The Naturalization of Work

The naturalization of work usually refers to social processes that make a life underpinned by labor seem unquestionable, inevitable, and even desirable. This kind of naturalization is visible in many sites, from popular summons to treat one’s job as a calling to the growth of various administrative positions that make more work for others. Fledgling calls to denaturalize work and find ways to organize society around other dimensions of being human are also emerging today, such as in the increasingly popular but ambiguous idea of a universal basic income. The essays in this Theorizing the Contemporary series build on the present moment by looking critically at the naturalization and denaturalization of work in broader and more literal ways: efforts to value landscapes as (co)workers, the use of animals as laborers, and the extraction of nonhuman energies to put people to work. They consider the promise and perils of extending capacities to work to nonhuman beings, while putting labor and environmental studies into renewed dialogue.

Posts in This Series

Introduction: The Naturalization of Work

Animal Work: Metabolic, Ecological, Affective

The Naturalization of Nature as Working

Ecological Labor

Blood Mares and the Work of Naturalization


Dams and Dialysis

Melt as Sensory Labor

When Plants Farm Themselves

A Joke of a Job: Naturalizing the Work of Semiwild Orangutans

The Second Shift: Informal Economies and Avian Influenza in South Africa

Leave It to Beavers: Animal Work in Austerity Environmentalism

Working Together to Restore the Reef: Naturalizing Corporate Forms of Coral, Labor, and Responsibility

(Eco)Enzyme as Catalyst