Frontiers Augmented highlights selected authors from our issues to create a means for deeper engagement with the content published in the Frontiers Journal. The most recent issue 44.2, edited by Frontiers Co-Editors Darius Bost, Wanda S. Pillow, and former Co-Editor Kimberly M. Jew, highlights author Molly Benitez, Assistant Professor at Portland State University in the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department.

Several years ago, in the middle of dinner with friends, my best friend put her hand on my shoulder and said: “You know, you’re not at work. You don’t have to be so defensive.” I had no idea what she was talking about. I thought I was having a regular conversation with friends, but they all agreed that I was on the defense. Since that night I have thought a lot about how my work has changed me. For nearly a decade I worked as a welder in shops where I was the only non-cis-male (in addition to being a queer person of color). On job sites, I have experienced sexual harassment daily. I have been spat at, my tools stolen, and my work sabotaged. Was I defensive at work? Absolutely— being on the defense is how I survived. But I had never thought about how my work was impacting me? How was it producing and reproducing me? Or, more easily put, how was I becoming my labor?

In “Metabolize Hate or Die of It: Lorde, Labor, and Affect Theory” I utilize Audre Lorde’s short but life-altering work experiences at Keystone Electronics and her concept of metabolization to better describe the process in which we become our labor. What does it mean to metabolize the ‘affects of labor’—the visceral emotions and feelings experienced in and through our work? What is the impact of becoming your labor in a neoliberal society in which wage-labor is inherently exploitative, traumatic, and violent? Lorde is not often thought of in relation to affect theory but this piece is one of many examples of how women of color and feminists of color have long been theorizing affects even as they remain outside the canon of white-western affect theory.

In conjunction with Lorde’s experience, I share an interview with Jae (he/they), a queer, mixed-Black, trans, trades worker. Jae shares how his work has changed him— how it has affected his mental health, his decisions around gender presentation and transition, and how the shifts he sees in himself have impacted his family and home life. What becomes evident through both Lorde and Jae’s experiences is that the work we do has life-altering effects that reverberate beyond ourselves. Sociologist Erving Goffman posits- life is a never-ending play in which people are actors who put on a series of masks to interact with the world; he warns that the masks we put on can become our face.[1] 

The work we do is more than putting on and taking off a mask but is a dialectical process in which workers produce for their work and are in turn produced by that work. An analysis of the ‘affects of labor’ speaks to the physical, emotional, and social adaptations and transformations produced through the very act of working. This piece asks us all, how are you becoming your labor?

[1] Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh, 1956).

Molly Benitez, PhD, is an assistant professor at Portland State University in the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department. Within their research they work to trace an alternative genealogy of affect theory through the work of women of color and queer of color theorists. Their current book manuscript utilizes ethnographic and autoethnographic interviews with LGBTQ+ trades workers, specifically Black, Indigenous, and people of color, to analyze how the “affects of labor” produce and reproduce workers, their families, and communities. A former trades worker, Molly is the cofounder of Reckoning Trade Project and the virtual project Junqtion.

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