Between November 1811 and February 1812, armed bands attacked and destroyed textile machinery in Nottingham almost every evening. They answered to "King Ludd and Queen Mab", and they were attempting to preserve their livelihoods against the imposition of exploitative labour conditions in rapidly developing industrial factories. History wasn't kind to the Luddites. Their struggle was cast as a doomed scuffle against modernity, and today the term is most heard as a derisory pre-fix: "I'm not a Luddite but", followed by a reactionary statement against technology. Yet, in the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, they were among the first to challenge the dogma that technology is synonymous with progress. After 200 years of uninterrupted mechanisation of production, leading to ever more frequent crises around the world, it is perhaps time to reconsider that ideal.
This research group attempts to examine our approach to work and technology from a neo-luddite perspective. Rather than idealising a fully-automated future, we take actual existing technology as a starting point to discuss issues like degrowth, anti-work politics, the right to repair, and technological surveillance in the workplace. By examining the work of scholars like Walter Benjamin, David Noble, Sarah Jaffe and Virginia Eubanks, alongside contentious radicals such as anarcho-primitivists, hackers, and housewives, we attempt to provide a new framework to understand our collective relationship to both labour and tools. We do so through monthly meetings in which we discuss texts and welcome external speakers, from both academia and social movements, who are problematising our collective relationship with technology.
We meet on Fridays 3-6pm in the Potgieterzaal at the University Library Singel (Singel 425, 1012 WP Amsterdam).
The first four dates are:
February 11, 2022
March 11, 2022
April 8, 2022
May 13, 2022
RMA- and PhD-students affiliated with Dutch universities are eligible for earning 6 credits by attending the seminar and writing a reflection paper in response. These credits will be allocated via NICA, for more information on earning credits, see here.
To sign up for the seminar and get access to the readings, please send an e-mail to Agustin Ferrari Braun before January 28, 2022: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Files for the readings will be shared after the holiday break in mid January 2022. But we already know that these are the readings for our first meeting:
Jaffe, Sarah. "Playlabour of Love." Work Won't Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone. New York: BoldType Books, 2021. 263-290.
Mueller, Gavin. "The Nights of King Ludd." Breaking Things at Work: The Luddites Are Right about Why You Hate Your Job. London: Verso, 2021.
Sadowski, Jathan. "I'm a Luddite. You should be one too." The Conversation. August 9, 2021. https://theconversation.com/im-a-luddite-you-should-be-one-too-163172