Producing desire: erotic capital and emotional labour in nightlife in southern Spain - Diana García Catena, University of Granada

Event Date: 18 October 2023

Speaker: Diana García Catena, University of Granada

Time: 1:30pm to 3pm (UK time)

Location: Stenhouse Wing, Room No: SW108 or email for Zoom information

Experiences, emotions and affects are central to profit generation in today's economy. In sectors such as hospitality, interaction with customers is essential to produce positive, pleasurable, and memorable experiences. To this end, workers' subjectivity and corporeality are hired, mobilised, controlled, and deployed in the service production. In this seminar the problem of the commodification of affect and emotions in the hospitality sector in
southern Spain is addressed. Focus is on the nightlife sector, in which emotional experiences relate to sexual desire play a central role in attracting and maintaining customers. Thus, the main objective is to describe and analyse the forms of aesthetic and emotional labour that workers display to produce such experiences. This seminar is based on the analysis of in-depth and semistructured interviews conducted with 15 workers with experience in different types of nightlife venues such as nightclubs, pubs, bars, casinos, and bowling alleys. The interviewees are nine women and six men aged 20 to 45, who have occupied one or more working roles such as server, section manager, general manager, public relations and/or 'image-girls'. So how does the sexual take centre stage and become an experience that can be produced and consumed in these venues? Firstly, venues can be understood as social fields in which employers, workers and customers generate the playing rules. Thus, defining the 'atmosphere' or 'vibe' of the venue involves managing who can and cannot be there and what can and cannot be done in the venues. In these spaces, the physical appearance of workers is measured, recruited, compared, mobilised, and deployed in the production of the service. The body shape, the way they dress, comb their hair or wear make-up become erotic capital that is used in the process of emotional production of sexual desire. Likewise, flirting, playing drinking games or having conversations with customers becomes part of the emotional labour deployed in these contexts. Mediated by formal and informal rules, this form of emotional labour needs to be perceived as authentic by customers. To this end, workers bring part of 'themselves' into play in the production of the emotional experience. This kind of emotional labour straddles the line between the intimate and the work-related realms. This blurring of boundaries generates different forms of conflict and tension in both worker-worker and worker-customer relationships.

Published: 3 October 2023

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