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Denise Celentano (UdeM)

11 June 2024 @ 12:00 – 13:15
Room 309, UdeM, Hybrid mode
2910 Édouard-Montpetit Montréal

As part of the CRÉ lunchtime conferences, Denise Celentano (UdeM) will give a presentation entitled “Status Labor”.

To participate via Zoom, click here.


The concept of status is usually taken to describe people’s standing in the social hierarchy, referring to relatively static positions in the social order. Yet status norms have a dynamic side to them, too: they also require individuals to “do” status. I refer to the work of “doing status” as “status labor.” Status labor is the work that agents are implicitly expected to perform in order to act and counteract social status ascriptions. Status ascriptions are culturally mediated presumptions of competence triggered by social identifiers. The belief of lower competence in women, black or working-class people is an example. Status labor is the work implied by that belief, e.g., working harder to prove one’s competence or self-polishing to fit norms of suitability. Status labor perpetuates social hierarchies by inflicting higher contributory burdens on lower status agents. The presentation focuses in particular, but not exclusively, on the status labor that agents perform in the context of the workplace, where status-based expectations of suitability to roles are particularly relevant. The presentation has three main aims. First, partly drawing on the work of Erving Goffman and the sociology of social status, it conceptualizes status labor, providing an exploratory taxonomy through concrete examples and a differential analysis. Second, it locates status labor in a relational egalitarian framework. While ideas of “treatment” and “expression,” recurring in the relational egalitarian debate, tend to mostly focus on the interactional aspects of status, status labor focuses on the intra-personal work of complying with status scripts, thereby providing a more fine-grained understanding of dynamics of social subordination. Third, it formulates relational egalitarian as well as non-relational egalitarian objections to status labor.