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OBERT Symposium – Women and Work: Reframing a Narrative Relationship

Aix-Marseille Université, 10 – 11 June 2024

The relationship between women and the world of labour is a complex and multifaceted one, which has been defined and continues to be redefined over time not only in material and economic terms but also on a discursive and symbolic level. If « the economy returns to being a political and relational dimension in which language plays a constitutive function, through the primary act of naming and negotiating the meaning of needs » (Giardini 2017), the voice of women still represents a subordinate perspective that is extremely necessary for understanding the processes of transformation in the world of labour (Ventura 2018).

According to the intersectional dynamics described by Nixon in Slow Violence and The Environmentalism of The Poor (2011), the relationship between hegemonic, often masculine, narratives and minority perspectives is inscribed within the broader dynamics of domination and invisibilities. Nobel Prize Claudia Goldin (2023) has described a « quiet revolution », « accomplished by many who were unaware that they were part of a grand transformation » of society and labour, which has led to various phases of women’s identity and economic emancipation during the 20th century (Goldin 2006).

In Forces of Reproduction, echoing the materialist ecofeminist philosophy, environmental historian Stefania Barca states that « women form the large majority of the global proletariat (i.e. of the dispossessed and exploited of the world) – a class of labourers whose bodies and productive capacities have been appropriated by capital and capitalist institutions ». If relational « entanglements » – from Barad’s (2007) quantum physics terminology – constitute the materiality of the world of labour, « materialist ecofeminism helps us to see the ecology of workers’ communities » (Barca 2020).

Finally, also the spring of 1962 was silent: at that moment Rachel Carson, a biologist ahead of her time, published her seminal work, Silent Spring, in which she denounced the environmental risks of capitalist overproduction. Reflecting on the importance of language for critiquing the culture of any society, the insistent, albeit polysemic, presence of the semantic field of silence around the theme of women and work is evident.

This conference investigates two different but intersecting trajectories, both synchronically and diachronically: on the one hand, the modes and forms of representing women’s labour, and on the other hand, the voices of women (writers, directors, journalists, artists) who have dealt with labour, both as a theme and as a metanarrative element, as a narrative device or as an object of theoretical study.

1945 is fixed as the post quem term. Albeit with significant differences, 1945 can be considered as a period of profound transformation for European societies and economies. Within these temporal and spatial coordinates, we aim to initiate an interdisciplinary and transmedia reflection on artistic representations that explore the relationship between the theme of labour and the female perspective, highlighting its forms, themes, and structures. With this conference, we intend to gather an initial survey of case studies, where the voices of women can occupy both the place of the represented theme and the role of the speaking subject—an artist observing and representing the world of labour from a minority and potentially alternative perspective.


We encourage submission across different cultural contexts:

– thematic critique on the relationship between the theme of labour and female perspectives;

– role and forms of the female authorial voice;

– intersectionality on ecology, labour and gender issues;

– transmediality in the creation and interpretation of works;

– postcolonial criticism and migration.

Contributions are welcome in English, French and Italian, as the languages of communication during the conference.

You are invited to send an abstract of max. 350 words, followed by a bio-bibliographical note of max. 100 words to the following email address: carlobaghetti@gmail.com, irene.cecchini@univ-amu.fr, francesca.nardi11@unibo.it, by 31 March 2024.

A notification of acceptance will be forwarded by the 3rd of April.

Each paper will consist of a 20-minute presentation, followed by a 10-minute discussion.

Scientific and organising committee:

Carlo Baghetti (LEST/CNRS)

Irene Cecchini (Aix-Marseille Université INCIAM, CIELAM/LPC)

Francesca Nardi (Università di Bologna)

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