Consuming Intimacies: Bodies, Labour, Care, and Social Justice

Country: Canada

City: Ontario

Abstr. due: 01.04.2015

Dates: 15.10.15 — 16.10.15

Area Of Sciences: Sociology;

Organizing comittee e-mail:

Organizers: Brock University


Consuming Intimacies: Bodies, Labour, Care, and Social Justice

Intimacy, as a concept and as a set of practices, has a long-standing history in the study of families and kin relationships, friendships, sexualities, romantic partnerships, and the “sociology of personal life” (Gabb, 2008; Jamieson, 1998, Morgan, 2011; Smart, 2007). More recently, scholarly attention to intimacy has widened to embrace complex conceptual pairings with labour, economies, and social justice; these include, for example, studies on “intimate labours” (Boris & Parreñas, 2010), “intimate economies” (Wilson, 2012; Zelizer, 2005), “the commodification of intimate life” (Hochschild, 2013), and “body shopping” (Dickenson, 2008).

This two-day symposium aims to re-think concepts and practices of intimacy and social justice issues through a wide spectrum of twenty-first-century intimate labours and their associated economies. We envisage two interconnected streams for papers, artistic contributions, and discussions. While underpinned by diverse transdisciplinary approaches and problematics, these two streams share a focus on intimacies and embodiment; entanglements of care, work, consumption, and commodification; varied forms of “global-intimate pairings” (Wilson, 2012); gender, class, and racial inequalities; and attention to matters of epistemic justice and injustice.

The first stream focuses on intimate labours as “work that involves embodied and affective interactions in the service of social reproduction” (Boris & Parreñas, 2010, p. 7) and which entangle production, social reproduction, and consumption. These interactions include a wide array of paid and unpaid labours done mainly by women but increasingly by men, including new and reconfigured forms of intimate and commodified labours that have arisen in contexts of neoliberal restructuring and within “global care chains” (Hochschild, 2000), “care diamond(s)” (Raghuram 2012), and the “international division of reproductive labour” (Parreñas, 2000, 2012).

A second stream centres on intimate labours and their economies, including exchanges involving organs, body tissues, and body fluids (e.g., milk, sperm, blood, kidneys). These corporeal exchanges fuse intimacies and economies, serving to both reify and contest notions of altruism, exploitation, and commodification (Dickenson, 2007). This stream will interrogate how value is created in intimate labours and examine how these exchanges entail a “pushing back at the limits between production and social reproduction, production and consumption, production and circulation, to turn even the most intimate of bodily functions into exchangeable commodities and services” (Cooper & Waldby, 2014, p. 5).

These two symposium streams will engage critical social justice issues that arise from the melding of intimacy with labour, exchange, and commodification. What conceptual transformations emerge through these entanglements? What do these reconfigurations mean for re-thinking neighbouring concepts of care, social reproduction, work, bodies and embodiment, mobilities, modes of exchange, consumption, and subjectivities? How are new forms of embodied, intimate labours and exchanges governed? When, where, and why are forms of intimate labours and exchanges contentious (Hoeyer, 2013), exploitative (Dickenson, 2013), or “bioviolent” (Moniruzzaman, 2012), and for whom and with what effects and affects? What challenges arise for critical social justice scholarship and activism from these new conceptual syntheses? How are topics of embodied labour and exchange addressed in cultural productions? What new frameworks – theoretical, epistemological, ontological, and/or methodological – can assist us with making sense of these fusions of intimacy, commodification, bodies, labour, care, and social justice?

We encourage contributions from across the humanities and social sciences, as well as interventions from artists and activists. Submissions are invited on (but not limited to) the following themes:

  • Care, work, and consumption
  • Transnational care giving and care work
  • New and reconfigured forms of intimate labours
  • Queer intimacies and the queering of practices of care
  • Social reproduction and intimate labours
  • Commodification of intimate life
  • Commercialization and commodification of bodily exchanges
  • Assisted human reproduction
  • Organ demand, donation, and sale
  • Human tissue and fluids demand, donation, sale, and banking
  • Ontological, epistemological and methodological issues

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