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Agency at Work

Ethnographies in/of Late Industrialism

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Edited By Monika Baer

Rooted in anthropological and ethnological traditions, this volume offers analytical insights into the workings of agency in late industrialism revealed in interactions between a coal power plant and a local community in Opole Silesia, in southwestern Poland. In this context, the authors show by the use of the ethnographic method, how variables and forces of various scales shape political events centered around the power plant; grassroots economic dynamics and entrepreneurship; the local semiosphere uniting the divided social group; affective dimensions of a social protest; (un)doing gender in the industrial workplace; and the mobile livelihoods of migrant industrial workers. By doing so, they concretize in different ways both the concept of late modernity and agency.

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Femininities in the Face of Large Industrial Investments (Ewa Kruk)

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Ewa Kruk1

Abstract: The article analyzes (re)constructions of femininity taking place in a male-dominated work environment under the influence of a large industrial investment exemplified by Opole Power Plant extension. Putting the reasoning in the context of findings made so far in this field, it shows how the interviewed women (re)construct their femininity under the influence of strategically set goals. By moving on gender continuum between femininity and masculinity, they can expand the area of their agency.

Keywords: agency, femininity, gender, industrial investment, male-dominated work environment.

Assuming that gender is a cultural performance, women and men can “play” it in a way that goes beyond traditional understanding (Butler 1993). Women, insincerely quoting gender norms, using, among other things, parodies, or masquerades, create realizations of femininity that deviate from the socially approved ideal. Consequently, they can occupy various positions on the gender continuum, construct their femininity differently depending on the circumstances, and keep it in a state of “fluidity.” Views of femininity referring to biological, cultural, or psychological aspects – especially the different roles of women and men in reproduction – determine the fundamental difference between genders (Yanagisako, Collier 1987: 30). An important dimension of constructing femininity is, for instance, the category of beauty, which invokes several disciplinary practices aimed at creating specific behaviors and gestures. According to ←121 | 122→Sandra Lee Bartky (2007: 52), everyone is born a woman or a man, which does not automatically connotes being male or female.

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