SCA2014: Working in Chronic Disorder

To express interest in this panel, please use the comments feature on this page and/or contact Mark Fleming or Stefanie Graeter: mark.fleming [at] or stgraeter [at]

This panel invites explorations of the political and ethical conundrums posed by chronic work-related forms of harm. While worker health has long figured as a site of antagonism between labor and capital, growing attention to chronic disorders in biomedicine is drastically expanding the field of possible ethical and legal claims for workers’ health protections beyond acute injuries. Over the 20th century, the workplace has increasingly become recognized as a critical site for understanding and managing chronic health conditions. Health scientists have linked chronic disorders, such as heart disease, repetitive strain injury, asthma, diabetes, and cancer to the embodiment of everyday impacts of the workplace environment over time. Additionally, bullying, harassment, precarity, and other forms of psychosocial stress at work have emerged as threats to health. Yet, the complex etiologies of chronic disorders evade straightforward calculations of responsibility, amelioration, and compensation and thus produce new legal and political debates about what constitutes healthy or safe work environments. Keeping in mind that work is also a source of livelihood, however, we wish to consider how the condition of “non-work,” unrecognized, or informal forms of labor may figure in this discussion of chronic health conditions.

This panel invites papers that engage critically with the notion of “chronicdisorder” within diverse sociopolitical, ethical, or technical regimes of work. Possible questions to address include: How does the increasing prominence of chronic disease shape our understandings of health and day-to-day well-being in relation to work or unemployment? In what ways do employers respond to their potential role in long-term harm through legal, technical, or managerial means? What do state recognitions of work-related disorders reveal about contemporary biopolitical and/or neoliberal governance? How do the recognition and contestation of chronic work-related harms provide insights into emerging worker subjectivities, disciplinary and institutional apparatuses for administering work, and configurations of power and value in the global economy? We welcome engagements in medical anthropology,anthropology of the body, science and technology studies, and beyond.

If you have any questions, please contact the panel organizers: Mark Fleming (mark.fleming [at] and Stefanie Graeter (stgraeter [at] Please submit abstracts by midnight on Friday, January 24, 2014. We look forward to hearing from you!