Monday 21 and Tuesday 22 May, 2012

Interdisciplinary Workshop: Clinical Labour and the New Labour Studies (invitation only)


Clinical Labour

Convenors: Prof. Catherine Waldby and Dr. Melinda Cooper


The purpose of the workshop will be to further develop the connection between critical labour studies and biopolitical studies. The notion of clinical labour forms a starting point for the interrogating of this connection. In their forthcoming book Clinical Labour: Tissue Donors and Research Subjects in the Bioeconomy (Duke University Press), Melinda Cooper and Catherine Waldby coin the term to describe the productive bodily work performed by tissue donors and medical research subjects in the bioeconomy, the sectors of the economy driven by life sciences innovation. However, the actual providers of biological material or experimental experience do not figure within the division of labor in the life sciences. The bioeconomic innovation process both assumes and relies upon this access to living human bodies, yet their material participation does not appear in the value chain. The aim of the workshop is to further develop and open out the research field, to improve dialogue between cognate areas (for example, that of knowledge work, precarity, affective labour, reproductive labour, biological labour) and identify future research questions and collaborative possibilities.

Co-sponsored by the Gender and Modernity Research Group and the Biopolitics of Science Research Network


The workshop will bring together leading international and Australian scholars whose empirical and conceptual focus has contributed to this research. This will include scholars who have developed ethnographic studies of clinical labour markets and scholars whose work contributes to the theoretical re-conceptualization of bodily labour in the contemporary moment.

Workshop Program

Monday, May 21

9:30 – 10:30 . Melinda Cooper and Catherine Waldby
‘Clinical Labour and the New Labour Studies’
10:30 – 11:00 . Refreshments
11:00 – 12:00 . Kaushik Sunder Rajan
‘Merely-risked, Dispossessed, Vulnerable: Figurations and Structures of Experimental Subjectivity’
12:00 – 1:00 . Dick Bryan
‘Clinical Labour: Is it Actually Labour?’
1:00 – 2:00 . Lunch
2:00 – 3:00 . Elizabeth Hill
‘Economic Informality and the Body as Capital’
3:00 – 3:30 . Refreshments
3:30 – 4:30 . Terry Woronov
‘Doing Time: Mimetic Labour and Human Capital Accumulation in Chinese Vocational Schools’

Tuesday, May 22

9:30 – 10:30 . Jill Fisher
‘Working Hard at “Healthy, Normal”: Healthy Volunteers in Phase I Pharmaceutical Clinical Trials’
10:30 – 11:00 . Refreshments
11:00 – 12:00 . Brett Nielsen
‘Figures of Labour’
12:00 – 1:00 . Melissa Gregg
‘Presence Bleed: Knowledge Work and the Crisis of Measure’
1:00 – 2:00 . Lunch
2:00 – 3:00 . Lisa Adkins
‘Rethinking Labour after the Financial Crisis’
3:00 – 4:00 . Coffee, Discussion and Wrap-up