Body of Work

Principal Investigator
Professor Ilaria Boncori
Body of Work drawing of six women

How is the body organised? How is organising embodied?

This research project is funded by the Wellcome Trust and will run from 2019-2021. The project team includes Professor Ilaria Boncori (Principal Investigator) University of Essex, and Dr Deborah Brewis (Co-Investigator), University of Bath, with support from Rachel Weightman (Project Officer), University of Essex.

The Body of Work project seeks to enrich our understanding of embodied experiences associated with work, and of practices that marginalise the bodies of certain groups. Although underrepresented in organisation studies, knowledge of how the body affects one’s work, and how work affects the body, is crucial to shaping inclusive policies, practices and career pathways.

Recent research in health sciences and psychology considers the damaging effects of discrimination, showing that people who experience this type of unfavourable treatment have increased risk of physical health conditions, impaired cognitive function (Murphy et al. 2012) and poorer mental health (Berger and Sarnyai 2014, Steptoe and Jackson 2019, see also Lewis et al. 2015). This has revealed the urgency of gaining further understanding within management and organisation studies of how work practices affect the body (Pullen and Rhodes 2014) – in particular for those with protected characteristics including gender, maternity, race, (dis)ability and age, or with two or more intersecting forms of oppression.

This series of four one-day events entitled ‘The Body of Work’ combined seminars and workshops to advance knowledge and give visibility to topics related to the body which are under-represented in the field of organisation studies, and in organisations. By bringing together academics and practitioners in the third sector, it fostered the development of an online and offline network to explore topics linking peoples' professional and personal experiences.

Here you'll find open access and a growing bank of materials – including videos, academic references, presentations and other supporting documents. Please feel free to use these in your staff training, teaching and everyday conversations.

The Sessions

Below you'll find links to the four sessions and the workshops we held; Racialised Bodies and Anxiety, Fertility, Birthing, and Miscarriage, Pain and Interventions on the Body, and Menstrual Cycles at Work. You'll find more information on each session, including videos, and the 10 lessons we learnt that we would like to share with organizations.

    Our key goals

    1. To reach a wide audience to advance knowledge and foster discussions on under-explored or silenced bodily experiences in organisations. This was carried out through a collaborative approach between scholars and industry experts, and implemented through dissemination of research and the creation of brief guidelines for change in organisations.
    2. To create a network of people that will serve as a platform not only connecting isolated scholars working on these issues to one another, but also NGOs, individual professional, teachers and charitable organisations outside of academia.
    3. To create an online space that will support the durability of the network, and facilitate its growth beyond the series. We encourage our participants, schools, academics and organisations to peruse these materials available online, including our videos, and to add to the resources to create a bank of materials for all.
    4. This seminar series was supported by funding by the Wellcome Trust and led by Professor Ilaria Boncori (University of Essex, Principal Investigator), Dr Deborah N. Brewis (University of Bath, CO-Investigator) and Rachel Weightman (University of Essex, Project Officer). Special thanks to Ainslie Masterton for her support in coordinating East 15 alumni in the making of the videos. 

    Project artist: Amira Battle

    Silberrad Student Centre
    Get in touch
    Dr Ilaria Boncori