Manufacturing the future: cultures of production for the Anthropocene
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Debates about the future of manufacturing are taking place in many national contexts. With the latest scares about the impact of 21st century technological change—AI, robotics, algorithms—on jobs, the once privileged status of manufacturing as a generator of secure employment is under fire. In Australia, every plant closure or latest downturn in employment prompts a return to the question of whether the nation needs a manufacturing sector at all? The overarching narrative of decline signals the economic death knell for many regions that grew, along with manufacturing, during the long boom (more recently dubbed The Great Acceleration). Today, with recent plant closures in the foreign owned automotive industry and the shedding of 200,000 jobs (or 20 per cent of the manufacturing workforce) between 2008 and 2015, a frightening vision looms of a hollowed out Australian economy with an almost absent manufacturing sector.
But while the apparent invisibility of a buoyant manufacturing culture is worrisome, manufacturing in Australia is far from dead. In this lecture Professor Katherine Gibson approaches the issue of a manufacturing future for Australia by asking: What kinds of manufacturing cultures might be up to the challenges of the Anthropocene? She presents initial findings from qualitative research she is conducting with colleagues at Western Sydney University and the University of Newcastle on a range of innovative manufacturing enterprises. This project is exploring whether there are businesses in Australia that genuinely sustain equitable communities and healthy ecologies while remaining financially viable. The research is framed by the diverse economies research agenda which opens analysis to the muliplicity of ways of producing and distributing new wealth and seeks to displace the primacy of an abstracted and capitalocentric model of enterprise behaviour.
Katherine Gibson is a Professorial Research Fellow in the Institute for Culture and Society at the Western Sydney University. She is an economic geographer with an international reputation for innovative research on economic transformation and over 30 years’ experience of working with communities to build resilient economies. As J.K. Gibson-Graham, the collective authorial presence she shares with the late Julie Graham (Professor of Geography, University of Massachusetts Amherst), her books include The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It): A Feminist Critique of Political Economy (Blackwell 1996) and A Postcapitalist Politics (University of Minnesota Press, 2006). Her most recent books are Take Back the Economy: An Ethical Guide for Transforming Our Communities, co-authored with Jenny Cameron and Stephen Healy (University of Minnesota Press, 2013), Making Other Worlds Possible: Performing Diverse Economies, co-edited with Gerda Roelvink and Kevin St Martin (University of Minnesota Press, 2015) and Manifesto For Living in the Anthropocene, co-edited with Deborah Bird Rose and Ruth Fincher (Punctum Press, 2015).
*This event will be delivered through the medium of English.
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