Figures of unwork and ethics of care. Between knowing how to live and knowing how to write

Valeria Graziano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
68 Downloads (Pure)


The depth and significance of the shifts associated with the post-work society has pro-voked a newfound interest in the role of imagination in political thinking, made explicit by many authors who turned to the literary genre of utopian and sci-fi writing to sketch possible scenarios of the near future. This paper turns to another mode of constructing political narratives, a complementary mode often adopted in feminist storytelling: that of figuration. This article reclaims three specific figures of trans-individuation (or collec-tive becoming) to demonstrate how it might be possible to build a public sphere of un-work: Bazlen, a write who never wrote but took care of other writers; the collective fig-ure of Afro-American ‘othermothers’, as narrated by Patricia Hills Collins and bell hooks; and Amy, the little girl articulated by Carol Gilligan to give flesh to her 'ethics of care' proposition. Departing from these specific figures rather than from vast, panoramic views of a society-to-come, the article wishes to shed light on the problem of re-imagining the labours (and pleasures) of social reproduction and creative action away from their subsumption into the work regime. It will show how processes of subjectiva-tion sedimented in the collective imaginary as figures of public intellectuals impact the shape and sustenance of various modes of being together, understanding the production of thought and naming social cooperation. As the article shall describe, the relationship between living labour and knowledge (including the one embedded in technologies) is a nexus that can escape the violence of work only by locating the possibility of political action as a plural capacity located in a materialist and feminist public sphere.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-192
Number of pages18
JournalCultural Politics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021

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  • anti-work
  • figuration
  • public intellectuality
  • ethics of care


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