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Konferenssiesitelmä: Relationship counseling as affective labor: How to capture affects? (GWO2016, Keele University, 29.6.-1.7.)

Marjo Kolehmainen alustaa otsikolla ”Relationship counseling as affective labor: How to capture affects?” Gender, Work and Organization-konferenssin työryhmässä ’Post-qualitative’ methodologies (of difference). Konferenssi järjestetään 29.6.-1.7.2016 (Keele University, Staffordshire, UK).

Konferenssiesitelmän abstrakti alla:

This presentation focuses on the challenges of empirical affect research. It is based on an ongoing post-doctoral study on Finnish relationship counseling practices with a special focus on how affects participate in the production of differences, here mainly gender and sexuality. The concept of affect refers to different embodied, potentially non-conscious and non-linguistic systems of meaning-making and knowing. They may include different emotions, sensations and senses but are not limited to these. While there is widespread theoretical discussion and speculation on the value for the humanist and social sciences of thinking in terms of affect, there has been limited accompanying exploration of how affects might be captured empirically. The discussion on suitable methodological approaches alike is still scarce. The ongoing study seeks to employ and/or develop novel methodologies for capturing both affects and their relations to gendered power relations in contrast to simply recognizing, counting, measuring or verifying affect.

As a point of departure, it is assumed that counseling has become a realm where gender arrangements are negotiated, regulated, problematized and produced. As a part of the widespread therapeutic cultures and accompanied growth of the market, several institutions, organizations and professionals from health care institutions to community colleges, from parishes to HLGBT organizations and from psychologists to sex coaches peddle advice. Occupational titles are flourishing, and in addition to therapists and psychologists e.g. sex coaches, love consultants, CAM practitioners and tantric instructors serve as experts. Advice is also targeted at diverse groups such as heterosexual, gay and lesbian couples, singles and the recently divorced. In light of this identified growth in the provision and uptake of relationship counselling, the study aims at evaluating how therapeutic cultures support and/or undermine gender equality and sexual rights.

Here counseling practices are explored from the perspective of affective labor. The counseling services are indeed immaterial commodities sold to clients who often wish to improve their emotional well-being. However, the study expands on the previous studies on affective labor by shifting focus from employees to trans-subjective infrastructure of affects within therapeutic encounters. In so doing, the study aims at producing novel knowledge on the ways in which affects produce gendered and sexualized power relations within interaction as well as engaging effectively with the methodological challenges of exploring mood, atmosphere and other important non-linguistic elements.

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