The People vs. The Culture Elite

NLF Highlights for January

With the current installment of our newsletter, we bring you advance reading from the winter 2022 issue of New Labor Forum, on press now! If you find what we offer here thought-provoking, please support our work by subscribing today. The new issue features a cluster of articles examining the relationship between cultural workers and the wealthy elite who control arts and cultural institutions all over the world. In “Decolonizing the Cultural Workplace: A New Organizing Front”, Andrew Ross notes the fact that museum collections in rich countries are “bulging with colonial plunder. ” Campaigns for their return, he argues, are but one step in a multi-pronged effort to wrest control of cultural institutions from wealthy board members and donors who handily use philanthropy as a cover for questionable business practices. Protecting the rights of workers is central to the decolonization project, Ross suggests. In a sidebar to Ross’ essay, NLF Associate Editor Kitty Weiss Krupat chronicles an unprecedented wave of organizing at some of the most prestigious museums in the U.S. And in a further article, dancer Megan Wright takes us into a world where wealthy patrons swoon over the mysteries of artistic creation while dancers work long hours at low pay, with meager benefits, no job security, and little protection against sexual harassment. Wright traces the history and current state of support for the arts in the U.S. while also arguing for community-based arts organizations that strive to democratize culture.

And on the theme of culture, we invite you to attend a virtual public program, hosted by the journal, featuring Pulitzer Prize winning poet Gregory Pardlo. In conversation with New Labor Forum Editor Paula Finn, Pardlo will weigh in on whether he considers the contemporary U.S. poetry scene to be experiencing a sort of golden age of multi-racial, working-class-infused poetics. The son of a former PATCO striker, Pardlo will also read from his compelling, lyrical work.

We end with the release of the latest episode of our podcast, Reinventing Solidarity. Here, Heather Berg, author of PORN WORK: Sex, Labor, and Late Capitalism, discusses with reviewer Whitney Strub her insights into work, workers, and organizing in the 12 billion-dollar U.S. porn industry.

Table of Contents

  1. Decolonizing the Cultural Workplace: A New Organizing Front / Andrew Ross, New Labor Forum
  2. “Winter After the Strike: A Poetry Reading by Pulitzer winner Gregory Pardlo” / CUNY SLU Virtual Event
  3. Reinventing Solidarity Episode 24: “Porn Work: Sex, Labor, and Late Capitalism”

by Andrew Ross, New Labor Forum

Decolonizing is hard work. Nor is there any clear end to it. Ousting the occupier was only the beginning, and, arguably, colonialism’s cultural residue—deeply imprinted through the scourge of racial hierarchy—has been the most difficult to erode. We will be grappling with its ongoing legacy for the long term. But there can be no doubt about the stepped-up momentum in recent years.

Read the full article here


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This episode draws on New Labor Forum’s cutting-edge Books and the Arts section edited by Samir Sonti. Here, the book in question is PORN WORK: Sex, Labor, and Late Capitalism, by Heather Berg. Reviewer Whitney Strub discusses with Berg her insights into work and workers in the 12 billion-dollar porn industry. Workers laboring and organizing in this industry, Berg notes, have largely been dismissed and even scorned by organized labor and the Marxist Left. I trust our listeners will find what Berg says revealing about the priorities and predispositions of porn workers, as well as failures of labor and the left to meet the challenges of 21st century capitalism.

Listen here: SLU.CUNY.EDU/PODCAST

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