Abstract written

Posted on | July 4, 2006 | 8 Comments

Following Mel’s lead, here is the paper I proposed for the Canberra conference, part of a panel submission with Kate Crawford and Will Tregoning. The panel title, hastily negotiated via Skype late Friday, is “We Work Hard For the Money: Cultural Studies and/of Work.”

On Friday Night Drinks: Neoliberalism’s Compulsory Friends

In the final season of HBO’s Six Feet Under, Claire Fisher makes the transition from art school drop-out to office temp in a desperate bid to support herself after the breakdown of her relationship with the troubled Billy. Claire’s struggle to fit the straightjacket of corporate culture so soon after her dalliance with the bohemian world of sex, drugs and creativity initially manifests in dreamscapes such as the memorable scene in which she sings a liberatory ode to her constricting pantyhose. But following the death of her brother Nate, Claire’s comportment at work quickly moves beyond mere cynicism or bewilderment at the kitsch of Friday night drinks towards a self-destructive combination of substance abuse and verbal harassment of fellow workers. In contrast to much recent social theory suggesting that the workplace is changing to mirror the schedules and priorities of the ‘creative class’ (Florida, 2002; 2005) Claire’s spectacular fall from grace demonstrates a reverse movement, indicating the limited range of affective states and subjectivities permissible in workplaces dependent upon professional ‘cool’ (Liu, 2004).

Using Claire’s character as an entry point, this paper adds to a growing body of literature suggesting that neoliberalism recognises individuality as it pertains to the possibility of work presence but to the detriment of much variance in the individuality of the persona that might be displayed therein. The ‘diversity’ of the contemporary workplace may suggest a wider appreciation of difference in response to identity politics movements. However this may be less a case of recognising and valuing diversity as of the compulsory friendships and enforced solidarity of an increasingly outmoded and apolitical labour ideology.

This will be the second paper coming out of my new project. (The first one, ‘Working From Home: The Normalization of Flexible Female Labour’ is what I’m working on right now: I’m giving it at the AWSA conference in exactly a week.) Depending on how I go, I’m thinking of making this the first chapter of a book collection looking at work on TV.


8 Responses to “Abstract written”

  1. CSAA Abstract at creativity/machine
    July 4th, 2006 @ 1:56 pm

    […] Following the more timely examples of the two Mels (here is one, and here is the other) I (somewhat belatedly) have just now submitted an for this year’s CSAA conference, which will be held in sunny Canberra. I had the idea months ago but couldn’t wrangle it into a pithy enough form until now, plus it had to be something I could plug in or pull directly out of my thesis, otherwise it would just be irresponsible given that I am supposed to be submitting not too long after the conference, which is in early December. Also, it’s reassuring to see that my suckiness at making up titles is still alive and well. Snapshots in the City: Flickr meetup as a site of cultural citizenship Contemporary digital culture is increasingly characterised by the convergence of social networks, online communities, and public platforms for ‘user-generated’ content. One of the effects of this convergence is the remediation as public culture of everyday social practices of material and symbolic ‘vernacular creativity’. The photosharing network Flickr is a prominent manifestation of this trend – it represents an ‘architecture of participation’ within which thousands of users explore photographic practice at the same time as they negotiate and participate in the social networks in which their creative content circulates. Some members of the network also participate in local ‘meetups’ – offline photographic excursions and opportunities for socialising. […]

  2. jean
    July 4th, 2006 @ 1:57 pm

    whoah, my trackback left about 300 words on your blog, sorry.

    P.S. I guess invitations to Friday after-work drinks are unwelcome from now on, then? 😉

  3. Mel
    July 4th, 2006 @ 2:19 pm

    I’m curious: did you pick the Six Feet Under example because of Claire’s status as the “creative class”, or cos you like the show? 🙂 I get the feeling that people are going to ask you about The Office, as far as TV shows dealing with the contemporary workplace go.

    I haven’t watched 6FU since an episode in which Billy decides to stop taking his medication, so I’m gutted to learn that Nate DIES! Gah!

  4. melgregg
    July 4th, 2006 @ 2:44 pm

    I even waited until Nine finished screening the series to reveal that! I have wanted to talk about it for ages. But, existential as ever, in the highly surreal (and that’s saying something) final episode, *everyone* dies. Eventually. The enduring point of the show, of course…

    I seem to remember Tara Brabazon doing a paper on The Office at CSAA a couple of years ago. Maybe I can defer to her rather than getting sidetracked. But I definitely have it slated for a chapter of the book. Have discussed my neuroses about choosing Claire here – and I’m still mulling over it. Think I will have more to say about it in another article I’m planning. Productivity est moi.

  5. melgregg
    July 4th, 2006 @ 2:48 pm

    PS. I *love* Friday night drinks. That is why I am not unAustralian. Get it?

  6. kate
    July 6th, 2006 @ 3:02 pm

    If you wanted to overthink the TGIF drinks, the kitsch-ness has more to do with who you’re drinking with and why. If I drink with other post-grads, or workmates I would socialise with if I’d met them somewhere else, then it’s all cool. If I troop out of the office with a bunch of people I have nothing in common with, or don’t particularly like (as Tim & Dawn do in The Office) and waste non-work time purely because I can’t think of anything else to do, well, that’s kinda sad. Then there are the workplaces where drinking together and being a ‘top bloke’ is compulsory to keep your job or get a promotion, and they’re not very appealling either.

  7. melgregg
    July 8th, 2006 @ 11:53 am

    Oh yeah – gender dynamics add a whole other layer to it. I guess I’m curious tho, about the ‘somewhere else’ in your comment Kate! It seems to me almost as though postgrad life – part way between work and study I guess – also acts as a bit of a class or subculture filter, which makes ‘work’ drinks ok. Maybe that’s why socialising with colleagues is so kitsch or sad, because you’re *supposed* to have a life outside of work where you are around people who are more obviously like you. I wonder, tho, whether in some workplace cultures (especially the competitive and long hours cultures of some professions) drinking with work colleagues is pretty much the only chance at a social life. And if you are in a specialised job, sometimes only your colleagues understand your life enough to be able to socialise with you, without being offended when you are too busy to keep up the usual contact, etc. That’s what people in academia tend to believe, don’t they?

  8. home cooked theory » Blog Archive » More notes on cool
    September 14th, 2006 @ 7:56 am

    […] These are just some of the pages of quotes I’ve noted, and I’ll return with more when I come to write the CSAA paper. Liu’s book is immensely important for thinking about the big shifts taking place in labour politics from the unique perspective of the humanities. If we live in a society “where the sun—which is to say, the computer screen—never sets on the empire of work from time zone to time zone (or, within personal life, workday to worknight)” (p. 262) we need more voices that can clearly articulate new media’s far from innocent role in our own enslavement. As Liu puts it: […]

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