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Symbolic Aesthetic Labor

Mon, August 22, 8:30 to 10:10am, TBA


Aesthetic labor, as a fairly recent theoretical tradition, observes the stylization and maintenance of the body. It recognizes the processes and mechanisms through which the physical body generates and leverages looks, feelings and relationships in the paid workforce. This paper offers a synthesis of the aesthetic labor literature that makes clear the need for an intersectional approach to the study of aesthetics in the workplace. It brings aesthetic labor in conversation with tokenism in an effort to illuminate an unobserved phenomenon of minorities in majority companies that relates to representative politics. The consideration of tokenism pushes aesthetic labor to recognize the potential of certain bodies to act as signifiers that enable them to serve a symbolic function for an organization. Symbolic aesthetic labor refers to the representative power of namely ‘looking good’ or rather, ‘looking right’ in service of a company’s image.


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