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The apparatus of social reproduction describes the process by which knowledge production contributes to oppressive conditions. This article explains and defines this process through the application of a critical theoretical lens informed the Foucauldian concept of apparatus or dispositif and social reproduction as developed by feminist activists and intellectuals. This process has a notable influence on the political economic conditions of transgender women, conditions that include disproportionate reliance on the use of criminalized economies such as sex work. Social workers inadvertently influence this process through an overreliance on broad categorizations for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer populations, which impede our ability to adequately assess such complex oppressive social relationships. Increasing the profession’s familiarity and competence with critical theory is necessary to reduce our participation in such processes and identify effective interventions for this population. Presenting a review of social work literature and a discussion of the proposed lens, the following seeks to illuminate the apparatus of social reproduction and explain how broad social categorization of transgender women is problematic. The authors recommend the adoption of the proposed lens as a tool social workers can use to better assess their research and practice and better understand the complexities of power and exploitation.


Originally published in:

Lane, W. A., & Seelman, K. L. The Apparatus of Social Reproduction: Uncovering the Work Functions of Transgender Women. Affilia, online first Jan. 10, 2018. doi:

(c) The Authors.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

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