Work in Progress: A Humanities Conference

deadline for submissions: 
May 22, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Tufts Graduate Humanities Conference
contact email: 

(Please note that the tenth Tufts Graduate Humanities Conference will be held *in person* on October 20, 2023 at Tufts University’s Medford Campus.)

“Ah! How cheerfully we consign ourselves to perdition!” exclaims Ishmael in Melville’s Moby-Dick, lamenting the “universal thump” of work that we tolerate only for the promise of “being paid.” Ishmael makes it clear that work—and its compensation—is full of paradox and contradiction, an ambivalent source of enjoyment and suffering incompletely rationalized by a financial transaction. 

The goal of this tenth Tufts Graduate Humanities Conference is to examine the paradoxical concept of work in all of its social, political, aesthetic, and environmental registers in order to deepen the ongoing reconsideration of its place in our lives. We invite papers from graduate students across the humanities that investigate work and its attendant problems and possibilities. We encourage papers from all corners of the humanities, from English to Theatre & Performance Studies to Anthropology. 

Recent events—the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing economic volatility, and social and political upheaval chief among them—have heightened the sense of contradiction that Ishmael identifies as inherent in our conception of work. Such contradiction and antagonism has prompted a reevaluation of what work we do, how we do that work, and why that work matters. Part of this examination requires us to question how we define and utilize the concept of work in the first place. Perhaps other concepts like labor, action, or production nuance work in meaningful ways; perhaps they eclipse work’s usefulness. Rather than seeing work’s conceptual constraints as limitations, we see them as opportunities to more deeply explore how we make ourselves and our world. 

Papers might engage the conference’s topic in many ways:

  • Histories of labor movements (e.g., university labor, anti-/de-/post-colonialism, etc.)

  • The aesthetics of working 

  • Representations of hidden labor

  • Work and anti-work politics

  • Sex work

  • Social reproduction

  • Literary “works” and the “work” that they “do”

  • Work and the nonhuman world; work in the Anthropocene

  • Dis/ability and debility

  • Housework/domestic labor

  • Imperialism, colonialism, and slavery

  • The process of “working through” something

  • Time and chronicity

  • Futurity, hope, or possibility

The tenth Tufts Graduate Humanities Conference will be held in person on October 20, 2023 at Tufts University’s Medford Campus. Please send proposals to by May 22, 2023. In your proposal, include a title, a brief abstract of no more than 300 words, and a short biography including your university and department affiliation. Please reach out if you have any questions.