the opinion of staff columnists and citizen letter writers on the topic. Read more…
“The Wives’ Movement”
From Chapter Six, Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s, 1999. [PDF]
“Wives” were an almost unrecognized entity in the first decade and a half after the revolution. An emancipated woman did not define herself by her status vis-à-vis her husband but by her work and activity outside the home. Educated revolutionary women despised housework and tended to consider the upbringing of children as a community rather than family responsibility. For a woman to concern herself primarily with home and family was “bourgeois.”
Although housewives had the vote, they often seemed to be treated as second-class citizens. “Sometimes I thought that we housewives were not even considered human,” one woman complained. Another wrote:
In all my documents it says: housewife. It has been ten years since I graduated from high school and got married, and here I am still putting it down as my meaningful “occupation.” During the elections to the soviets I, a healthy young woman, was sitting together with the old people and retired invalids. I suppose that’s fair. I am “unorganized population.”  Read more…
Night Cries: A Rural Tragedy. Tracey Moffatt, AUS 1990, 19 min.
Sarcastically staged in the setting of the social solitariness of the Australian outback, an old invalid and a young female nurse act out this cinematic chamber piece. It is a horror-tragicomedy of domestic hand movements, mute sounds and noisy work about love and dependence. Night Cries tells about a relationship that is affected by the formation of a nation and the forced assimilation of the “Aborigines” that was practised until the 1970s, and can also be read as a pointed critique of colonialist ethnographic film, which traditionally addressed Aboriginal issues through idioms and conventions particular to naturalistic documentary filmmaking. [Marie-Hélène Gutberlet]
Lara Vapnek, “Desires for Distance: White Working-Class Women’s Rejection of Domestic Service in the late 19th-century United States”
“Desires for Distance: White Working-Class Women’s Rejection of Domestic Service in the late 19th-century United States”
Lara Vapnek, St. John’s University [PDF]
This paper examines several moments when the intimacy entailed in domestic service became a political issue. The first, and most sustained series of examples comes from post-Civil War Boston, where native-born, white working-class women characterized domestic service as an unacceptable compromise of their independence as American citizens. Female leaders of the post-Civil War labor reform movement such as Jennie Collins and Aurora Phelps developed this rejection into a broader critique of class relations. Their metaphors of “wage slavery” invite us to consider how gender, racial, and ethnic identities were constituted through the performance (or non-performance) of paid domestic labor. The second part of this paper considers how these issues played out during the remainder of the nineteenth century in working-class women’s continued associations of service and slavery, and in growing anxieties about ethnic and racial mixing in middle-class households. Together, the various pieces of this essay suggest how the category of intimate labor might reframe our understanding of the history of paid domestic labor in the United States. Read more…