Unattainable goals, middle class fantasies: an ethnography of women's work in feminized retail banking in Istanbul, Turkey

Doctoral thesis OPEN
Topçu, Berra ; Topcu, Berra (2012)
  • Subject: HM Sociology

Drawing from a workplace ethnography among women professionals in the increasingly feminized lower echelons of commercial bank branches (so-called retail banking) in Istanbul, Turkey, this thesis is an examination of women’s affective labor and the construction of white-collar subjectivities. Given the performance criteria of professionalism, productivity, efficiency, and individualism as part of neoliberal discourses for attaining the ideal of the white-collar woman in the retail bank, how a woman becomes a “woman” as an outcome of gender and class inequalities outside the workplace is problematically pushed aside. I navigate the various embodied, gendered, and classed affects in terrains of capitalist desire, fantasy, and enjoyment in these affective spaces of feminized employment where women’s affective labor intersects with the immaterial and biopolitical production of fantasmatic white-collar subjectivities. In the end, acting on the middle class work ethic as the formula of social mobility; unattainable sales goals and equally unattainable fantasies of success in retail banking seem to be mobilized through the elusive ideal of the white-collar woman.
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