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Working Bodies: Interactive Service Employment and Workplace Identities

ISBN: 978-1-4051-5978-4
284 pages
October 2009, Wiley-Blackwell
Working Bodies: Interactive Service Employment and Workplace Identities (1405159782) cover image
Through a series of case studies of low-status interactive and embodied servicing work, Working Bodies examines the theoretical and empirical nature of the shift to embodied work in service-dominated economies.
  • Defines ‘body work’ to include the work by service sector employees on their own bodies and on the bodies of others
  • Sets UK case studies in the context of global patterns of economic change
  • Explores the consequences of growing polarization in the service sector
  • Draws on geography, sociology, anthropology, labour market studies, and feminist scholarship
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List of Illustrations.

Series Editors' Preface.

Preface and Acknowledgements.

1 Service Employment and the Commoditization of the Body.

Part I Locating Service Work.

2 The Rise of the Service Economy.

3 Thinking Through Embodiment: Explaining Interactive Service Employment.

Part II High-Touch Servicing Work in Private and Public Spaces.

4 Up Close and Personal: Intimate Work in the Home.

5 Selling Bodies I: Sex Work.

6 Selling Bodies II: Masculine Strength and Licensed Violence.

Part III High-Touch Servicing Work in Specialist Spaces.

7 Bodies in Sickness and in Health: Care Work and Beauty Work.

8 Warm Bodies: Doing Deference in Routine Interactive Work.

9 Conclusions: Bodies in Place.

References.

Index.

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Linda McDowell is Professor of Human Geography and Director of the Graduate School of Geography at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of St. John's College, where she is also Director of the Research Centre.  Widely published, McDowell's books include Capital Culture: Gender at Work in the City (1997), Redundant Masculinities? Employment Change and White Working Class Youth (2003) and Hard Labour (2005).
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  • Defines ‘body work’ to include the work by service sector employees on their own bodies and on the bodies of others
  • Sets UK and US case studies in the context of global patterns of economic change
  • Explores the consequences of growing polarization in the service sector
  • Discusses the methodological issues raised in case study and qualitative research
  • Draws on geography, sociology, anthropology, labour market studies, and feminist scholarship
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"Nevertheless, the book is accessibly written, and the variety of themes it explores will ensure it has broad appeal among undergraduates and postgraduates studying social division, gender, service work, labour relations and their relationships. The book also provides academics working in and across the disciplines of sociology and human geography with a good overview of research into interactive work and its implications in contemporary society." (Work, Employment & Society, 25 March 2011)

"Between the covers of this beautifully crafted book is a thoughtful, innovative, and thorough analysis of high-touch interactive service work that draws on numerous case studies and ethnographies, mostly from the United Kingdom, and on the author's own original research. . . . This ambitious book is insightful and informative, and it makes a valuable contribution to the study of work in contemporary capitalist societies". (Canadian Journal of Sociology, 2010)

There are many books on service employment, but very few like this one. In this beautifully written and thoughtful book Linda McDowell shows, in turn, how such employment should not be seen as a new phenomenon, brings the cares, emotions and exploitations that go into servicing the bodies of others (children, consumers, elders, families, buyers of sexual services) close into view, and outlines a complex range of attributes - from skills and capabilities to personal and bodily features - that now count as essential employment requirements. The humdrum comes alive in the hands of this skilled ethnographer of work. Ash Amin, Durham University

Linda McDowell's state-of-the-art discussion demonstrates not only the importance of embodiment for current understandings of work but also the centrality of the workplace for the study of embodiment. Her analysis of high-touch interactive service work is comprehensive, concise and compelling, drawing on a wealth of case studies as well as her own original research. This timely volume raises a host of fascinating issues and will be an invaluable resource across the social sciences.
Miriam Glucksmann, University of Essex

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