Sonja Stojanovich, Romance Languages & Literatures
Exposed Body: Representations of Cashiers in Contemporary France
In France, nearly all cashiers are women: 95% in 2010; 90% in 2018 (vs. 70.5% in 2018 in the United States). While the very nature of a cashier’s job is to be confined to a small space, exposed to customers’ demands and gaze, and reduced to her hands (how fast she scans articles, how quickly she gives the customer their change, etc.), in this presentation I argue that contemporary cultural productions compound the oppressive aspect of this position through an exaggerated focus on cashiers’ bodies and an othering gaze. I also propose that the concept of exposure can be pushed further in the context of the current covid-19 pandemic. The exposure becomes quite literal; cashiers and other supermarket/grocery workers have been on the frontlines of the crisis, their bodies bearing the brunt of repeated exposures to customers (many of whom blatantly disregard safety measures).
Sonja Stojanovic is Assistant Professor of French and Concurrent Faculty in the Gender Studies Program. She is currently co-editing a volume titled “Taking up Space”: Womxn at Work in Contemporary France. She recently published an article on the figure of the cleaning lady in contemporary French fiction, “Should the Subaltern Clean?” in Mosaic: An Interdisciplinary Critical Journal.
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