In this panel, we intend to present selected case studies in which working techniques, social management of wage workers, as well as worker’s uprisings and resistances against authorities are perceived through the lens of body history.
Analyzing and comparing specific transformations in labour techniques around the world can lead to a better understanding of the physical impacts of technological advancements and Western influence on workers.v
Workers bodies have been subject to various controlling schemes and management techniques by public authorities and private actors, what Michel Foucault calls “biopower” : “the set of mechanisms through which the basic biological features of the human species became the object (…) of a general strategy of power ». By comparing different examples of workers management by social elites through their bodies, this panel could help us understand how bodily aspects of the worker’s self were apprehended in various specific cases.
Workers around the globe also rose occasionally against authorities, using multiple modes of resistance. Whether they are studied as single examples stemming from a local situation, or as parts of a much larger discontent, workers acts of self-assertion provide interesting outputs in body history.
By spreading their messages through visual propaganda often celebrating an idealized worker’s body, unions and leftist political parties contributed to determine so-called “proletarian” standards of beauty, which can also be analyzed in a comparative approach.
By combining these multiple perspectives, we hope to attain a better understanding of working class body techniques, physical (self-)perception and representation during the Colonial era.
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