Affective Labor, Precarisation, Commoning: Three Cases from Turkey

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Özkan D., Büyüksaraç G.

International Gender Studies in Turkey Conference, İstanbul, Turkey, 9 - 10 December 2023, pp.34-35

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: İstanbul
  • Country: Turkey
  • Page Numbers: pp.34-35
  • Istanbul University Affiliated: Yes


This paper focuses on the accounts of three worker subjects from urban Turkey, a domestic worker, a

sex worker, and a freelance culture worker, to understand the role of affect in the complex interplay

between precarization and commoning. We look at this interplay from a feminist perspective, register

the “feminine” qualities of affective labor and analyze how capitalism makes worker subjects

vulnerable by instrumentalizing affect. A feminist rethinking of the origins of capitalism

demonstrates that women’s everyday unpaid and invisible labor, including providing care, love and

affection to their partners, lovers, elderly and children, is “the rock upon which society is built”

(Federici 2010). Similarly, in care-related forms of paid work, the worker mobilizes their body’s

affective capacity to produce exchange value in the capitalist marketplace.We discuss the

post-industrial conditions of precarization through affective exploitation, as well as the emergent

networks of commoning that challenge these conditions. We observe how our three study

participants activate the affirmative potential of affective labor, transform how they perceive

themselves and their relationship to others, and become political subjects. To explore the possibilities

of living labor that exceeds dead labor, and that capital fails to capture and domesticate, we draw on

the work of Marx, Cvetkovich, Hardt & Negri, Linebaugh, Federici, Butler, Lorey, among others,

and argue that we can overcome isolation and individualization imposed by neoliberal capitalism if

we discover the “common notions” that make us simultaneously vulnerable and powerful. We argue

that a domestic worker, a sex worker and a freelance culture worker, who look very different at first

sight, have a lot in common -- not just problems, troubles, but also desires and a shared will to create

another world. The latter engenders a non-capitalist ethic and common forms of solidarity, creating

alternatives to capitalism’s models of the family, corporation, nation –social institutions that embody

the corrupt forms of the common.