Laboring Bodies and Material Resistance to the Failures of Late Capitalism

Investigator: Juliane Gamböck-Strätz, M.A.

This project examines how contemporary American novels critique normalized late capitalist assumptions about work through the depiction of laboring bodies and, in doing so, how they create an alternative, embodied knowledge that questions common understandings of the “normal” body.
The selected novels, that I will study for this project, identify the human laboring body as the material site of subjection and domination. They do, however, simultaneously discover these bodies as sites of subversion. As such, the depictions of bodies, that are failing to perform as expected and that transgress limitations of the norm, function as sites of experimentation through which criticism of normative assumptions about laboring bodies – which are usually expected to be healthy, able, emotionally stable, flexible, attractive, gendered, etc. –  are raised. I will argue that the literary representation of embodied experiences of the protagonists in the novels helps to break with the usual abstraction that oftentimes complicates critiques of late capitalism. This analysis is not only significant to uncover the technologies of power that construct the body, but examining the deviant laboring body is also essential to gain knowledge about normalization and the precarious nature of what is oftentimes considered “normal” or even “ideal.”