Neutral Accent: How Language, Labor, and Life Become Global
A. Aneesh is Director of the Institute of World Affairs and Associate Professor of Sociology and Global Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. He is the author of
Nightly Clashes: Diurnal Body, Nocturnal Labor, Neutral Markets
This chapter starts with a puzzle: Why is there a total absence, in thought and in practice, of any collective struggle against the graveyard shift worldwide? It explores the contemporary globalization of night work and the gradual lifting of legal barriers against the nocturnal shift. With special reference to questions of gender, the chapter also pursues a larger theoretical inquiry into the increasing neutrality of the global techno-economy to diurnal-nocturnal differences as well as felt differences of social, cultural, and bodily rhythms. The chapter resolves the puzzle by declaring that there is no single laboring body left for which a collective struggle can be waged. It has splintered across many domains, and its cares and concerns have been divided up into the sociologist’s concern for social well-being, the economist’s concern for economic well-being, and the natural scientist’s concern for physical well-being. While night work offers employment with obvious economic well-being, it also indicates a simultaneous isolation from the regular daytime social life, a fragmentation of family life when it is difficult to be together with one’s spouse and children, reducing their social well-being. For a natural scientist, night work reduces well-being but for very different reasons, as it comes into conflict with the body’s circadian rhythms and its diurnal frame, which is organized around light-dark cycles. Thus, nocturnal labor in call centers emerges as simultaneously good (economic well-being) and bad (social and biological well-being).
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