Desire and the Prosthetics of Supervision: A Case of Maquiladora Flexibility

Excerpt From Essay

"The instructor told us to act as if we were approving of someone's work performance. "Don't use words," she reminded us, "this is to see if you know how to use your bodies. I want to see your body language." Most nodded their heads, lifted their eyebrows, and smiled. A few gestured quiet applause. One did a "thumbs-up." This was one of several exercises that the participants performed in a training session designed to teach maquiladora supervisors some contemporary techniques for monitoring work in a flexible firm. In this class of thirty odd Mexican employees, all but one a man, we practiced communication skills that fostered team spirit without diminishing our social control over the labor process. "Good communication is more important than ever." she emphasized. "You don't have time to tell people how to do things over and over. You use body language. . . . They need to do things as if your ideas were already in their heads." In these classes, we were learning about the complex social body of supervision. It is a body formed through the relationship between the supervisor and the supervised, but it exceeds them both in conceptualization and function in the flexible factory of late capitalism. I use the metaphor of a third body to explore how the social body of supervision comes to life around a prosthetic dynamic linking the supervised with the supervisor in a single, functional corporeality."

"Desire and the Prosthetics of Supervision: A Case of Maquiladora Flexibility," Melissa W. Wright (354).

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