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Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellow's Seminar - Historicising Emotions in the Workplace

26th October 2015, 13:00 to 14:00, IAS Seminar Room, Palace Green, Professor Claire Langhamer (University of Sussex)


This seminar paper comes out of a wider project on the emotional politics of Britain after 1945. Essentially Professor Langhamer is interested in the work that emotion does - in framing how people understand the world and their place within it and - crucially - their engagement with civil society. So, for example she looks at the way in which claims about authentic feeling were used to support knowledge claims, to cohere collective organisation, and to facilitate resistance. Part of this project is about the place of emotion within British reconstruction politics - how the post-1945 world was built upon a foundation of feeling; and crucially how the binary opposition between feeling and rationality - the long established basis for gendered, classed and racialised understandings of citizenship - was unravelled in these years. But another aspect of the project is to explore the status of emotion within the world of paid employment at a time of rapid occupational change. And this is what she wants to talk about in this seminar. In particular she wants to think about the intersections between gender, occupational status and feeling.

The post-1945 entry of married women into paid employment, in larger numbers than recorded hitherto, transformed the emotional culture of many workplaces. This was not because women were inherently ‘more emotional’ than men, rather that the ability to juggle home and work – and the public debate that surrounded this struggle - actively contributed to the re-shaping of the boundaries between home life and work life in modern Britain. She therefore wants to use the study of feelings at work to explore shifting occupational hierarchies, the value of different forms of labour and perhaps also ways of conceptualising the nature of labour and the labour process itself. Work with an overtly emotional dimension was perceived as particularly well suited to the aptitudes of women; women were therefore believed to be too emotional to perform higher status work - notably that which involved the management of other workers. It was widely expected that women workers would perform unremunerated emotional labour, and that wives would contribute both emotionally and practically to their husband’s paid employment.

Fellows' seminars take place on Monday lunchtimes in the seminar room at Cosin's Hall.

Places are limited and so any academic colleagues interested in attending a seminar should contact the Institute in advance to reserve a place.

The aim of these seminars is to develop new thinking on the big issues that are of current concern/interest for the Fellows . Each Fellow is asked to present a core idea that informs their current work, or a problem that they are tackling, that could benefit from cross-disciplinary thinking. These seminars are informal and designed to encourage discussion.

Contact enquiries.ias@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.