February, 2018

Call for Papers #5: ‘The Politics of Reproduction’

The years following the 2008 economic crisis have seen a return to questions of social reproduction (e.g. Bhattacharya 2017, Cooper and Waldby 2014, Dimitrakaki et al. 2016, Fraser 2016, Federici 2012, Laboria Cuboniks 2015, Preciado 2013, Vora 2015, and Weeks 2011). A series of issues and problems that were at stake in the ‘domestic labour debates’ of the 1970s and ’80s (e.g. Malos 1980) have been revisited and variously reaffirmed or rethought. Johanna Brenner and Barbara Laslett’s (1989) influential definition of feminist work on social reproduction describes it as addressing ‘the activities and attitudes, behaviours and emotions, responsibilities and relationships directly involved in the maintenance of life on a daily basis, and intergenerationally’. As such, it has encompassed an engagement with the (gendered) ways needs and expectations are met, how the young, the elderly, the ill and others are cared for, the manner in which socialisation take place, and the ways sexuality is produced, organised and regulated. These phenomena have often also been studied in terms of the role they play in reproducing society as a whole; both how they serve to reproduce society’s means of producing, and how they (re-)produce various social hierarchies, differences, and forms of inclusion/exclusion.

While recent feminist, queer, trans, post-colonial, critical race, Marxian and other scholarship has often critically re-affirmed some of the key claims and contributions of scholars and activists engaged in the domestic labour debates, it has also re-thought and re-formulated a number of problems and propositions. This has often been in light of shifts in the nature of the gender division of labour (as well as in gender relations and identities) in the interceding decades, both driven by and formative of transformations in the global political economy and the organisation of productive processes. Recent scholarship has also responded to: the increased marketization of the domestic sphere since the 1970s and ’80s; the racialization and ethnicization of care work amidst a feminization of migration, and the emergence of ‘global care chains’ through the migration (mainly) of women involved in waged and unwaged care work; the proliferation and increased visibility of households that are not structured around the heterosexual couple or the nuclear family; processes of neoliberalisation and the erosion of social solidarity and the welfare state; the growing demand for emotional and affective labour to be performed not only within the home and the family, but also the waged workplace; the blurring of work-time and non-work-time, times of production and reproduction; and the emergence of new (biomedical) labour markets for forms of ‘embodied labour’, including participation in clinical trials and surrogacy. Engagements with questions of social reproduction today are also able to draw on the experiences and insights of feminist initiatives such as the Wages for Housework campaign, the collective infrastructures of care developed by queer and trans people in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and several decades of disabled people’s activism.

This issue of spheres seeks in particular contributions that are attentive to ‘The Politics of Reproduction’ in relation to digital cultures. In which ways, for instance, do digital cultures play a role in reproducing gendered, racialised, and other hierarchies? How do digital cultures contribute to the production of counterpublics that resist or trouble these hierarchies? In an age of digital cultures, how do contemporary modes of capital accumulation require a rethinking of reproduction? How, for instance, are digital media technologies deployed to ensure the reproduction of capitalist subjectivities and labouring bodies, and how could they be developed or appropriated differently? ‘Platform capitalism’ reorders the boundaries between paid, underpaid and unpaid labour, through a capitalist logistics which also organizes reproduction. What practices of planning or counter-logistics can be used to oppose it, or to reproduce life otherwise? Can practices such as ‘repair’ offer an alternative media technological practice and relation to material reproduction and to ecology? The emergence of digital cultures has coincided with a greater scholarly and activist attention to questions of ecology, and of the Anthropocene. How might this shape the ways we think about ‘The Politics of Reproduction’ today? How do digital media facilitate queer ways of re-organising reproduction, including the facilitation of queer intimacies, forms of kinship, and of caring? How are technological and biomedical innovations – particularly those deployed within the field of medically assisted procreation – shaping gender relations, and queer and trans forms of life? How is PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), or the use of antiretroviral drugs to prevent the acquisition of HIV, transforming relations among the serodiscordant? How is it transforming queer sex cultures? What role does the digital play in global care chains? To what extent do recent feminist (including xenofeminist) engagements with digital technologies represent a departure from earlier (for instance, cyber-)feminist work on science and technology? What role have digital media played in recent feminist projects like the Women’s Strike on 8 March, 2017? Can recent movements, from #Occupy over #BlackLivesMatter to #IdleNoMore, be understood as movements around social reproduction? What role has the digital had to play here?


  • Bhattacharya, Tithi (Ed.) (2017) Social Reproduction Theory: Remapping Class, Recentering Oppression. Pluto Press
  • Brenner, Johanna and Laslett, Barbara (1989) ‘Gender and Social Reproduction: Historical Perspectives’, in: Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 15 (1891) pp.381-404
  • Dimitrakaki, Angela et al. (Eds.) (2016) ‘Social-Reproduction Feminism’, a special issue of Historical Materialism Volume 24, Issue 2 (2016) pp.25-163
  • Federici, Silvia (2012) Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle. PM Press
  • Fraser, Nancy (2016) ‘Contradictions of Capital and Care’, in: New Left Review Issue 1 (July-August 2016) pp.99-117
  • Laboria Cuboniks (2015) Xenofeminism: A Politics for Alienation (laboriacuboniks.net)
  • Malos, Ellen (Ed.) (1980) The Politics of Housework Allison & Busby
  • Preciado, Paul B. (2013) Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era. The Feminist Press at CUNY
  • Vora, Kalindi (2015) Life Support: Biocapital and the New History of Outsourced Labor. University of Minnesota Press
  • Weeks, Kathi (2011) The Problem With Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics, and Postwork Imaginaries. Duke University Press


If you would like to submit an article or other contribution to the issue, please get in touch with one of the editors (contact details below) as soon as possible. We would be grateful if you would submit a provisional title and short abstract (250 words, max) by 25 March, 2018. We may have questions or suggestions that we raise at this point. Otherwise, final versions of articles and other contributions should please be submitted by 9 July, 2018. They will undergo review in accordance with the peer review process (described above). Any revisions requested will need to be completed so that the issue can be published in Autumn 2018.


Armin Beverungen: armin.beverungen@uni-siegen.de
Randi Heinrichs: randi.heinrichs@leuphana.de
Laura Hille: laura.hille@leuphana.de
Ben Trott: ben.trott@leuphana.de