A Hammer With Which To Shape It: Art and the Human Voice in the Global Labor Struggle

Posted in Events


On March 19, 2012, Mike Daisey delivered a long-scheduled talk at Georgetown as part of the Kalmanovitz Initiative’s Labor Lab series, which aims to look at work and the dignity of labor in a changing economy.

As Jennifer Luff, KI’s Research Director, noted in her opening remarks, when we invited Mike Daisey to speak at Georgetown, “we wanted him to help us think about the power that art has to make what is invisible, visible; to give voice to the voiceless; to create a human connection across the international supply chain, linking consumers to workers on the other side of the world.” Daisey’s show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” brought broad media attention to the experiences of factory workers in China and helped audiences envision the people who build our laptops and cell phones. Thus the title of the talk was “A Hammer With Which to Shape It: Art and the Human Voice in the Global Labor Struggle.”

Of course, during the final days before March 19, the context of Mike Daisey’s talk changed quite radically. As Luff explained, “On Friday, March 16, the ‘This American Life’ show retracted its January 6 story [based on ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs’], and the radio show ‘Marketplace’ also aired a report contradicting Daisey’s account. ‘This American Life’ concluded that Daisey was not honest in what he told the show about his research in China.”

And although, as our Executive Director Joe McCartin noted, this series of events “left us scratching our heads and scrambling a bit,” we moved forward on the premise that “… unexpected events provide unexpected opportunities, and we believe the events of the past several days offer us the opportunity for an unusually deep and searching discussion…dealing with such things as truth, power, and social justice, the kinds of things that deserve deep discussion at a great university.”

To read about Mike Daisey’s talk and better understand the ongoing debate, check out this compilation of news coverage:
The Atlantic, by Rebecca Rosen
The Hoya, by Sarah Patrick
Woolly Mammoth Blog
Georgetown Voice, by Vanya Mehta
DCist, by Benjamin Freed
Georgetown University
Washington Post, by Erik Wemple
Washington Post, The Reliable Source
Washington City Paper, by Ally Schweitzer
Washington City Paper, by Chris Kilmek
The Washingtonian, by Sophie Gilbert
Reuters, by Jack Shafer
Reuters, by Mike Elk