Queer Labour and the divisions and abstractions of capital

Nat Raha


This paper will explore the relationship between queerness, labour and capital, from the basis of Marx’s dialectic of the ‘natural form’ and the ‘value form’ of the commodity (Capital, I). Building upon the work of Bérubé (2011), Tinkcom (2002) and Hennessy (2012), it will theorise how capitalist society marks certain socio-historical forms of labour as ‘queer labour’. Despite historical prohibitions on expressions of sexual and gender deviance in the workplace, with continuing instances in the present day, cultures of queerness and forms of queer labour have developed and thrived through gendered and racialised divisions of labour and gendered and racialised forms of labour. I will argue that such queer labour intermeshes with public forms of ‘queer world-making’ (Berlant and Warner, 1998) and the labour of social reproduction that enables LGBTQ lives and desires (‘queer social reproduction’, Raha, 2015).

Given the impact and the limits of LGBT rights in the era of neoliberal capitalism, it is important that we interrogate the changing relationship between queerness, LGBTQ workers and capital, to understand the nuance of capital’s transformations and inhabitations of queer bodies and lives. How do LGBTQ workers struggle against, move within and challenge heteronormative working environments? And how does capital market and appropriate queer workplaces and the queer labour undertaken within them? What forms might queer labour’s struggle against capital take in such environments?

Queer Marxism - Sexuality - Capital - Labour - LGBTQ