We’re Not Dreamers, We’re Doers: Sleep in the Neoliberal Imaginary
Free Public Lecture
In this talk, Cressida J Heyes explores projects that imagine a future without sleep, or with a significantly diminished need for sleep, and what these say about our understandings of temporality, agency and embodiment.
For example, militaries conduct research into minimising 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, Heyes argues, is closely linked to neoliberal 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 United States but alive and well, according to Heyes’ archive, in Canada, the UK and Australia, where neoliberal norms of work inflect understandings of time and agency. These norms are profoundly individualising and depoliticising, and representations of sleep are increasingly deployed within existing scripts of class, race and gender stratification. In particular, she argues 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.
Includes a Q&A.
Cressida J Heyes is Professor of Philosophy and Political Science at the University of Alberta, Canada.
Introduced by Dr Karen Jones. Chaired by Dr Joe Latham.
Professor Cressida J Heyes, Professor of Philosophy and Political Science
Professor Cressida J Heyes
Professor of Philosophy and Political Science
University of Alberta
Cressida J Heyes is Professor of Philosophy and Political Science at the University of Alberta, Canada. She is the author or editor of a number of books, including: *SelfTransformations: Foucault, Ethics, and Normalized Bodies* (Oxford University Press, 2007); *Line Drawings: Defining Women through Feminist Practice* (Cornell University Press, 2000); *Cosmetic Surgery: A Feminist Primer* (Ashgate 2009); and *Philosophy and Gender: Critical Concepts* (Routledge 2011). She is currently writing a book about liminal experiences and starting another that is a pop cultural, feminist account of the politics of sleep. A first essay that crosses both projects appeared in January 2016 in the journal *Signs:* “Dead to the World: Rape, Unconsciousness, and Social Media” offers a phenomenology of the harms of sexual assault while unconscious in the context of the circulation of images of victims.