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Precarity and Precariousness

This conference is to be held on the 4th April 2019 in the Humanities Studio (Humanities building, ground floor), opening for registration at 0800 and with an introduction from the organisers at 0845. The conference proper begins at 0900. The link to registration is on the right - please let us know if you have any specific dietary or access requirements and we'll be sure to accommodate.

“Lives are by definition precarious: they can be expunged at will or by accident; their persistence is in no sense guaranteed. In some sense, this is a feature of all life, and there is no thinking of life which is not precarious […] Precarity designates the politically induced condition in which certain populations suffer from failing social and economic networks of support and become differentially exposed to injury, violence and death.” 

― Judith Butler, Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? 


The preponderance of the word ‘precarity’ among descriptions of a variety of economic, political and social issues is a telling feature of the problems which characterise the contemporary landscape. Various modes of existence, community, and economic association have been characterised by the term in the wake of changing conditions instituted by globalisation, austerity and the increasing casualisation of various industries – including that of academia and education. As the quote above highlights, this precarity ought to be considered alongside the various modes of vulnerability that seem inherent to life itself: with the fragile nature of human existence, animal life and the environment.  

These questions are tied from the beginning to problems of expression: the voice of the collective, of the individual, and above all the fragile artistic voice. Art and literature give us means to bear witness to other’s vulnerability, as well as our own, but the nature of this expression seems to be itself precarious – in many ways tied to the individual circumstances of its creation, continually risking a loss of signification.   

In this one-day workshop, to be held at the University of Warwick on the 4th April 2019, we aim to explore how precarious and vulnerable lives are intertwined, and where attention ought to be paid to bear witness to the fragile nature of individuals, communities, institutions and environments. We are also pleased to announce that Professor Thomas Docherty will be giving a keynote presentation during the conference. Professor Docherty has written on an eclectic mix of topics concerning English and comparative literature, but his recent research makes him an expert on issues of academic precarity and the cultural policy related to higher education.  

The conference will be held in the Humanities Studio, found on the ground floor of the Humanities building on the main Warwick campus. We’ll be in place from 0830 for registration, and the conference will open at 0845 with an introduction from the conference organisers. The programme is then as follows:


Session 1: 0900 – 1100 

Joshua Carswell, “Defamiliarizing the Work Ethic”: Kathi Weeks’s The Problem with Work 

Millie Light, From Neoliberal Individualism to Relational Interdependence: an ecofeminist and posthuman understanding of precarity 

Laura Shand, Between Precarity and a Hard Place: Academic hierarchies, relationships and solidarity 


Coffee Break: 1100-1115 


Session 2: 1115-1335 

Poppy Corbett, Theatre of the Real and Precarity 

Emma Deuster, Artist Diasporas: The nature of home and belonging in lives on the move 

Keynote Presentation with Natasha Lall 


Lunch: 1335-1430 


Session 3: 1430-1615 

Scott Revers, Living with Precarity: Narratives of precarious work amongst non-traditional students 

Luca Morini, Amanda Mooney, EJ Milne & Adrienne Evans, Imag(in)ing Precarity with Young People in Higher Education 

Anti-Precarity Cymru, Let’s Keep it Casual? Rising precarity and acts of resistance at UK universities 


Coffee Break: 1615-1630 


Keynote Presentation with Thomas Docherty: 1630-1730 


Conference End 

This conference is made possible with the generous support of the Centre for Research in Philosophy, Literature and the Arts, the Humanities Research Centre, and the Research Student Skills Programme.