Affective Labor and Alt-Ac Careers

Edited by Lee Skallerup Bessette

In her groundbreaking work The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling (1983), sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild described “emotional labor management” as follows: “to induce or suppress feeling in order to sustain the outward countenance that produces the proper state of mind in others.” Think of a retail worker in customer relations who must keep calm and be pleasant even when dealing with someone who is irate. While scholars have explored the affective realm when it comes to teaching and being a professor, there is less written about the experience of those working in nonteaching areas of academia—“alt-ac.”

Affective Labor and Alt-Ac Careers critically examines aspects of affective and emotional labor involved in alt-ac careers in higher education. This is the first and only book of its kind that focuses on affective labor and alt-ac/staff careers in higher education. Cross-profession and cross-disciplinary, the book takes seriously the invisible labor performed at our institutions by academic staff, work that is essential for the success of our students.

“For those of us who have been working in alternative-academic spaces for decades and for those new to such roles Lee Skallerup Bessette’s collection Affective Labor and Alt-Ac Careers is a powerful tool and a blaring wake-up call from higher education’s ‘fourth estate’ to faculty members and administrators everywhere. Beyond defining the liminal and interstitial emotional work expected of academic staff members, the volume authors provide practical, authentic ways to name, frame, legitimate, and advocate for the expertise and experience of those of us who wish to reclaim alt-ac spaces and roles as ‘ultimately valuable and deserving to be valued.’ Read this book and learn how to cast off the ‘pink collar’ of gendered, racialized, classist, and ableist assumptions about whose work and ideas are privileged in the academy.”

—Thomas J. Tobin, University of Wisconsin–Madison, and coauthor of Going Alt-Ac: A Guide to Alternative Academic Careers

Research in this volume allows an opportunity for those in alt-ac careers to examine and share their affective experiences in their roles in technology, administration, research, and academic support services and as librarians, academic advisors, and writing center instructors—among others.

Affective Labor and Alt-Ac Careers is the third book in Kansas’s Rethinking Careers, Rethinking Academia series, which seeks projects that lead to meaningful professional development and create lasting value for graduate students, recent and experienced PhDs, university faculty and administrators, and the growing alt-ac and post-ac community.

About the Author

Lee Skallerup Bessette is assistant director for digital learning at the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship at Georgetown University.

Additional Titles in the Rethinking Careers, Rethinking Academia Series