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Syllabus 2022-23

Provisional syllabus for 2022-23: To be finalised by June 1st, 2022

ECTCS is designed to allow sustained and intensive engagement with selected themes of classic and contemporary critical theory. In 2022-23, we will examine the way two central features of neoliberal culture – work and sex – have presented themselves as deeply interrelated. A long-standing diagnosis of the crises of work under capitalism, encompassing theories of automation, digital labour and de-industrialisation, has been augmented recently by a renewed focus on questions of social reproduction, anti-work politics and post-work futures. Meanwhile, critical theory on questions of sex has taken a dystopian turn, responding to the rise of #MeToo, trans-exclusionary feminism, homophobic backlash and misogynistic violence, and turning against both commodified forms of ‘sex positivity’ and earlier celebratory visions of sexual liberation. Our goal will be to explore ways in which the convergence of capitalist crises around work and sex sheds light on the origins and future of each, while feeding urgent projects of envisioning and mapping alternatives to the status quo. In term 1, we’ll focus primarily on theory; in term 2, we’ll read a series of novels that explore aspects of neoliberal sexual culture in tandem with recent critical works. Authors include, among others, Karl Marx, Silvia Federici, Kathi Weeks, Kodwo Eshun, José Esteban Muñoz, Octavia Butler, Michaela Coel, Torrey Peters and Amia Srinivasan.

Assessment is by the following: Either 2 x 2,500-word essays + a podcast review (2nd years), or 2 x 3,000-word essays + a video presentation (3rd years).

Term 1: Capitalism at Work

Week 1: Introduction
J. M. Keynes, “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren” (1930)

David Graeber, “A Practical Utopian’s Guide to the Coming Collapse” (2013) (

Week 2: What is Work?

Karl Marx, “The Dual Character of the Labour Embodied in Commodities,” Capital Vol. 1 [1867] (Penguin, 1976): 131-37

Amelia Horgan, “Work’s Fantasy” and “Work, Capitalism and Capitalist Work,” Lost in Work (Pluto, 2021)

Week 3: The Problem of Work

Kathi Weeks, “Introduction: The Problem of Work” and “Mapping the Work Ethic,” The Problem of Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics, and Postwork Imaginaries (Duke UP, 2011)

Theodor W. Adorno, “Free Time,” The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture, ed. J. M. Bernstein, (Routledge, 1992): 162-70

Week 4: Accelerationism vs. Degrowth

Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, “Introduction,” “Left Modernity,” “The Future Isn’t Working” and “Post-Capitalist Imaginaries,” Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World without Work (Verso, 2015)

Jason Hickel, “Pathways to a Postcapitalist World,” Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World (William Heineman, 2021)

Week 5: Rise of the Robots?

Aaron Benanav, “The Automation Discourse,” “Labor’s Global Deindustrialization” and “Necessity and Freedom,” Automation and the Future of Work (Verso, 2020)

Week 6: Reading week

Week 7: Gender and Emotional Labour

Silvia Federici, “Wages against Housework” [1975], Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle (PM Press, 2012): 15-22

Arlie Russell Hochschild, “Exploring the Managed Heart,” The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling (University of California Press, 1983): 3-23

Week 8: Afrofuturism / Undercommons

Kodwo Eshun, “Further Considerations on Afrofuturism,” CR: New Centennial Review 3.2 (Summer 2003): 287-302

Moten, Fred and Stefano Harney, “The University and the Undercommons,” “Debt and Study” and “Fantasy in the Hold,” The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study (Minor Compositions, 2013)

Listen: Sun Ra, Alice Coltrane, George Clinton, Drexciya

Watch: John Akromfah, The Last Angel of History (1996)

Week 9: Queering the Future

José Esteban Muñoz, “Feeling Utopia” and “Queerness as Horizon: Utopian Hermeneutics in the Face of Gay Pragmatism,” Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (New York University Press, 2009)

Week 10: Earthseed

Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower (Headline, 2019 [1993])


Term 2: Capitalism and Sex

Week 1: Introduction

Week 2
Sheila Heti, How Should a Person Be? (Vintage, 2014)
Leslie Kern, from Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-made World (Verso, 2021)

Week 3
Michaela Coel, I May Destroy You (BBC/HBO, 2020)
Katherine Angel, from Tomorrow Sex Will be Good Again (Verso, 2021)

Week 4
Torry Peters, Detransition, Baby (Penguin, 2021)
Alan Sears, “Body Politics: The Social Reproduction of Sexualities,” in Social Reproduction Theory: Remapping Class, Recentering Oppression, ed. Tithi Bhattacharya (Pluto, 2017)

Week 5
Tangerine, dir. Sean Baker (Magnolia Pictures, 2015)
Juno Mac and Molly Smith, Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight for Sex Workers’ Rights (Verso, 2018)

Week 7
Andrea Lawlor, Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl (Picador, 2020)
Andrea Long Chu, Females (Verso, 2021)

Week 8
Elena Ferrante, The Lost Daughter, trans. Ann Goldstein (Europa Editions, 2008)
Amia Srinivasan, The Right to Sex (Bloomsbury, 2021)

Week 9
Mieko Kawakami, Breasts and Eggs, trans. Sam Bett and David Boyd (Picador, 2020)
Natalie Fiennes, Behind Closed Doors: Sex Education Transformed (Pluto, 2019)

Week 10
Han Kang, The Vegetarian, trans. Deborah Smith (Portobello Books, 2015)
Carol Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory (Bloomsbury, 2015)