The Comedy of Post-Fordism: Labor, Leisure and Humor in Contemporary Visual Culture
This project will examine continuities and discontinuities of comic genres between the Fordist era of standardized, automated labour, on the one hand, and post-Fordism’s emphasis on flexibility, affect and precarity on the other. The comedy of Fordism was defined in large part by cinema and in particular the genre of slapstick, in which human bodies rebelled against the standardization and division of labour demanded by spaces like the factory or technologies like the assembly line. Whether it be Chaplin’s over-worked Tramp, shooting down the assembly line in Modern Times, or Keaton’s impossibly graceful, deadpan automaton, slapstick revealed cinema’s dialectical relationship to Fordism as both automated, divisible and factory-based vision and anarchic disruption and exaggeration. When IBM chose to advertise its first personal computer in the early 1980s, it is therefore surprising that the company chose the figure of the Tramp as its salesman, especially since the PC played an essential role in shifting the nature of work from divisibility and repetition to creativity and contingency, qualities that would define the post-Fordist era as defined by theorists such as Paolo Virno and Christian Marazzi. How and why do filmmakers, designers or artists turn to slapstick, seemingly defined by the jerky, corporeal and cinematic rhythms of industrialism, in order to understand or challenge post-Fordism? What comic forms might define the specific rhythms of post-Fordism’s affective and immaterial modes of work? This project will examine films, television series, video games and advertisements that comically re-imagine contemporary labour between slapstick disruption and digital glitch.
This project is funded by a University of Aberdeen Elphinstone Scholarship. An Elphinstone Scholarship covers the cost of tuition fees, whether Home, EU or Overseas.
Selection will be made on the basis of academic merit.