• Doing gender in the ‘new office’

      Hirst, Alison; Schwabenland, Christina; University of Bedfordshire; Anglia Ruskin University (2017-11-09)
      Our paper investigates how gender is performed in the context of an office setting designed to promote intensive, fluid networking. We draw on an ethnographically-oriented study of the move of staff into a new office building constructed primarily from glass, and incorporating open plan offices, diverse collective areas and walking routes. Although the designers aimed to invoke changes in the behaviour of all staff, they conceptualized these changes in masculine terms. We therefore analyse the gender norms materialized by the workspaces of the ‘new office' and how women responded to these. We suggest that the new office encourages an image of the ideal worker which brings together ways of acting and interacting that have been characterised as both masculine and feminine – active movement and spontaneous encounters, but also intensive face-to-face interaction and deep relationship-building. Women are driven into this mode of working in an uncompromising, almost aggressive way, but a straightforward gender-based dynamic does not emerge in their responses, with conventional gender characteristics being reshuffled and recombined.
    • Solidarity with Soufra: dividuality and joint action with Palestinian women refugees

      Schwabenland, Christina; Hirst, Alison; University of Bedfordshire; Anglia Ruskin University (Sage, 2021-10-08)
      Based on an exploratory study of Soufra, a women’s catering social enterprise in the Bourj al Barajneh Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, we analyse how solidarity across difference can be organized. We conceptualize ‘difference’ not in terms of ‘whole’ individuals, but in terms of dividuals, the multiple roles and social positions that individuals occupy; this enables similarities between individuals of different ethnicities, nationalities and statuses to become apparent. We find that, despite their extreme and protracted marginalization, Soufra does not seek to organize solidarity relationships with co-resisters joining their struggle against oppressors. Rather, they initiate exchange relationships with different others via carefully managed impressions of similar dividualities (e.g. professional cooks and businesswomen) and different dividualities (e.g. having refugee status and lacking any citizenship). These encounters provide opportunities for solidarity relationships to be created and underlying cultural predispositions to be transformed. Whether these opportunities are taken up or rejected is dependent, at least to some extent, on the willingness of participants to allow such transformations to occur.