Call for Abstracts: Edited Book on Maintaining Race, Gender, & Class Divisions through Work

Idealizing Labor, Producing Inequality: Maintaining Race, Gender, & Class Divisions through Work
Edited Book Call for Submissions

Editors: Enobong Hannah Branch and Melissa Wooten, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Project Overview
In formal organizations, the sorting of workers into jobs is assumed to be a bureaucratic process based on merit. Workers are placed throughout the organization in positions that correspond to their skills, interests, and abilities. Ascriptive characteristics, such as race and gender, are not necessarily thought to be predictors of occupational placement but clear racial and gender divisions are evident in occupational outcomes. Feminist scholars have theorized about gendered organizations, the concept of “the ideal worker,” the penalties for women in female dominated occupations, and the “glass escalator” for men that point to the myriad of ways in which gender directly shapes occupational opportunity. But the literature on gendered occupations, focuses primarily on the consequences of gender for occupational opportunity but not how the gendering of occupations came to be or how it is maintained. What is needed is attention to who has done the boundary work, how have they done the work and what tools have they used to do the work, historically and contemporarily, to create gendered occupations as we know them. When examining this boundary work, it is important to examine how gender is used in conjunction with other identities, such as race, immigrant status, etc. to further construct the ideal laborer and to what end.

Wooten and Branch (2012) introduced the term “appropriate labor” to convey the notion of a negotiated ideal that collectively defines who is suited for a particular type of work.

“We advance the term appropriate labor to argue that the abstract ideal of the worker is not tied to the image of a man or men’s bodies or to a bureaucratic organizational structure. The concept of appropriate labor conveys the notion of a negotiated ideal. Answers to the questions: “Who is appropriate? When are they appropriate? Where are they appropriate? And for how long will they remain appropriate?” are not fixed, but subject to change with fluctuations in the available labor pool, taking both race and gender into account. Above all else, “appropriate labor” indicates who has been socially defined as suited for a particular type of work” (295).

Notions of appropriate labor draw on identity characteristics to perform important and often taken for granted organizational work providing a justification for why a group is represented in one occupation as opposed to another that only becomes clear in the post-hoc rationalizations of worker concentration. Scholars have not yet examined the racial and gender makeup of occupations to understand how these ascriptive characteristics are used to construct, define, and sometimes limit the occupational choices of individuals. This volume seeks to rectify this oversight. We seek contributions that investigate appropriate labor across formal and informal organizations, across and within occupations (e.g. relationships between CNAs and RN’s), stable and precarious work, and in domestic and international contexts.

Call for Book Chapter Submissions
This book will be a part of the new Rutgers University Press Book Series on Inequality at Work: Perspectives on Race, Gender, Class, and Labor. All submissions will be peer reviewed. Submissions or questions should be directed to and

Extended Abstracts (no more than 2 pages) are due by June 20, 2017, accepted papers will be notified by July 15. Complete manuscripts are due by January 5, 2018.

Wooten, Melissa and Branch, Enobong Hannah. 2012. “Defining Appropriate Labor: Race, Gender, and the Idealization of Black Women in Domestic Service.” Race, Gender, & Class 19(3-4): 292-308.

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