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11 - Staging Labour Rights

from PART III - POETICS AND PARTICIPATION

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 April 2016

D. Soyini Madison
Affiliation:
Northwestern University (USA)
Jenny Hughes
Affiliation:
University of Manchester
Helen Nicholson
Affiliation:
Royal Holloway, University of London
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Summary

This chapter presents a political and poetic inquiry into performance's relationship to the existential ubiquity of labour, examined here through an exploration of the staging of a public performance. The intersections of affect, materiality, beauty, and futurity are discussed as theoretical reference points in staging labour as an activist performance that offers alternative narratives and imaginings for what it means and how it feels to labour.

I will pause here to enumerate how I am defining labour. My aim is not to be complete or definitive but descriptive and generative of labour's many manifestations. First, to clarify the distinction between ‘labour’ and ‘work’: by labour I mean work and the nature, ontology, philosophy, and politics of work as well as work's metaphorical, poetic, and symbolic imaginings; the work of the brain and body constitute the infinite temporalities, materiality, and power dynamics of labour. Second, to clarify the distinction between ‘a job’ and ‘labour’: labour both entails and exceeds ‘a job’; by labour I mean both a job and its resonances in working in/on a job, that is something that one must get done with and for others including the job's emotional affects, material structures, shared context and belonging that give it form – a space to work – and make our choice to have and access to a job a human right. Third, labour includes the physicality and procedures of the job and the ontology of work entailed, while expanding the discourses about these physicalities and procedures as well as their possible futures. Labour becomes the overarching rubric across the domains of the job and the work that the job demands – labour encompasses the felt-sensing experiences, histories, and symbology of job and work. Fourth, labour includes the future and imagining the utopic (the here, the now, in this place, in an everywhere, or a nowhere place) to guide and inspire formations of freedom and the actions required to attain those formations; labour encompasses a great effort – work and working a job – and imaging a new materiality, that is a plausible or realizable future.

The question becomes: How are these descriptions of labour and their implications staged relative to the day-to-day actions of our lives, both locally and globally? What do these descriptions look like in performance? How do we access those defining stories that labour generates?

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Chapter
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2016

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References

Allen, P.G. 1994. ‘Something sacred going ON out there: Myth and vision in American Indian literature’ in Madison, D. Soyini (ed.) The Woman That I Am. New York: St. Martin's Press.
Camus, A. 2005 [1942]. The Myth of Sisyphus. London: Penguin.
Chang, B.G. 2010. ‘Forum: Introduction on labour’. Communication Critical/Cultural Studies 7: 90–91.Google Scholar
Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. 1987. (trans. Massumi, B.) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Dolan, J. 2005 ‘The polemics and potential of theatre studies and performance’ in Madison, D. Soyini and Hamera, J. (eds.) The Sage Handbook of Performance Studies. Thousand Oaks, California and London: Sage Press.
Ehrenreich, B. 2007. Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy. Great Britain: Granta Books.
Konczal, M. 2013. ‘Thinking Utopian: How about a universal basic income’. The Washington Post, 11 May 2013.
Madison, D.S. 2010. Acts of Activism: Human Rights as Radical Performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Morrison, T. 1994. ‘Rootedness: The ancestor as foundation’ in Madison, D. Soyini (ed.) The Woman That I Am. New York: St. Martin's Press.
Munoz, J.E. 2005. ‘Stages: Queers, punks, and the utopian performative’ in Madison, D. Soyini and Hamera, J. (eds.) The Sage Handbook of Performance Studies. Thousand Oaks, California and London: Sage Press.
Nicholson, H. 2014 [2005]. Applied Drama: The Gift of Theatre. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Scarry, E. 1999. On Beauty and Being Just. London: Duckbacks.
Sliep, Y., Weingarten, K. and Gilbert, A. 2013. ‘Narrative theatre as an interactive community approach to mobilizing collective action in Northern Uganda’ in Balfour, M. (ed.) Refugee Performance: Practical Encounters. Bristol, UK: Intellect.
Thompson, J. 2011. Performance Affects: Applied Theatre and the End of Effect. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Weeks, K. 2011. The Problem of Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics, and Postwork Imaginaries. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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