Lena Abrahamsson & Margaret Somerville
In this article we are exploring gendered subjectivity and workplace change in male dominated industrial organizations. The empirical base is a study of Australian coal mining companies implementing new practices in workplace safety in underground coal mines. The starting point for the study was the mining companies’ experiences of the continuing practical problem of translating training in safety into new and safe workplace practice in coal mining workplaces. Ethnographic interviews and observations were carried out in two parts, the first focussing on mine workers and second on safety and rescue trainers. We used the poststructural analytical concept of storylines (Sondergaard, 2002) and Butler’s theorisation of gendered subjectivity to interpret the data. Our study found that practices of masculinity in local mining organizations are still strong, but there have been changes in the way masculinities are performed in the workplace. One characteristic of the new workplace culture is that the worker’s body is becoming more important. Taking care of the body goes hand in hand with focusing on safety. This new kind of mine worker masculinity can therefore be seen as a way of handling the contradiction between storylines of the old hegemonic masculinity and the demands of safe work practices.
gender, coal mining, safety, storylines, bodies, hypermasculinity