FemWork: Book Launch & Panel Discussion

Date: March 8, 2023
Location: Spui25, Amsterdam
Time: 17:00–19:00
Register Here

The future of work is at the center of debates related to the digital society. Far less attention is given to the future of global workers at the far ends of the value chain, who participate on and off platforms, often in the shadows, invisible to policymakers, designers, and consumers. In particular, precarity and informality characterize a largely female workforce, across sectors ranging from artisanal work to salon services to ride hailing and construction. A feminist reimagining of the futures of work—what we term in our new open-access book by Amsterdam Press, “FemWork: Feminist Approaches to Labour in the Digital Economy” is the need of the day. It should manifest in multiple and various forms—to place marginalized workers at the core, and draw on their experiences, aspirations, and realities. The panel for this book launch offers grounded insights from a feminist, academic, activist, and design perspective that can help us think through these inclusive futures and possibly create digital, social, and governance infrastructures of work that are fairer and more meaningful to all stakeholders. 


17:00-17:15 Opening remarks
Prof. Dr. Payal Arora, Erasmus University Rotterdam

17:15-18:00 Panel Discussion
Dr. Niels van Doorn, University of Amsterdam 
Laura Herman, University of Oxford
Dr. Sai Amulya Komarraju, Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad
Aditi Surie, Indian Institute for Human Settlements

Dr Daniel Greene, University of Maryland

Moderator: Prof. Dr. Usha Raman, University of Hyderabad

18:00-18:15 General Discussion
Open to Audience

18:15-18:45 Drinks and Snacks
Open to Audience

Book Info

Feminist Futures of Work: Reimagining Labour in the Digital Economy

Edited by Payal Arora, Usha Raman, René König
Amsterdam University Press, 2023

For marginalized women in the Global South, the Future of Work is already here. What does it look like? Workers, designers, scholars, business, and government folk from various sectors share their grounded speculations on social and digital transformations, carving common ground for a feminist global value chain.

The Future of Work is at the center of debates on the emerging digital society: Which jobs will become obsolete through AI and who will benefit? Can algorithms help to overcome discriminatory human decision-making or will they deepen existing biases? Do novel business models provide progressive opportunities for workers or are they rather tools for their exploitation? While many commentators come with solutions and visions to the table, women workers are often neglected in this conversation. The fact is that women constitute the majority of workers in many Global South industries from garments to the salon services. While vast in numbers, this group has often been sidelined by designers, researchers, and businesses alike. Despite limited access to smartphones, restricted mobility, growing sexual harassment, and gendered legal and social norms, they organize themselves in ways that, if attended to, can demand different questions and more nuanced answers. Access to a digital platform may result in previously unthinkable independence or life-threatening repercussions. They have much to gain but also much to lose. In this volume, workers, designers, scholars, business and government folk from various sectors share their grounded speculations on social and digital transformations, carving common ground for a feminist global value chain.

Why this book?

  • Interdisciplinary / multi-stakeholder approach
  • Bridging audiences with diverse perspectives
  • Practical relevance for decision-makers

It is worth noting that the book themes of the future of work, the Global South, and gig platforms are dominantly driven by either aid agencies/think tank publications targeting the international development sector or corporate texts that focus on new market opportunities such as from McKinsey and Deloitte and pop books on the end of work as we know it, fear/promise of automation, and the radical disruption of AI-enabled tech. Our open-access book bridges these multiple worlds with an audience that cuts across the tech industry, UX designers, development agencies, business folks, and academia through an interdisciplinary undertaking (law, feminism, anthropology, and media studies). Moreover, we position our arguments based on empirical (primarily ethnographic) driven texts, alongside stakeholder voices, and lastly, we take on a feminist approach that is grounded in the makings of not just “femtech” products but alongside, the processes of law, policy, and everyday (data/digital) governance that can make these changes sustainable. These are the unique selling points of the book.

This edited open-access volume builds on a weekly blog series and ongoing field research by our organization, FemLab.Co, an IDRC-funded initiative and project on feminist approaches to the future of work in the Global South. At the heart of this project is societal impact through deep engagements with various stakeholders from 6 different professional sectors—construction, garments, salon services, ride-hailing, artisanal, and sanitation services in Bangladesh and India. We also have established collaborative affiliations with activist organizations and think tanks in Brazil and South Africa and have working relations with indigenous and global tech and design companies. The goal of this edited open-access volume is to create a critical synthesis of reflective voices from different vested actors we have been working with and who are dedicated to transforming the future of work towards a more dignified, inclusive, and ethical practice. 

All contributors are invited authors who contributed a piece for our edited open-access volume. Contributions are organized along four thematic sections (design/networks/governance/visions) and through varied formats (empirical-based chapters, essays, and thought briefs).

Intended audience
Core targeted disciplines in academia: media studies, gender studies, development studies, STS, & ICTD

Core non-academic focus: aid agencies, law and policy institutes, think tanks local/global with a focus on labor and women’s rights/empowerment; platform companies; UX and designers for the ‘next billion users’. 

Amsterdam University Press (AUP) is a leading publisher of academic books, journals and textbooks in the Humanities and Social Sciences. The key aim of AUP is to make current research available to scholars, students, innovators, and the general public. AUP stands for scholarly excellence, global presence, and engagement with the international academic community. Established in 1992, AUP achieves this with a paper and e-format publishing programme of high-quality, peer-reviewed academic books in English. 

This edited book is part of the Digital Studies Series. The book series aims to provide a space for social and cultural research with and about the digital. In particular, it focuses on ambitious and experimental works which explore and critically engage with the roles of digital data, methods, devices and infrastructures in collective life as well as the issues, challenges and troubles that accompany them. The series invites proposals for monographs and edited collections which attend to the dynamics, politics, economics and social lives of digital technologies and techniques, informed by and in conversation with fields such as science and technology studies and new media studies. The series welcomes works which conceptualize, rethink and/or intervene around digitally mediated practices and cultures. It is open to a range of contributions including thoughtful interpretive work, analytical artefacts, creative code, speculative design and/or inventive repurposing of digital objects and methods of the medium.

The book is open access – this will make it freely accessible to audiences across board. AUP works closely with platforms such as JSTOR, the OAPEN Library, and the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB). In 2020, AUP joined the Open Research Library (ORL), part of the Knowledge Unlatched (KU) global initiative for Open Access publishing. AUP is supportive of Green Open Access initiatives and is partnered with Figshare for authors to quickly and efficiently make their manuscripts and supplementary data publicly available.

For more info visit https://www.aup.nl/en 
Digital Studies Series: https://www.aup.nl/en/series/digital-studies

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