Politics of Representation of Female Flight Attendants’ Bodies in the Affective Economy
The research examines the representation of female flight attendants’ bodies under multiple forms of power in the affective economy. The study explores how representation of female flight attendants’ bodies relates to national values, cultural discourse, and dominant gender ideology in Thai society. Another question to be scrutinized in the study is how flight attendants create a particular form of affect, and relocate themselves from the dominant powers. The paper applies the notion of the ‘circuit of culture’ to explain how representations construct meaning in production and consumption process. The image of the flight attendant in Thai costume symbolically portrayed in magazines, television, and on websites is analyzed to disclose the meaning hidden in cultural discourse. In addition, Kopytoff’s concept in ‘the cultural biography of thing’ is employed to understand how women's bodies are more deeply commoditized through culturally specific meaning, and how the fetish is reworked for the benefit of an airline company. I myself worked as a flight attendant, thus my data can be viewed from an insider’s and subjective perspective. Therefore, the method used for this research is self-reflexive ethnography to ensure objectivity, by reducing or controlling the impacts of the researcher’s actions on the research situation. The study relies on my memoir and in-depth interviews of eight female flight attendants in various categories of age and position. The data are also gathered from participant observation by following short and long-route flights, and engaging with flight attendants’ activities. Moreover, narrative analysis is employed to understand how flight attendants construct their subjectivity. The study reveals that female flight attendants’ identities are constructed within the framework of a dominant discourse, one which includes gender norms, class distinction and nationalist ideology. Ironically, flight attendants deploy these cultural discourses for their own interests.
Keywords: Representation, Affective economy, Flight attendant, Subjectivity, Capitalism
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