Bearing the Brunt of Structural Inequality: Ontological Labor in the Academy
Feminist Philosophy Quarterly
Empirical data show that members of underrepresented and historically marginalized groups in academia undertake many forms of undervalued or unnoticed labor. While the data help to identify that this labor exists, they do not provide a thick description of what the experience is like, nor do they offer a framework for understanding the different kinds of invisible labor that are being undertaken. We identify and analyze a distinct, undervalued, and invisible labor that the data have left
... ta have left unnamed and unmeasured: ontological labor, the work required to manage one's identity and body if either or both do not fit into academic structures, norms, and demands. We argue that ontological labor efforts should be understood as a form of labor. We then provide a characterization of ontological labor, detailing the labor as navigating one's obligations to give and managing entitlements to take. We also highlight the ontological labor that takes place through instances of resistance, such as through complaint or refusals.