Appel à articles – Productive Bodies. Towards a Body and Material History of the Modern Economic (17th-20th centuries)

Call for Articles – Productive Bodies. Towards a Body and Material History of the Modern Economic (17th-20th centuries)

Ed. Peter-Paul Bänziger and Marcel Streng
on behalf of the Arbeitskreis für Körpergeschichte

The projected peer reviewed edited volume addresses a variety of
questions at the intersection of economic, material, and body
history. Drawing on new research in these fields, it aims at
highlighting the material dimension of economic processes (1) and
reassessing the emergence of productive bodies since the 18th century
(2).

(1) The renaissance of heterodox approaches in economic history over
the course of the last two decades has significantly enlarged the
scope of this field. This trend mainly benefits from the cultural and
social sciences and has fostered research on phenomena that cut
across the classic schemes of both labor division (production,
distribution, consumption) and the economic spheres (services,
industry, and agriculture). For instance, several studies have
focused on the history of raw materials and industrial products such
as chocolate, dyes, coffee, paper, shoes, cotton, and soy beans, to
name only a few. In so doing they have highlighted the analytic
potential of these new approaches in economic history. Drawing on new
institutional economics, scholars have also analyzed the role that
nomenclatures and expectancies of actors have played in the
establishment and stabilization of large networks of production,
commercialization and consumption. Heuristic concepts such as
?quality convention?, developed in French economic history, and
innovative approaches emerging from the fields of Science and
Technology Studies and history of knowledge stimulate an interest in
the material dimension of economic processes that was traditionally
banned from economic history. However, the perspectives of body
history on productions of all kinds, and especially on the genealogy
of the very social and objective relation commonly dubbed ?the
economic?, are still largely missing in this debate.

(2) Likewise, historians of the body are still reluctant to engage
with economic history. Pioneering studies in the 1990s were scarcely
followed. This situation is about to change as economic aspects are
increasingly integrated into histories of the body. In particular,
some scholars have begun to analyze historical regimes of
subjectivity. In search of the conditions of possibility of ?the
economic? these scholars have, amongst other things, explored the
(hetero)genesis of the ?homo oeconomicus? and self-descriptions of
economic subjects. Many such studies have focused on technologies of
government and of the self, e.g. the education of monetary subjects,
the social production of debts and debtors, and the emergence of the
?entrepreneurial self?. Interestingly enough, though, the dimension
of corporeality/materiality remains in the shadows. Bodies like that
of the calculating subject, for instance ? of bankers, traveling
salesmen, managers, salespersons ? are still waiting for
historicization, even if a recent study on the ?serving subject?
opens interesting perspectives in this regard. Particularly, a
history of productive bodies within the industrial regimes that
emerged after the threshold of biopolitical modernity of around 1900
remains a desideratum. This also holds true for the case of the
agricultural laborer. Likewise, the ?post-materialist? or ?post-
Fordist? working subjects have remained remarkably disembodied,
although we know quite well how bodies are used to optimize and
regenerate the ?resources? of these subjects ? via techniques of the
self like ?body therapy?, ?wellness?, ?self healing?, and the like.

The projected volume draws on both agendas and highlights the body in
its intrinsic relations with ?the economic?. Contributions shall thus
focus on the corporeal and/or material dimension of the production of
the economic, particularly in the following fields:

a) While the model of the ?human motor?, borrowed from
thermodynamics, was crucial for the constitution of productive bodies
at the end of the 19th century, new findings suggest its irrelevance
for present regimes of production and cultures of the self. It is
unlikely, however, that this model was directly and thoroughly
replaced by new ones. In this regard, we are looking for
contributions focusing on transformations of the ?human motor?, on
transitions between hegemonic subjectivities of the ?carbon? and the
?silicon age? (Gilles Deleuze), as well as on simultaneously emerging
concepts of productive bodies.

b) Relatively little research has hitherto been done with respect to
historical aspects of the corporeal/material production of ?the
economic? itself, e.g. the production and selection of ?economically
relevant/irrelevant? bodies. Contributions which address these issues
by crossing the classic scheme of economic liberalism (production,
distribution, consumption) are thus highly welcomed. We especially
invite scholars from the fields of dis/ability, gender, post-colonial
and queer history, and from the history of forced labor, who are
willing to explore the entanglements and exclusions by which economic/
productive bodies are constituted.

c) The discussion on whether only human bodies can become productive
bodies is to be (re-)opened as well. Obviously, working subjects are
hardly separable from their tools and means of production ? ranging
from a simple hammer to the ?cube farm?. We therefore invite scholars
who address, from a historical perspective, the question of the human/
non-human nature of productivity by analyzing ?productive objects? or
?bio-assemblages? (e.g. plants, animals, machines, production sites,
robots and computers, as well as pencils, desks and prostheses, to
name but a few possible objects) and their influences on the
constitution of specifically human productive bodies.

d) Finally, the constitution of productive bodies and economic
productivity accompanied the emergence of industrial regimes of
workforce organization as well as the establishment and integration
of markets, well before the 19th century. Little is known so far, for
instance, about the prehistory of the thermodynamic model that was
most prominent at the turn of the 20th century. We therefore welcome
contributions addressing the above listed issues and questions from a
?longue duree? perspective, especially those focusing on the
?Sattelzeit? of the decades around 1800.

Proposals should include an abstract of about 500 words and a short
biographical note. Please send proposals to Arina Heussler
(arina.heussler@unibas.ch<mailto:arina.heussler@unibas.ch>) no later
than June 30, 2014. Notification of acceptance of proposals will be
given by July 31. The full papers are to be submitted by January 31,
2015. Acceptance is based on a double-blind peer review process and
will be communicated by March 31, 2015. Publication is scheduled Fall/
Winter 2015.


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