University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Infrastructural Geographies - Department of Geography > Lethal Necessities: Precarity, Citizenship, and the Paradigm of Racial Violence (Subaltern & Decolonial Citizenships series)

Lethal Necessities: Precarity, Citizenship, and the Paradigm of Racial Violence (Subaltern & Decolonial Citizenships series)

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  • UserDr Franco Barchiesi World_link
  • ClockThursday 11 March 2021, 17:00-19:00
  • HouseOnline (Zoom).

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In the wake of the past decade of global capitalist meltdown, amplified by the current pandemic, corporate and state management of crisis has revealed the precarity of lives forced to depend on waged jobs that, in the context of COVID -19, have been wiped out by the tens of millions, belying the normative values attached to employment status and policy fixations with “job creation”. Precarity verges indeed on the actual lethality of jobs deemed “essential”, whose allocation reflects long-standing patterns of racial domination. While stimulated by the ethical collapse of job-centered social imagination, which COVID -19 dramatically underscores, this presentation is not primarily focused on the eventfulness of specific crises as highlighting the precarity of employment, or even on growing scholarly perceptions of how precarity announces the twilight of neoliberalism. Instead, to write about the lethal entanglements of work and precarity in times like this demands attention to long-duration paradigms that structure contingency and event, revealing the permanence of violence in excess of the framework of political economy. My core argument is that the nexus of work, death, and mass disposability rests on the ways in which racial domination and colonial dispossession have informed the conjunction of work and citizenship in the transition from post-slavery emancipation to the globalization of the racial as a principle for the hierarchical ordering of difference between the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. Within that global context—which critical Black perspectives have increasingly referred to as “the afterlife of slavery”—the notion of citizenship came to revolve around work and economic activity according to modalities that critical theory has analyzed as hegemonic, disciplinary, or biopolitical. None of these modalities, however, address the ways in which employment has been assumed to be the horizon and structural limitation of Black emancipation as geared not to citizenship but to renewed captivity and social death. Positioning the constitutive precarity of capitalist employment within reconfigured structures of post-slavery anti-Black violence offers therefore stronger analytical insights into the non-contingent lethality of commodity-producing work as well as its persistent racialization.

This talk is part of the Infrastructural Geographies - Department of Geography series.

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