Soc 320 Research Opportunity, Fall 2022/Spring 2023: Class Keeping: Paying Privileged Non-Elites to Maintain Elite Lifestyles

Term: Fall 2022 and Spring 2023
Status: Open
Working With: Taylor Laemmli, 
Topic: Class Keeping: Paying Privileged Non-Elites to Maintain Elite Lifestyles
This project examines class keeping, my term for a relationship in which elites pay privileged non-elites (class keepers) to maintain their lifestyles. Class keepers include, for example, personal assistants, estate managers, makeup artists, life coaches, and private chefs. Elites traditionally relied on a wide array of servant labor to sustain their lifestyles, but in the early twentieth century many workers fled the totalizing subordination of servant work for the independence enabled by new jobs in growing metropolises. Domestic work, left to those who had no other options, came to be seen as dirty and profane. Curiously, however, a new set of occupations devoted to elite lifestyle maintenance arose in the 1990s; only now, these jobs were characterized as semi-professional and fit for people of privilege. I draw on archival resources and interviews with class keepers and elite employers to understand this new organization of elite support and uncover the mechanisms by which this vast infrastructure remains hidden in plain sight. Students research assistants will help with the project by reading books by/about elite celebrities, politicians, artists, business people, etc.; constructing pieces of a newspaper archive; and transcribing and potentially lightly coding interview transcripts.
– Good command of spoken and written English.
– A strong interest in the project.
– Students should have taken at least one sociology class, but students with more experience in sociology and in qualitative methods, in particular, will be especially good candidates.
– Students with digital image formatting and optimization skills would be especially helpful for the archival piece of the project, but these skills are not required.
Reading List:
– “Class Keeping,” an article draft outlining the research
– Hochschild, Arlie. 2012. “Introduction,” The Outsourced Self.
– Cousin, Bruno and Anne Lambert. 2019. “Grandes Fortunes et Services Personnels.” Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales 230(5):4-11. (Translated)
To Apply: Please contact Taylor Laemmli at the email address above. Applicants should submit a resume and a short paragraph indicating why they are interested in participating and why they are well-suited for the research practicum. Applicants will be interviewed. Applications are open until positions four are filled. Available for 2-3 credits.