SANAS Conference: A Conference on the Labors of Language, Culture, and History
This conference proposes that the question of work does a great deal of work for the study of North America. The conference is inspired not only by the richness of work as a linguistic, cultural, and historical concept, but also by current conjunctures that are profoundly changing work and its worlds. The bread-winning patriarch has given way to dual-earning households, steady jobs to contingency and “gigs.” Beneath the surface of official unemployment statistics lie decades of stagnant wages, “bullshit jobs,” stress, and alienation. Once a symbol of freedom and opportunity, work has become a symptom of national and international crisis in debates over borders and tariffs, pipelines and policing, “boomers” and “millennials,” healthcare and automation. Do advances in artificial intelligence spell the end of work as we know it? Are we on the verge of a postwork society? If so, is the crisis of work necessarily dystopian? To paraphrase Leonard Cohen: If work has become a crack in North American society and culture, what sort of light might stream through?