What is a household? A family? How do these appear natural, inevitable, and transhistorical phenomena? How does this naturalization of domestic life make and maintain deeper structures of capitalist exploitation, heteropatriarchal oppression, and ongoing capitalist extraction?
My doctoral research, broadly construed, aims to develop a critical phenomenology of social reproduction. I draw on the rich traditions of phenomenology and Marxist feminism to build concepts, methods, and strategies for interrogating the material and existential conditions of “life-making”: the material processes and social relations through which bodily subjects are produced, reproduced, and maintained both daily and (inter)generationally. I wish to show how lived experience is directly tied to the sphere of social reproduction in which the very capacity for value production is formed and maintained on a daily basis.
A key focus of this critical phenomenological approach is temporality. Accumulative processes capture and command "productive" labour through technologies of abstract time, which simultaneously devalue forms of reproductive labour that concretely resist such rationalizing processes. But by the same token, life-making labour is precisely the work of making, giving, and taking time, and as such poses real possibilities for orienting emancipatory politics, making and maintaining generative social movements oriented around a human needs-based agenda, and winning class struggles at capital's hidden, but crucial, reproductive pressure points.
Phenomena such as domestic labour, households, public-private distinctions, and so on are historical developments directly tied to how certain forms of embodiment are naturalized over others, how this is structurally reproduced, and even how specific forms of life come to view and value the content of their own lives in and through perceptual habits and practices. These phenomena have likewise developed out of processes and permutations of primitive accumulation and dispossession through enclosure and colonization, the alienation of sensuous human activity from the means of subsistence through the hegemony of the wage relation, and the mass orientation of human practice in general as means towards the ends of capital accumulation.