The Showroom

Manual Labours: The Complaining Body, Reading Group 1

Tuesday 24 February 2015, 6–8pm

Free, but booking essential: [email protected]


The Manual Labours reading groups inform current research and working with UK complaints teams expanding explorations into the implications of work dependent of emotional and affective labour, where the body is neglected, often left at the door as sedentary, computer-based working commences.

In line with this enquiry the reading group will be led by Sweta Rajan-Rankin drawing on her research into work-life conflicts in Indian call centres. Sweta Ranjan-Rankin has selected two texts: Kiran Mirchandani, Gender Eclipsed? Racial Hierarchies in Transnational Call Centre Work, 2010 and Arlie Hochschild, Emotion Work, Feeling Rules and Social Structure, 1979.

The event is part of the second stage of the practice-based research project Manual Labours initiated by Sophie Hope and Jenny Richards exploring physical and emotional relationships to work and focuses artistic activity in exploring the complaining body through a series of workshops with complaints teams across different sectors within the UK. These workshops will inform three new commissions by visual artist Sarah Browne, choreographer Hamish MacPherson and writer Ivor Southwood and a programme of film clubs, reading groups, exhibitions and published texts developed in partnership with The Showroom, London; In Certain Places, Preston; and Movement and Division of Labour, Worcester.

Sweta Rajan-Rankin is a lecturer in Social Policy at Brunel University, London. She is primarily interested in transnational corporations, globalization, worker identity and work-life integration in developing countries. Her DPhil thesis from Oxford University titled 'The balancing act? Work-life conflict and balance in Indian call centres' explored the shifting work-life experiences of globally outsourced call centre workers. Emotional labour, humour as a tool for resistance, gendering of organisations and unpacking paternalistic practices inform much of her research. Viewing both 'culture' and 'gender' as post-structuralist spaces where identity is being constantly reshaped and redefined, she is interested in the ways in which 'westernised' work practices are localised in developing countries.

Manual Labours is supported by Arts Council England's Grants for the Arts and Birkbeck University Widening Participation. To keep up to date or contribute to the project please email [email protected] or visit

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    Event Manual Labours: Thunderous grumbling under cover of darkness | Performance workshop

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    Exhibition Manual Labours: The Complaining Body with Sarah Browne, Hamish MacPherson and Ivor Southwood

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    Event Manual Labours: Report to an Academy | Film screening and discussion

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    Audio Manual Labours: The Complaining Body: Sarah Browne in Conversation with Saoirse Wall

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    Text Manual Labours: The Complaining Body, Manuals and Publications

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    Event Manual Labours:The Office(less) Christmas Party