Graduate Seminar on Work grants awarded

Graduate Seminar on Work grants awarded

The IHC congratulates Professor Maurizia Boscagli (English, UCSB), recipient of one of the 2012-13 grants for Graduate Seminars on the Humanities and Changing Conceptions of Work.

2012-13 Graduate Seminars on the Humanities and Changing Conceptions of Work  

On behalf of the UC Humanities Network, UCHRI is pleased to announce the three graduate seminars selected for 2012-13 for the Humanities and Changing Conceptions of Work research initiative.

Fall 2012: Comparative Approaches to Work in Greco-Roman Antiquity and the Middle Ages- Andomache Karanika, Classics, UC Irvine

The concept of work is a cultural construction that has changed from period to period and from place to place in Greco-Roman antiquity and the Middle Ages. The way work is organized and conceptualized is the spine to human activity. Seen by a great variety of theoretical perspectives, the concept of labor has a transforming power in individual life, political organization and the making of history. The very term ‘labor’ has been appropriated in relational terms with economical, social, political ramifications and even religious ramifications. The focus of this seminar is to compare changes in literary and philosophical approaches in the greater spectrum of early cultures starting with archaic Greece to the Middle Ages with a viewpoint from the changes in the 18th to early 20th centuries. The aim is ultimately to enrich a literary perspective with historical methodologies and assess possible correlations between social and cultural trends on the concept of work with economic growth, broadly defined.

Winter 2013: The Refusal of Work: Scarcity, Affect, Laziness- Maurizia Boscagli, English, UC Santa Barbara

This seminar studies the nexus of work and happiness today, at the time when work has changed into new forms (immaterial, cognitive, affective), and has become scarce. If the contemporary precarity and scarcity of work are the reasons for the most widespread psychopathology of post-Fordism, depression, what does the refusal of work (from Jules Lafargue’s celebration of laziness to Italian Autonomism’s experiments with a life against the routine of productive and leisure time during the 1970s) promise? Can the “aesthetic” quality of this life against work, which echoes both the aristocratic distance of the dandy and the opposition of the political agitator (the Surrealists, the Situationists) become the means to new social relations, to new economic forms, to a new understanding of happiness? Can the refusal of work illuminate in new ways the work we do in the humanities in today’s academy.

Spring 2013: Art and Labor, Labor as Art- Julia Bryan-Wilson, Art History, UC Berkeley

This seminar considers how artists and theorists alike have understood art making as a form of labor-that is, as purposeful effort structured by class relations and economic imperatives. Within art history, art making is viewed as a mode of production much like any other, and as such is open for categories of analysis such asvaluation, distribution, and consumption. How does this assertion stake a claim for the (political) relevance of art? How, then, do theorists conceive of how art itself works-how it acts, functions, and performs?
Art has also been explicitly contrasted to work-the “free,” “unproductive” counterpoint to the grind of alienated wage labor. We will examine a range of writings that variously assert that art is labor and that it as leisure. What theoretical work does art do? And how do we make sense of starkly opposing opinions about the relationships between art, autonomy, the culture industry, and elitism? Case studies will focus on art since 1960, including dematerialized conceptualism, task-based dance, feminist craft, and artistic organizing within the Occupy movement. A trip to Robert Smithson’smassive earthwork “Spiral Jetty” in Utah will shed light on the politics of construction and the production of place.

More information on the Humanities and Changing Conceptions of Work can be found at