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Scholars@Hallwalls: Erin Hatton, “Working for Rehab: Labor, Addiction, and Salvation in American Racial Capitalism”

December 3, 2021 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Please join us as we return to in-person talks in the cinema space at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center!

The Salvation Army operates a nationwide network of addiction treatment programs for the poor, providing free housing, food, Bible study, and sober living while requiring residents to work eight hours a day without pay. They call it “work therapy” and they are not alone. Work therapy is the centerpiece of many programs designed for a wide range of marginalized and vulnerable populations, including people with addiction but also people with disabilities, people without stable housing, and people entangled in the criminal justice system. Governing poverty and extracting labor by categorizing unpaid work as “therapy” is not entirely new but, Hatton argues, it has been transformed and expanded amidst the racialized poverty governance, mass incarceration, economic precarity and coercion, and evangelism that characterize contemporary U.S. racial capitalism.

Through extensive interviews with “clients” of the Salvation Army’s work therapy programs, Hatton examines workers’ experiences within them, uncovering how these highly marginalized workers make sense of their rehab labor: how they articulate “work therapy’s” ideological foundations, how they accept and/or challenge its terms and conditions, and why, in the end, they usually put up with it. Such ideological negotiations help us understand not only the perspectives of these particular workers, but also how many workers wrestle with their place in racial capitalism.

*Following the University at Buffalo’s on-campus protocols, beginning October 1, all attendees will be required to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to be admitted to Scholars@Hallwalls. A vaccination card, a photo of a vaccination card, an Excelsior Pass or a digital vaccine card are all acceptable. Attendees should be prepared to show photo ID as well. We kindly request that attendees wear masks indoors during the talk in the cinema for the safety and well-being of all guests.

This event will be simultaneously live-streamed. Click here to watch (the talk will begin at ~4:15pm).

About Erin Hatton, Associate Professor of Sociology

Erin’s research is centered in the sociology of work, while also extending into the fields of race and gender, culture, labor, law, and social policy. Her publications include the recent book Coerced: Work Under Threat of Punishment (University of California Press, 2020) and The Temp Economy: From Kelly Girls to Permatemps in Postwar America (Temple University Press, 2011). Erin also edited Labor and Punishment: Work In and Out of Prison (UC Press, 2021), an interdisciplinary volume examining the multiple and multi-directional intersections between the carceral state and labor and employment in the U.S. today.


December 3, 2021
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Event Category:


Humanities Institute


Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center
341 Delaware Avenue
Buffalo, NY United States
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