Emotional Labor and the Power of International Bureaucrats: The ASEAN Secretariat in Comparative Perspective



Deepak Nair, Assistant Professor of Political Science, National University of Singapore

Date and Time

May 16, 2019 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM



Open to the public.

RSVP required by 5PM May 15.


Philippines Conference Room
Encina Hall, Third Floor, Central, C330
616 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA 94305

Bureaucrats become powerful when they stage emotionally calibrated performances as “servants” before state principals, earn their trust, and carve out space for action through “whispering,” “propagating,” cultivating patrons, and building coalitions behind the scenes and on the sidelines of official interaction. These servant performances involve what sociologist Arlie Hochschild calls “emotional labor,” that is, the management of feelings when fulfilling the requirements of a job. Prof. Nair will develop a theory of emotional labor in international bureaucracies that explains why bureaucrats perform such work and how, if skilfully done, it can empower them. He will test the theory with an ethnography of the Secretariat of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Jakarta—a “hard” case that does not fit prevailing theorizations of bureaucratic power. Prof. Nair will also show how his theory can be applied to other, Euro-American bureaucracies.

Deepak Nair researches the everyday practices and performances that produce international relations. His writings include ASEAN-related articles in journals such as International Political Sociology on topics that include golf, sociability, and diplomacy; on the practices of face-saving in diplomacy in the European Journal of International Relations; and on institutions, norms, and crisis in Asian Survey and Contemporary Southeast Asia. He earned his PhD and BA at the London School of Economics and Political Science and Delhi University, respectively.