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IRC22 - Proposed Session - #Involute - Jagged Seams of the Domestic and the Vocational

Posted by Admin at Dec 31, 2020 12:00 AM |
Details of a session proposed for the Internet Researchers' Conference 2022 - #Home.

Internet Researchers' Conference 2022 - #Home - Call for Sessions

Session Type: Presentation and Discussion of Papers

This session argues that the "new normal" of post-covid society hinges on the involution of modernity's separation of the domestic and the vocational. In this time of the pandemic, spaces of work (offices, factories, construction sites) and sites of public consumption (malls, theatres, markets) are marked by the sign of the virus. The virus as a symbol, is something that interrupts a form of sociality which has been dubbed "offline", "in-person", "face to face" and various other terms which indicate a distinction to screenally mediated sociality that unfolds in an imagined, digital space. Work-from-home then, emerges as a suture that allows for sociality to recommence, having been briefly interrupted in "physical" sites. And this movement is what has been dubbed the new normal. The seemingly contemporaneous cohabitation of the two spatialities that such a reality functionally necessitates is, however, far from seamless.

At the turn of the 20th century, Max Weber argued that modern rationality consisted in the separation of the domestic and the vocational, of home and office. The separation of business from the affairs of the household constituted for Weber, the condition of possibility of capitalist enterprise. This parallels the separation of bureaucratic office as a vocation distinct from private life, and the inhabiting of them as separate modalities of existence. Such a separation of the vocational and the domestic was primarily articulated with reference to the physicality of the spaces of work, and of dwelling.

We suggest that the normative force of the COViD-normal reimagines the Weberian separation not just physically but also ideationally. The office, then is not just a physically distinct space, its distinction can be imagined by practices such as constituting a certain zoom backdrop, or by wearing a blazer for the webcam as pyjama'd legs tucked away from view. In other words it reconstitutes the temporal habitation of these spaces as simultaneous. Reconstituting such a simultaneous habitation, however, calls for a return to an older and perhaps pre-modern conceptualization of interfaces between the domestic and the vocational as both physical and ideational spaces.

Session Plan

Introduction to the session problematique - 10 minutes

Section 1. The mise-en-scene of work - 15 minutes

How does the workplace emulate home and home emulate workplace - in a world where boundaries are increasingly non-existent? What can be the politics and aesthetics of choosing zoom backgrounds for a call attended from home? This section unpacks some of these tenuous questions regarding our labouring bodies and the spaces they inhabit. Using examples of lived life, zoom call backgrounds become the mise-en-scene at once fluidly dissolving between home and workplace. Further, erasing the markers of home and deliberately adding ones that emulate the workplace become the neoliberal acts of aesthetic correction that reconfigure home like the workplace. The session aims at illustrating the tensions of inhabiting home within workspace and workspace within home.

Section 2. The Other Side: Homeless and Worklessness of India’s Migrant Labor - 15 minutes

2020 has been the year of unprecedented crisis. While most of the organized sectors of the Indian economy ubiquitously could be seen occupying the digital spaces, the unorganized sector was still coming to terms with this catastrophe. This section explores the complexities of capitalist economies in the Covid 19 pandemic wherein the boundaries of the workplace and home are progressively blurred, but for 94 percent of the population involved in the unorganized sector and in migrant labour, ‘home’ and ‘work’ are both deferred, distant dreams. While digital spaces are meaningless to this demographic as a site of work, the pandemic has forced them to adapt and navigate digital spaces to connect with their household economies (oikonomos) through the transfer money.

Section 3. Inhabiting the Portal: Locking Down Spatialities of Advocacy and Justice - 15 minutes

What does it mean to hold space when faced with the impossibility of inhabiting of spaces? The global Covid-19 pandemic has no doubt changed the way we think of spatiality. One is faced with the odd conundrum of desiring community while inhabiting isolation. A major concern has been the creation of communities of care without the familiar comfort of physical proximity with fellow beings. This piece reflects on the impact that the pandemic has had on vocations of political advocacy for social justice that necessitate visibly occupying specific spaces, particularly in the contexts of movements such as the BLM or anti-CAA protests. This piece also considers questions of inclusivity in moving such vocations from physical to digital spaces.

Conclusion, or Why migrant laborers walk home, while school teachers teach to empty classrooms. - 10 minutes

We hope to keep our presentations under an hour so that we can have about 30 minutes of discussion.

Session Team 

Akriti, Deepak and Misbah are assistant professors at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, GITAM (deemed to be) University, Hyderabad.

Akriti Rastogi teaches Film and Media Theory and is interested in mapping cinema effects across contexts. Entry-level film professionals and media industry gatekeeping are her other interests.

Deepak Prince teaches sociology and is interested in the anthropology of technology. Other interests include politic anthropology, sts and public art. Inhabiting the Portal: Locking Down Spatialities of Advocacy and Justice 

Misbah Rashid teaches political science. Her research is on Gender in Islamic Jurisprudence, interpretation of Muslim Personal Law. She has worked in the past with developmental organizations that look at the impact

Satish Kumar has developed and taught courses in the literatures, histories and cultures of Africa and the African diaspora, Ethnic American literatures, immigrant and migrant literatures and survey courses in World Literature. His research is on South Asian and African literatures.