Stream for Gender, Work and Organization 2014

8th Biennial International Interdisciplinary conference

24th – 26th June, 2014

Keele University, UK

Abstract submissions now closed.

Stream: Gender and Labour in New Times

Stream Convenors:

Lisa Adkins, Sociology, University of Newcastle, AUSTRALIA

Emily Grabham, Law School, University of Kent, ENGLAND

Maryanne Dever, Humanities & Social Science, University of Newcastle, AUSTRALIA

Anne Kovalainen, School of Economics, University of Turku, FINLAND

The study of gender and organizations and of the gendering of organizations emerged, in part, as a response to what were understood to be problematic conceptualizations of labour and of an overly narrow focus on women and labour. Thus certain – and especially Marxist – conceptualizations of labour were understood to rely on problematic separations of nature and culture, narrow understandings of materiality and matter, and restricted understanding of value producing labouring activities. Such problems positioned the category of labour as an ineffectual and limiting surface for the theorization and analysis of the complex process of the gendering of work and of organizations. In turn, a focus on women and labour not only carried these problems associated with the category of labour, but also problems associated with the category ‘woman’, including its exclusionary effects. In contrast, an approach which focused on processes of the gendering of both work and organizations was heralded not only as enabling a move away from such problems, but also as opening out an understanding of gender as a relational process and of how organizational processes, practices and arrangements may themselves be gendered. As Joan Acker (1990) beautifully expressed it in Hierarchies, Jobs, Bodies: A Theory of Gendered Organizations ‘gender is a constitutive element in organizational logic, or the underlying assumptions and practices that construct most contemporary work organization’ (Acker, 1990: 147).

While the shift away from labour and from women and work to the study of gender and organizations was an incisive and productive one, in retrospect what was lost in this move was attention to the category of labour. This tendency to bracket the category of labour has proven to be costly, not least because substantive, empirical shifts to arrangements of labour under conditions of post-Fordism (including recessionary Post-Fordism) render a focus on labour vital to the analysis of our times. Such shifts are multi-dimensional but include: changes to the assembly, composition and distribution of labour; changes in labour’s capacities and performative effects (that is, in what labour can do); the emergence of novel forms of value; and the unfolding of new sites of the extraction of surplus (including the body made cellular). Moreover, and crucially, many of these changes have played themselves out dramatically in regard to female labour. To offer a few examples: female labourers fuel precarious labour markets in the provision of domestic work and services (Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild, 2002); an expanded bio-technological industry is putting the female body to work, and specifically female reproductive tissues, to harvest promissory value (Waldby and Cooper, 2009); domestic labour is now literally hardwired into the performance of securitized assets on financial markets (Adkins and Dever, 2014); and women’s waged-labour is increasingly central to household survival, including to debt-fuelled social provisioning (Roberts, 2013).

What such examples underscore is not only how female labour is a site of intense and complex activity in post-Fordist accumulation processes, but also how such labour is a now key object of analysis for understanding forms of economic and social change, including processes of financialization and economization. Indeed they suggest that rather than an obsolete framing, research focusing on ‘women’s work’ is both timely and necessary in the context of post-Fordist accumulation. It is in this context, then, that this stream calls for papers examining ‘Gender and Labour in New Times’. Such papers may include, but are not limited to, considerations of:

  • The financialization of women’s work (both paid and unpaid)
  • The shifting temporal dimensions of women’s labour
  • New forms of the productivity of women’s labour
  • The measurement and valuation of women’s labour in post-Fordism
  • Women’s work in a time of austerity
  • Indebted labour and social provisioning

Yet more than a revitalization of the study of ‘women’s work’ this stream also seeks to open out feminist socio-legal theories of gender and work to the shifting co-ordinates and capacities of labour, especially of female labour. It does so particularly in a context where legal and policy devices designed to redress aspects of gender inequity at work – including devices associated with achieving ‘work-life balance’, ‘decent work’ and those entangled in the production of the adult-worker model family household – hold little traction in regard to the kinds of shifts in the qualities of female labour and of work more generally at issue in post-Fordist accumulation.

Thus work-life balance devices assume that work on the one hand, and life on the other can be balanced (particularly for women) via the regulation of working time, an assumption which flies in the face of the unpredictable, unknowable and eventful forms of working time characteristic of post-Fordist work contracts (for example, zero-hours contracts). As well as the renewal of the study of ‘Women’s Work’ this stream is therefore also concerned with feminist socio-legal theories of gender and work attuned to the complexities of post-Fordist labour. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • the limits of current feminist engagements with labour regulation
  • the rationales and boundaries of legal engagements with emerging processes of value creation
  • socio-legal theories of social reproduction.

Finally, this stream also recognizes the productive and performative effects of the law in regard to labour and value, particularly in regard to women’s work. Thus it recognizes that just as economists may ‘make markets’ (MacKenzie et al, 2011), legal intervention in women’s work may well have performative effects. The stream therefore invites papers from socio-legal scholars, legal ethnographers and legal anthropologists concerned with the analysis of:

  • the role of legal technicalities in laboring processes
  • the entanglement of non-human actors in labour regulation
  • the enrolment of forms of labour regulation in the production of value.


Abstracts of approximately 500 words (ONE page, Word document NOT PDF, single spaced, excluding references, no header, footers or track changes) are invited by 1st November 2013 with decisions on acceptance to be made by stream leaders within one month. All abstracts will be peer reviewed. New and young scholars with ‘work in progress’ papers are welcomed. Papers can be theoretical or theoretically informed empirical work. In the case of co-authored papers, ONE person should be identified as the corresponding author. Due to restrictions of space on the conference schedule, multiple submissions by the same author will not be timetabled. Abstracts should be emailed to:    Abstracts should include FULL contact details, including your name, department, institutional affiliation, mailing address, and e-mail address. State the title of the stream to which you are submitting your abstract. Note that no funding, fee waiver, travel or other bursaries are offered for attendance at GWO2014.