Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for the Anthropology of Work
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: Labor
Secondary Theme: Resilience
What value might a gendered body have as a form of liquidity? What are the specificities surrounding the appreciation or depreciation of gendered subjects within particular political-economic shifts? Anthropological investigations have shown how gendered divisions of labor are often the locus through which economies become embodied experiences. While much scholarship focuses on how forms of systemic oppression rooted in race, class, and gender bears down on individuals, global orientations also raise questions regarding how subjects negotiate their identities within incommensurable circuits. As subjects reckoning with disequilibriums to ameliorate problems in value translation, “liquidity” takes shape through precaritization, self-exploitation, the construction of speculative selfhood, and hyperflexibility. Ascribed values to gendered and racialized bodies open up new opportunities for individuals to “become liquid” within institutional modalities of exchange (Bourgois and Schonberg 2009; Ho 2009). By exploring how global flows are mediated through sensorial bodily and psychic experiences, we demonstrate how individuals are jostled alongside- and are jostled by- economic exchanges hinging on gender as both a source of resilience and exploitation (Mahmood 2001). The alchemy of value transformation and the extinctions accompanying such sublimations take place as gendered bodies are transformed into assets and liabilities in flesh and blood form. With an intent focus on how the economy is embodied, we follow the “generative framework” presented by Bear, Ho, Tsing, and Yanigisako (2015) from the Gens Manifesto. As they state, “Gens is a capacious, flexible term that references our interest in the generative powers of capitalism and the inequalities these powers create. In this sense, we are particularly focused on the generative aspect of the term that is centrally concerned with the means and mechanisms- the very processes of generation- through which systems and socialities are made.”
Barton’s examination of the Brazilian state’s shift in recognizing black-eyed pea fritter vendors as an official profession raises questions regarding the shifting intersectional values of gender and labor. Bayuga’s paper reveals how Catholic nuns’ labor in Mainland China is both invisible and subordinated by a masculine priestly establishment that allows priests to live in material abundance as reciprocal economic subjects that extract value from sisters who are culturally constrained to living within a convent’s redistributive economy (Sahlins 1974; Strathern 1988). Feinig’s analysis of Japanese government sponsored parenting programs targeting men raises questions about the production of gendered identity and subjectivity from outside the the realms of work and domestic life within a precarious economy. Hughes argues that in Iceland, “best life practices” are animated by gendered, racalized subjects who attempt to “hack” capitalism. Khan’s interrogation of South Asian beauty shop workers in Los Angeles sheds light on the ways in which gendered subjects become uncomfortably positioned between the state and market. The negotiation processes involved in the production of racialized subjectivities contend with logics imposed by global capitalism. Oh’s paper assesses the ways in which international school students in South Korea become sites of investment whose value is expected to appreciate in a volatile global market and mapped out differently according to gender.