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Accepted Paper:

The embodied labour of hope in photographic performances among young women in Yaounde, Cameroon  
Ewa Majczak (London School of Economics)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper I examine labour of hope for upward social mobility through employment and marriage as it comes to be embodied in and through photographic performances that young women stage in the photographic studios in Yaounde, Cameroon.

Paper long abstract:

Against the backdrop of patriarchy, gerontocracy and economic and political decay in Cameroonian postcolony young Bamileke women are struggling to attain upward social mobility through employment and marriage. As they are stuck in what Honwana called waithood (2012) they navigate their everyday through work and leisure. One form of leisure are photographic performances staged in front of a camera of their phone or at a photographic studio. During such performances young women dress up and pose so as to resemble wealthy and married women; that is, as having attained social adulthood through work and marriage they are in pursuit of.

As young women perform various desired social roles in photographic performances they learn to embody a particular orientation to the future that moves the present moment forward (Miyazaki 2004). In other words through these performances young women embody the hope that their desired futures and aspirations for wealth, employment and marriage are actually possible. Yet in the economic, social and political context such aspirations are not close at hand. Thus embodied hope emerges as a form of affective labour that molds female subjectivities; and makes young women attached to compromised conditions of possibility that typify affective landscape of late capitalism (Berlant 2011).

Panel Irre06a
Refusing to fail: hope/aspiration as labour I
  Session 1 Thursday 1 April, 2021, -