"The Philosophy of Labor"

Dates: April 5-7, 2013

Location: University Center 300 - River Room

Keynote Address: Jason Read (University of Southern Maine) on Friday April 5 at 6:30 pm

Conference Schedule

Conference Description:

The impact of the so-called "Great Recession," has created space for the consideration or reconsideration of economic and political concerns which tend to be obscured in times characterized by more perceived wide-spread prosperity. Not least among these is a renewed interest in and politicization of labor. This was a key issue for both candidates in this year's presidential election, it was at the heart of the "Arab Spring" uprisings, it was central to controversial legislation and protests in Wisconsin last year, and it was one of the fundamental talking points of those involved in the Occupy Movement. Philosophy too has something to offer this international conversation.

In this spirit, the Philosophy Graduate Student Association at the University of Memphis is planning a conference dedicated to philosophical problems concerning labor, including but not limited to: the ontology of labor; genealogies or archaeological analyses of labor; the questions around the 'contemporary proletariat;' critical work on historically dismissed forms of labor; contemporary re-conceptualizations of labor; critical examinations of the loss of collective bargaining rights in recent labor disputes; considerations of unemployment as a labor issue; the implications of undocumented labor; the role of labor in the philosophical canon; the interaction between liberalism and labor activism; the value of the labor of others, including non-human animals; labor and rights discourse; reflections on 'philosophical labor' and its relation, or lack of relation, to schol? (leisure); discussions of alienation and the reification of labor; investigations into the separation of 'work' from 'play;' and considerations of disproportionate access to types of labor and, thus, disproportionate value attributed labor (based on race, gender, disability or other oppressed groups).

Memphis was a central site in the Civil Rights movement and the struggle for worker's rights culminating, so far, in the 1968 Sanitation Workers' Strike. Indeed, it was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s solidarity with the sanitation workers' strike that led him to Memphis and ultimately to his assassination. Memphis has long been an intersection for this country's greatest contradictions, making it an ideal place for a philosophical investigation of the interplay between oppression and liberation and the role labor plays in that dynamic. With this in mind, the conference itself will interact with the local labor movement and Memphis activists in an effort bridge the gap between academic philosophy and the community at large. Although still in the planning stages, the conference hopes to host not only challenging papers and commentaries but also an activist-philosopher roundtable and a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum for participants.