Clean U: Cleanliness, Social Difference and the Dirty Work of Everyday Hygiene Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Dimpfl, Mike
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Geography
  • Being clean takes work. That work – waged, unwaged, or somewhere in-between -- is generally overlooked, despite the importance of cleanliness to modern industrial social life. To better understand the power of cleanliness to the production of individual subjects and institutional power, this project compares the everyday cleanliness practices and hygiene norms of students at the University of Chapel Hill to the administrative organization of the 400+ housekeepers currently employed to maintain UNC's campus. Students experience a campus tuned to their body's every need. But, the intensifyng demands of the cleanliness Zeitgeist mediate the newfound freedoms that are characteristic of college life. By way of contrast, UNC's housekeepers are structurally and culturally excluded from the campus communities their labor produces, despite the fact that their work is an animating necessity of the most intimate components of everyday student life and practice. This research explores the production and unevenly distributed cost of this overlapping system of hygienic exclusions, particularly its connection to contested categories of social identity.  I combine ethnographic data from one-on-one interviews with students, housekeepers, campus staff, labor activists, and community service providers with a close reading of the policies and organizational metrics governing housekeeping work practice. Tracing the connections between students, housekeepers and organizational administration reveals the dependence of institutional systems on the uneven distribution of value through the production of raced, classed, and gendered social difference. This research explores the necessary dependence of students and housekeepers, revealing institutional investment in the production students' bodies at the expense of those who make that production possible.
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  • In Copyright
  • Gökarıksel, Banu
  • Dempsey, Sarah
  • Valdivia, Gabriela
  • Kirsch, Scott
  • Smith, Sara
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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