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’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: Dreaming, Doing and Work (Talk by Cressida Heyes)

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Nash Lecture Theatre (2.31) King's College London

Strand

London

WC2R 2LS

United Kingdom

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In this talk, I am interested in projects that imagine a future without sleep, or with a significantly diminished need for sleep, and what these say about our philosophical understandings of temporality, agency, and embodiment. For example, militaries conduct research into minimizing the human need for sleep, while transhumanists try to biohack it; science fiction presents the Sleepless as a superior elite. In a sleepless utopia, human beings, we infer, could fight longer and work harder. This vision, I argue, is closely linked to contemporary work patterns: “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” busy and important people like to say. This talk shows how sleep figures in a cultural imaginary most pronounced in the UK and US but alive and well in Canada, where neoliberal norms of work inflect understandings of time and agency. These norms are profoundly individualizing and depoliticizing, and representations of sleep are increasingly deployed within existing scripts of class, race, and gender stratification. In particular, I argue that attenuated concepts of agency as merely doing—understood at the limit as simply being awake—are used to represent any paid labour as virtuous, and any form of dreaming (literal or political) as outside the realm of worthy action.

Cressida Heyes is Professor of Political Science and former Professor of Philosophy and Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Gender and Sexuality at the University of Alberta, Canada. She is the author of Self-Transformations: Foucault, Ethics, and Normalized Bodies (Oxford University Press) and Line Drawings: Defining Women through Feminist Practice (Cornell University Press), as well as a number of essays in journals including Signs and Hypatia. She has edited or co-edited volumes of essays on Wittgenstein and political philosophy, gender and philosophy, and feminist analysis of cosmetic surgery. She is currently completing a book of essays that uses both genealogy and phenomenology to examine liminal experiences such as everyday drug use, sexual violence against unconscious victims, and childbirth. Her next project is to write a feminist philosophy of sleep.



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Nash Lecture Theatre (2.31) King's College London

Strand

London

WC2R 2LS

United Kingdom

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