Clearing 2021

The Dialectics of Reindeer Play: The display and disposability of human and non-human animals in a Finnish Winter Wonderland

The Centre for Work, Organisation and Society warmly invites you to join Professor Philip Hancock for the Essex Business School as he explores the dialectical relationships in Finnish Lapland.

  • Wed 11 Dec 19

    12:00 - 13:00

  • Colchester Campus


  • Event speaker

    Professor Philip Hancock, Essex Business School

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars
    CWOS Research Seminar Series

  • Event organiser

    Essex Business School

  • Contact details

    Dr Sophie Hales

This seminar brought to you by the Centre for Work, Organisation and Society aims to draw on critical theory's understanding of the dialectical relationship between nature, culture and non-human and human animals, in order to explore the organisation of two workforces involved in the provision of experimental consumption of Finnish Lapland.

Seminar abstract

In this paper, we draw on critical theory's understanding of the dialectical relationship between nature, culture, and human and non-human animals, in order to explore the organisation of two workforces involved in the provision of experimental consumption in Finnish Lapland.

Recognised by the EU as the official home for Santa Claus, the region welcomes visitors from around the world to experience the 'magic' of Christmas, and no visit would be complete without a reindeer pulled sleigh ride and the opportunity to pet one Santa's faithful companions.

Yet despite the portrayal of these animals as magical beasts, more that 50% of the reindeer population is slaughtered annually. This is not only for meat, however, which is also offered as a culinary experience to festive visitors, but for other body parts such as hide, bones, and antlers; parts that are sold as souvenirs to those who sing Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer as they merrily board their flights home.

At the same time, and just as integral to the visitor experience is the labour of another disposable asset;

Seasonal workers who are employed as everything from cleaners and guides to, perhaps most pertinently here, Santa's other magical confidants, his elves. Prominently young, female, and precariously employed, like reindeer these human animals represent a parallel workforce. 

While also elevated to the status of symbols of the season of goodwill, they too are subjected to a logic of domination and disposability whereby despite the adulation of the visiting consumer low wages, emotional exploitation and, ultimately, contractual termination defines their restricted value as ciphers of a repressed natural order.

Thus, in the frozen environment of Lapland, though warmed by Christmas cheer we consider ways in which suffering of those reindeer who are cast aside, herded, slaughtered and consumed or, at best, reduced to objects of amusement, can be understood as a dialectical reflection of the reduction of young human live to disposable commodities with little opportunity for personal development or meaningful recognition of the value of their skills and labour.

Where conditions of each provides the foundation of an industry that, while promising magic and wonder, is built on the objectification, appropriation and shared suffering of both its human and non-human disposable workforce.


This event is free to attend. Please bring your colleagues, friends and classmates along.

Speaker bio

Professor Philip Hancock joined Essex Business School in 2011 and a Professor in Work and Organisation and the head of the Organisation Studies and Human Resource Management Group. 

His research interest include;

  • the work of critical schools of organisation theory
  • organisational aesthetics
  • the spatial and architectural management of work
  • emotional and aesthetic labour
  • the historical and contemporary organisation of Christmas
  • the intersubjective importance of recognition within the workplace

He has published widely on his research in academic peer-reviewed journals such as;

  • Academy of Management Review
  • Journal of Management Studies
  • Work, Employment and Society
  • Organisation 
  • Organisation Studies
  • Human Relations
  • Culture and Organisation

and many more.



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