Faculty Publications


Choreographing social reproduction: Making personal protective equipment and gender during a neoliberal pandemic

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Gender, Work and Organization


Feminist scholars explore the gendered aspects of social reproduction within neoliberal contexts where the responsibility for reproducing daily and intergenerational life is shifted onto individuals and civil society groups. Using qualitative data from 665 self-administered online questionnaires and 78 interviews with individual makers living in the United States who fabricated and distributed personal protective equipment (PPE) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we consider the gendered contours of this socially reproductive labor that emerged at the household and community levels in response to a pandemic that has been transformed by decades of neoliberal governance strategies. As makers creatively utilized multiple kinds of labor to provide PPE for others, they both reproduced and subverted gendered inequalities in their households and communities. We draw on the “choreography of care work” literature to develop a conceptual framework for future considerations of social reproduction that highlights how its often ignored intricacies are centrally important to how gendered inequalities are reproduced and/or reworked amid disasters. Like a complex dance that is rewritten and enacted in emergent manners, makers creatively deployed multiple kinds of labor within shifting networks of people, technologies, and institutions to ensure social reproduction during the ongoing pandemic.


Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology

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