Corporeal Capitalism: Body Matters in IPE

Wednesday 17th April 2013 (09:30-17:00)
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Workshop Leaders: Nicola Smith and Donna Lee

‘The body’ has emerged as a central concern across the social sciences and humanities, spawning a substantial and multifaceted literature in a range of disciplines such as sociology, law, cultural studies, philosophy, psychology, criminology, geography and history. Yet in the field of International Political Economy the body remains, on the whole, conspicuous by its absence.  Indeed, as Charlotte Hooper remarked more than a decade ago, it is ‘supremely ironic’ that a discipline so concerned with the material needs of physical bodies should have been built around abstractions from, not explorations of, embodied social contexts (2000: 31).

Feminist scholarship – albeit by no means exclusively – has been at the forefront of attempts to take issues of embodiment seriously within IPE.  In particular, it has highlighted how globalisation and capitalism are not ‘out there’ phenomena that are materially or analytically separable from actually-existing human lives but, quite the contrary, ‘impact directly and often violently on the bodies of actual people’ (Pettman, 2000: 52).  This special issue takes up calls by feminist scholars to regard the body as central to – indeed, a critical starting point for – the theory and practice of the international political economy. In short, we believe the study of IPE 'as if bodies mattered' can add new and hugely significant theoretical, methodological and empirical insights to the field.

This workshop will consider both how and why bodies 'matter' in the international political economy and also how bodies might be positioned more centrally within IPE as a discipline.  It has three inter-related aims: first, to interrogate how political and economic processes are inscribed, imprinted and circulated on bodies (Penttinen, 2008); second, to examine how bodies represent ‘sites of contestation' with respect to both power and resistance in the international political economy (Harcourt 2009: 22); and, third, to consider what (the erasure and inclusion of) bodies can tell us about the disciplinary terrain of International Political Economy itself. 


09:30 – 11.00 Panel 1: Commodification of/and the Body

1.  Paul McFadden (University of Newcastle)

‘Commodification in contemporary capitalism: A note toward a political economy of bodies-under-work’

2.  Ann Stewart (University of Warwick)

‘Trafficked bodies, exploited workers, domestic slaves: positioning bodies in legal discourses within global supply chains’

3.  Ayşe Akalin (Istanbul Technical University)

‘Body, Affects, Displacement: The Value of Migrant Labor in Domestic Work’,

4.  Tiina Vaittinen (University of Tampere) and Hanna-Kaisa Hoppania (University of Helsinki)

‘The Governance of Care Through the Body: A (Bio)Political Reading of Commodification’

11:15 – 12:30 Panel 2: Bodies/Work/Production

1.  Stephen Bates (University of Birmingham) 

The Body in General: Corporeality, Marx and Critical Realism

2.  Matt Davies (Newcastle University)

The Spatial Architectonics of International Political Economy: Work, Body, Aesthestics

3.  Carol Wolkowitz (University of Warwick)

The Body Work Economy of South Florida

4.  Adrienne Roberts (University of Manchester)

Marking and Confining Marginalised Bodies: A Feminist IPE Approach to the Prisons of Capitalism

5.  Beatrice Busi (University of Rome) and Simona De Simoni (University of Turin)

Political perspectives for embodied subjectivities in contemporary capitalism

13.30 – 15:00 Panel 3: Social Reproduction

1. Leonard Seabrooke and Eleni Tsingou (Copenhagen Business School)

Raven mothers, parasite singles and taboos in professional knowledge about falling fertility

2. María Luisa Mészáros Ortiz (Universidad de Costa Rica- Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Barcelona)

Destiny and punishments of marriage

15:30 – 17:00 Panel 4: Bodies, Brains and Bio-Technology

1.  Matthew Eagleton-Pierce (University of Exeter)

The Rise of the Critical Technicians in World Trade

2.  Phoebe Moore-Carter (University of Salford)

The Corporeality of Peer to Peer Production

3.  Sofia Lemos (Contemporary Art Museum of Barcelona)

Permeable Bodies – Data Disobedient Body Architectures in the Age of Techno-Politics: Performance-Lecture


Nicola Smith is Senior Lecturer in Political Science at the University of Birmingham whose work is broadly concerned with globalisation discourse and social justice. Key publications include Showcasing globalisation: the political economy of the Irish Republic (Manchester University Press, 2005), Global social justice (Routledge, 2010, co-edited with Heather Widdows), Body/state (Ashgate, 2012, co-edited with Angus Cameron and Jen Dickinson) and special issues of the journals The Round Table, Journal of Global Ethics and Sexualities. Nicola has recently undertaken a Leverhulme funded project on the political economy of male and transgender sex work in the UK and is completing a research monograph on this theme for Palgrave.

Donna Lee is Professor in Political Economy and Diplomacy at the University of Birmingham. She is author of numerous books, articles, and chapters on the political economy of international trade. She is currently series editor (with Paul Sharp) of the Palgrave Series Diplomacy & International Relations, and has been/is currently a member of the editorial board of several journals. She has also edited special issues for a number of journals including The International Journal of Diplomacy & Economy, The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs, and Third World Quarterly.