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Title: "Are you being served?" : gendered aesthetics among retail workers
Author: Walls, Stephen
ISNI:       0000 0004 2714 3378
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 2007
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This thesis explores the gendered nature of aesthetics within a particular service sector context - fashion retail. Attention focuses upon how gender structures the 'aesthetic labour' (Warhurst et al, 2000; Nickson et al 2001 ; Witz et al, 2003) of workers and in turn how aesthetics must be located within the wider sexual economy. This is achieved through incorporating the concept of aesthetic labour with the practice of 'sexual service' (Adkins, 1995). The notion of sexual service is expanded to adequately account for gendered variations. Adkins uses 'sexual service' to explain the labour of female employees’ but fails to recognise that men too perform sexual servicing. Through linking and extending these two concepts we are able to gain valuable insight into the gendered labour performances of both women and men and how gender, sexuality and other aspects of identity become part of the product' on offer in selling environments. In addition to this I also examine the nature of 'customer service' within this setting and the way employees perceive customers as 'powerful', 'pleasurable’ and 'problems'. Literature elsewhere has argued that control and surveillance are extensive in particular service sector occupations. It is my aim here to explore the mechanisms for control and monitoring as they apply to retail workers in this environment and the potential for employees to develop strategies of resistance and form 'tacit alliances' (Mulholland, 2004).Finally, this thesis aims to consider the extent to which aesthetic labour can become 'mobile' and move beyond the workplace and into other social spheres. This phenomenon is complex as various 'hidden injuries' (Sennett and Cobb, 1977) are inflicted upon workers and yet they manage to derive status, benefits and rewards as a result of their 'extra labour'. The nature of these 'hidden injuries' and the abilities for workers to capitalise upon the 'mobility' of their labour also provide the focus for investigation here. Using ethnographic data and existing research this thesis argues that gender remains a crucial component in structuring the experiences of service workers investigation into the social relations of service work.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available