The Office Politics of Sexuality: Open Plan Space as a Contemporary Panopticon
by Patrick Vernon
Patrick is a doctoral researcher in the Department of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Birmingham, and he is broadly interested in the application of queer theory to the study of violence in global politics. He studied for his undergraduate degree in POLSIS between 2014-2017 and returned to Birmingham to study for an MRes in Sexuality and Gender Studies in 2018, analysing the relationship between heterosexuality and genocidal violence, with a specific focus on the Rohingya Genocide.
Patrick chaired the interdisciplinary research group, ROLES, during the 2018-19 academic year and organised the 9th Annual Conference. He also participated in the 2019 Association of Social Anthropologists Conference discussion on humanitarian intervention, and is a member of the Gender and Feminist Theory (GAFT) working group.
Keywords: Queer theory, Professionalism, Panopticism, Homonormativity, Auto-ethnography
Recognising that established analyses of the relationship between professionalism and sexuality fail to look at the impact of workplace environments on the construction of the subject, this piece undertakes an analysis of the operation of discourses of sexuality in the contemporary workplace(office) environment.
Drawing upon Foucault’s work on the discursive construction of sexuality and panopticism, this paper uses an auto-ethnographic approach to look the way in which logics of heterosexuality operate in the open-plan office, through both verbal encounters and “speech-acts of the body”. Concluding that this environment plays a significant role in the construction of sexual subjectivities, this paper hopes to encourage further academic reflection on discourses of sexuality in seemingly neutral spaces.