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Glaring invisibility: dressing the body of the female cleaner.

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University of Western Cape.


The paper explores how the uniform of a group of female cleaners appears to be more than an abstract object framed by the practical exegetics of work. The uniform is seen as acting as a material exercise of discretionary and disciplinary power of inscription, and as the paper shows, emerges as a mode by which the cleaners are homogenously objectified and plastically turned into ‘subjects’ (Foucault 1982). The paper shows too that while the single layered cleaners’ uniform can be seen as disciplining the body and stripping down the complex multi-layers of their personality and attempting to naturalise their status as cleaners, the women’s narratives reveal their attempts to destabilise this conscription, if only outside the spatial and organisational domain of the work space.



Clothing and dress--Psychological aspects., Clothing and dress--Social aspects., Uniforms--Social aspects.


Naidu, M. 2009. Glaring invisibility: dressing the body of the female cleaner. Anthropology Southern Africa, 32, 128-138.