The Institute for Research on Women (IRW) announces its nineteenth annual interdisciplinary seminar, “Poverty.” This seminar offers an opportunity to engage poverty from multiple disciplinary, theoretical, and policy frameworks. The last decade has been marked by extreme volatility in global financial markets, growing concern about sexual rights in the geopolitical arena, and an explosion of groundbreaking academic work in gender and sexuality within the social sciences and humanities. It is also a period when many countries have seen rising gaps of wealth and access to resources. In the United States, studies have shown that large swaths of undocumented people, non-married, racialized women, rural and urban children, gender nonconforming people, and those with more marginal queer identities languish in growing states of poverty. Indeed, one might argue that poverty is the invisible and unspoken new status quo.
Poverty as a keyword has been associated with race, scarcity, cultural relativism, environmental toxicity, aesthetics, culture, and forms of inequality in income, education, health, and housing. The seminar will provide an opportunity to parse out these concepts while also attending to activism and social practices that address poverty and systemic inequalities. The seminar will examine how institutions and regulatory systems shape families, kinship, domestic relations, intimacies, and practices of care in the twenty-first century. Continuing our research on the impact of prisons on culture and gender, the seminar will also consider how the rise in incarcerated populations has impacted families broadly from reproduction to parenting to sexual intimacies to employment and labor. Related inquires focus on the conditions of labor during the recent recession and the ongoing War on Terror. This seminar attends to important scholarship on “affective labor” (Michael Hardt), highlighting feminist inquiries about labor in family and domestic settings that are often overlooked, unpaid, or underpaid. Scholarship on care, commodified intimacies, and labor practices (such as the writings of Rhacel Salazar Parrenas, Eileen Boris, and Elizabeth Bernstein) provides important context. Approaches drawing on Achille Mbembe’s necropolitics or on Giorgio Agamben’s conception of bare life and scholarly work that considers the relationship between cultural theory and poverty are pertinent. Additionally, legal, political, and sociological approaches to welfare rights, social exclusion, and environmental justice are highly relevant to this seminar.