Manual Labours

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IVOR SOUTHWOOD

Download The Uncomplaining body report.

Ivor Southwood’s publication ‘Non-Stop Inertia’ (2011) published by Zero Books investigates the flexibility, precarity and perpetual crisis of the contemporary worker by drawing on his own experience as a psychiatric nurse, trainee teacher, jobseeker, warehouse operative, writer and street sweeper. Ivor’s book has been essential to the development of Manual Labours, forming the basis for a reading group with artist-researcher Broderick Chow (2013). His sophisticated approach to analysing the everyday offers a crucial way to disseminate research to a diverse audience.

For his work with us on Manual Labours Ivor has produced a newsletter for Worcester commuters called The Source and a new essay called The Uncomplaining Body which will be launched at the opening of The Complaining Body exhibition on 5 February 2016.

The Uncomplaining Body

This essay investigates the culture of a large workplace from the perspective of an outsourced temporary cleaner/porter. The study describes how an atmosphere of transience and paradisciplinary authority ensures the suppression of conflict, and delineates the rigidly patrolled yet unacknowledged barriers – physical, psychological and economic – which impose order and maintain social divisions, even (or especially?) in a supposedly boundaryless and fragmented institution. Central to the preservation of this organisational system is the reduction of the workplace complaint to a passive, personal and fleeting act which can never become active, collective and sustained. The task of the essay is firstly to explore how this power structure presses downward through the organisation and dominates the conditions of outsourced manual workers who are excluded from membership of the institution even as they work within it; and then to speculate on how this structure might be weakened and its oppressive grip broken by a collective force from below.

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