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BEYOND THE FUTURE OF WORK

New Paradigms for Addressing Global Inequality

May 24th – June 11th, 2021

We invite you to browse through the Pop-Up Institute’s events schedule. Learn more about the wide range of innovative approaches brought by scholars, activists, and artists from around the world. Their dedication to creating just and equitable futures of work and livelihood inspired the many who attended the Rapoport Center’s three-week Institute.

Prevailing institutional and political approaches to the future of work tend to focus on the ambitious promises of new technology or threats to the manufacturing, service, and, increasingly, knowledge economies. This research cluster brings critical perspectives to these approaches, pushing those working at the cutting edge of these fields to question the neutrality of “innovation,” and the radical transformations that technology is having not just on labor markets, but on work, workers, and livelihood itself. What does it mean to have technological change that is also in the public interest when technological changes always take place within pre-existing milieus of racial, social, and economic constellations? We also critically study proposals put forward by many to address the effects of such innovation on the workers left behind, such as UBI, “skilling up,” and new forms of entrepreneurism enabled by digital platforms and the gig-economy.

Engaging with broader conversations across the arts and humanities, this research cluster highlights the many ways in which the future of artistic labor has emerged as an urgent question for both universities and the wider public. The importance of the creative arts is lost on funders that often clamor to define value through indices such as contributions to GPD and growth, while COVID-19 protocols around sheltering in place and social distancing have decimated livelihoods dependent on live performance. In a digital age, where much content has been out-sourced or crowd-sourced, cultural producers are increasingly expected to work for free or for intangibles like exposure or reputation. This cluster focuses on the non-economic and public benefits of the arts and humanities on campuses and in the community. We raise questions about the future of cultural workers, artists, and those who work in artistic productions, to think innovatively about the future of work and beyond.

Care workers are among the most vulnerable workers in most economies. The COVID-19 pandemic has only laid bare the crisis in caring that has been a long time in the making. Care workers are more likely to be deemed “essential workers” who face long work hours, high risk, low pay, and job insecurity. Moreover, with the shutting down of daycares, temporary closures of schools, eldercare facilities, and rural hospitals, the burdens for caring have transferred to individual women within households, even as women of color and immigrants have lost formal employment. This cluster questions inherited models for waged and un-waged caring through engaging with broader conversations on immigration, gender/ sexuality, racial exclusion, and social justice to reimagine the future of care work.

The disproportionate racial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people’s livelihood and work has laid bare the historical, gendered, and racialized patterns of domination and subordination produced by globalized racial capitalism. This cluster examines the definitions and implications of the designation of “essential” work, past, present, and future. We are particularly interested in how a myriad of laws, regulations, and economic policy—involving occupational health and safety, sick leave, social provisioning, labor protest, immigration, and just-in-time manufacturing—have combined to create a low-income, highly racialized workforce that is both essential and expendable. We aim to facilitate new imaginaries for work and livelihood that make no one expendable and that properly value and distribute “essential” work, even while recognizing the constructed nature of the category.

Underlying dominant analyses of the future of work lurks an ahistorical nostalgia for “full employment” that misses much of the reality of work and livelihoods in the Global South. With a focus on informality, comparative forms of transnational labor migration, labor across global supply chains, and the global dependence on remittances, this cluster considers ever-increasing forms of inequality against a backdrop of crumbling options for large swathes of the world’s poor to make a living. By paying attention to the relationship among colonialism, the rise of the nation state, and the spread of global forms of migration facilitation and restriction, this cluster posits the global South as a crucial vantage from which to critique contemporary narratives around the future of work.

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