Smart Labor, Smart Worker: Extraction, Resistance, and Solidarity in Digital Southeast Asia


ACLS Fellowship Program


Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies


What’s so smart about smart cities? In 2018, the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) launched a plan to develop 26 pilot “smart cities” via information and communication technology (ICTs). “Smart Labor, Smart Worker” analyzes these pilot cities as assemblages of feminized labor that are extracted from Southeast Asian workers and distributed to the Global North. Through interdisciplinary methods of computational humanities, close readings, and ethnography, this research examines: (1) how state and corporate discourses on smart cities render as machinic the reproductive labor of remote teachers and caregivers, and (2) how digital workers in Manila and Bangkok assert the affective complexity of their labor. By developing the concept of smart labor, this manuscript theorizes the emerging, ICT-enabled modes of capitalist labor extraction, and the vibrant ways that workers craft collaborative strategies for survival.