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Aesthetic labour in the global economy: bodily transformations and value in the service sector 
Claudia Liebelt (FU Berlin)
Anne Kukuczka (University of Zurich)
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Thursday 25 July, -
Time zone: Europe/Madrid
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Short Abstract:

This panel examines embodied and multisensorial aesthetics in the global service sector. Drawing on ethnographies of workers' experiences of navigating labour markets, it seeks to highlight the role of bodily transformations and aesthetic labour for investigating power dynamics and labour chains.

Long Abstract:

This panel examines the role of aesthetics in the making of personnel for the global service economy. Rather than based on an increase in knowledge and technological growth, as posited by mainstream economics, the tertiarization of the global economy is linked to an undoing of sustainable ecologies and local livelihoods. Scholars have examined processes of commercialisation and professionalisation in intimate services that are tied to postcolonial, gendered, and racialized inequalities. In urban centres, intimate and representational service work, such as (hotel) housekeeping, beauty service, domestic, sex or retail work are often carried out by migrant workers or those from disadvantaged social strata. To compete for these jobs, prospective labourers are commonly required to transform their self-representation and appearance to project the “right” kind of subjectivity before, during, and after recruitment. Recruitment itself might form part of comprehensive labour chains and migration infrastructures that extract further value from workers with the promise of enhancing competitiveness. Along these chains, multiple actors participate in the reshaping of bodies and the creation of desirable subjects, based on projections of modernity, cosmopolitanism, and urbanism. How do prospective workers experience and navigate this terrain to fulfil dreams, improve their lives, and gain access to service sector jobs? We invite contributions that explore the multisensorial aesthetic labour which forms part of these jobs and global labour chains, proposing that the production of affective body images is integral to the understanding (and undoing) of power dynamics in the global economy.

Accepted papers:

Session 1 Thursday 25 July, 2024, -