Inequality, Labor, and Human Rights: The Future of Work in the Age of Pandemic

This multidisciplinary speaker series explored a range of geographies and types of work in the context of racialized global capitalism – from women’s unpaid domestic work in India and prison labor in the United States to the warehouse work that is key to many global supply chains. Speakers and respondents included economists, legal scholars, historians, sociologists, and geographers who interpret large-scale macroeconomic trends, conduct archival research, trace the distributive and racialized effects of often backgrounded legal rules, and use creative ethnographic methods.

September 21, 2020

“Automation and the Future of Work in the Global Pandemic Economy”

Speaker: Aaron Benanav, Postdoctoral Researcher, Humboldt University, Berlin

Respondent: Ann Huff Stevens, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, David Bruton Jr. Regents Chair in Liberal Arts in the Department of Economics, UT Austin

Abstract: Silicon Valley titans, politicians, techno-futurists, and social critics have united in arguing that we are on the cusp of an era of rapid technological automation, heralding the end of work as we know it… Read more.

October 5, 2020

“An Ode to Altruism: How Indian Courts Value Unpaid Domestic Work”

Speaker: Prabha Kotiswaran, Professor of Law & Social Justice, King’s College London

Respondent: Erik Encarnacion, Assistant Professor of Law, University of Texas at Austin

Abstract: Unpaid domestic and care work (UDCW) have long captured the imagination of feminists who have extensively theorized how its invisibility and lack of recognition result in gender inequality and women’s disempowerment… Read more.

October 19, 2020

“Racial Capitalism’s Challenge to International Labor Law: Addressing Prison Labor in the U.S.”

Speaker: Adelle Blackett, Professor of Law, Canada Research Chair in Transnational Labor Law and Development, McGill University

Respondent: Bedour Alagraa, Assistant Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies, University of Texas at Austin

Abstract: Slavery is not a metaphor, yet the implications of the centuries long transatlantic slave trade, and the literature on the Black Atlantic, are mostly ignored in the fast and furious international legal invocations of modern slavery… Read more.

November 2, 2020

“Essential Workers or Disposability Politics? Organizing in the Age of Pandemic Capitalism”

Speaker: Juan De Lara, Associate Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, Founding Director of the Center for Latinx and Latin American Studies, University of Southern California

Respondent: Sharmila Rudrappa, Professor of Sociology, Director of the South Asia Institute, University of Texas at Austin

Abstract: The production of something called an essential worker, as a category of existence, means that certain groups of workers–many of them women, immigrants, and people of color–are paying a high price to make our society function… Read more.