On January 11 at AkademiHotellet, Uppsala, Gender and Work’s project leaders and members attended the first annual meeting of GaW 2 with the scientific advisory board of GaW project including special guests. The meeting was divided into two sessions. The morning session was dedicated to historians; Lars Edgren (Lund University), Ulrika Holgersson (Lund University), and Kirsti Niskanen (Stockholm University) who kindly came to Uppsala to give feedback on the book Making a Living, Making a Difference and implications for post-1800 history. The afternoon session was dedicated to GaW members who presented their work-in-progress.
Lars Edgren (Lund University)
The first commentator was Professor Lars Edgren, the nineteenth-century labour historian who studies urban crafts. Lars started off by complimenting GaW for making the GaW database available online and for inviting other scholars to give feedback on the book. Then, Lars reflected upon the book Making a Living, Making a Difference and contributed an outsider’s view on the future development of the second phase of GaW.
Lars’ first reflection was that the definition of ‘work’ in the book was too broad as the practice excluded pleasure only from ‘making a living’. The definition, he argued, was related to the concept of productive and reproductive labour. The second reflection was that work as such could create many forms of dependency, such as proletarianization.
The other reflections were about wage labour and its transformation from then until now, and the difference between marriage and marital status. Lastly, the argument of no separate sphere is questionable, according to Edgren, since the concept of public and private sphere was heavily criticized in the nineteenth century too.
Ulrika Holgersson (Lund University)
The second commentator was another historian, Associate Professor Ulrika Holgersson. She studies gender and work in popular culture in the twentieth century. Her contribution was based on the grand narrative of industrialization and proletarianization, which she found very problematic.
The said grand narrative starts from the rural society in the early modern period which was bound to agriculture and crafts. Not long after, the population started to increase. Then, it was the time of industrialization and proletarianization when people began to earn money outside the household. This phenomenon created a class society where there was distinction among employers and employees. Here, the concept of public and private sphere came into play. In ‘bourgeois society’ cozy homes were seen as free from work. Whatever work took place in households was regarded as ‘unproductive work’.
Ulrika argued that a new narrative must be written, and that we should take people with and without property in land into consideration when discussing industrialization since industrialization often took place in the countryside. For example, there were ironworks and other works dealing with forest trees and other natural resources. This scenario put an agrarian touch to the process of industrialization. Other issues to be discussed are housing shortage, neighborhood and teamwork in the nineteenth century, the labour movement, and the extension of the private sphere.
Kirsti Niskanen (Stockholm University)
The third commentator was Kirsti Niskanen, the economic, social, and gender historian, and Professor in Gender Studies at Stockholm University. She pointed to many fundamental changes from the late eighteenth century to mid-nineteenth century.
First, the transformation of women’s role in society. Second, marriage allowed women to gain advantages from marriage legislation. Third, the way of conceptualizing work changed drastically. If we define work from a market-oriented perspective, the work will then be measured in terms of capital. However, an American scholar, Margaret Reed, suggested in her Third Person Criterion that reproductive work, that women usually do, is actually productive work made invisible..
On the one hand, Kirsti suggested studying nineteenth-century work by using the verb-oriented method as digital technology facilitates the analysis of a large number of data. On the other hand, the suggested method may be less appropriate since more and better historical sources are available for the nineteenth and twentieth century in traditional archive. She further commented that some parts of the information in the book were based on fragmentary data and she cautioned against drawing too strong conclusions upon a small amount of observations.
During the afternoon session, GaW 2 project members presented four sub-projects. Carl Mikael Carlsson presented “Occupational titles versus verb-phrases: what could Weber have learned from GaW?”. Then, Göran Tagesson presented “House and household in a period of transition: how historians and archaeologists can work together.” After the fruitful discussion over the coffee break, Jezzica Israelsson presented “Notions of work and gender in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century petitions.” Lastly, Karin Hassan Jansson and Jonas Lindström presented “Gender and work: useless categories of historical analysis?”
The GaW 2 members would like to thank all the participants who attended the meeting with the scientific advisory board. We are confident that your feedback and comments will be beneficial and contribute largely to the second phase of the Gender and Work project at Uppsala University. ⧫