Research

Complicated Labor 2014-15

The Complicated Labor Research Cluster is an interdisciplinary collaboration that brings together artists and scholars around questions of feminism, maternity, and creative process. It seeks to center questions of care in our research and art whether they are explicit sites of inspiration and study or simply important to the conditions in which we undertake expressive practices.

Through film, visual art and photography, performance, writing, and scholarship we explore the complexities of contemporary motherhood and care work more broadly: Who cares for whom and how do they do it? What conditions do they labor in? In a hyper-moralized field of public discourse, how can we do the delicate work of describing the filaments linking the personal and the political? What histories do we invoke when we do this? Which ones do we elide?

Often under the shadow of “work-life debates,” “mommy wars,” “feminist waves,” and “family values,” artists, writers, and scholars who grapple with the work of care – difficult labor – have been marginalized. Those whose work is informed by multiple, intersecting struggles around gender, care, and labor often themselves face difficulties in funding, publication, and exhibition. For example, nearly forty years after Mary Kelly’s germinal 1976 exhibition of her work, Post-partum Document, the work of women artists and scholars who explicitly engage with images and discourses of maternity remains marginalized and relatively invisible in the art and scholarly worlds. When women and their artistic/scholarly output in these areas does receive attention, they are often marketed as rejoinders to what are seen as larger, more “masculine” military projects – or mothering as a corrective.

Recently, however, the momentum around opening these conversations in both intellectual and art-world spaces has increased. Birkbeck, University of London has recently launched the journal, MaMSIE, as an interdisciplinary forum. An interdisciplinary field of Mothering Studies is gaining in visibility and institutional support. Following and shaping this trend, our cluster welcomes faculty and students from the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences to discuss and create new work exploring feminism, motherhood and care, and creative/scholarly practice.

Planned activities include film screenings, a Porter gallery show on New Maternalisms, a winter symposium, write-ins, and on-going conversation.

Micah Perks – Professor of Literature
Megan Moodie – Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Irene Lusztig – Assistant Professor of Film + Digital Media
Jenny Horne – Assistant Professor of Film + Digital Media
Noriko Aso – Associate Professor of History
Maya Gonzalez – History of Consciousness PhD Student
Stephanie Montgomery – History PhD Student
Amanda Wilson Bergado – History PhD Student
Fabiola Hanna – Film + Digital Media PhD Student

The Motherhood Archives, a film by Irene Lusztig

Not a MommyBlog, by Megan Moodie

Alone In The Woods: Cheryl Strayed, My Daughter and Me, a short memoir by Micah Perks

Sweet Honesty or the Captivity and Restoration of My Mother and Meexcerpt of novel-in-progress by Micah Perks

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