Regulating ‘unruly’ bodies: work tasks, conflict and violence in Britain's night-time economy1

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ABSTRACT

Security work in urban licensed premises is a risky occupation in Britain's fast expanding liminal night-time economy. Sociologically, little is known about this masculinist work, including those embodied strategies used by doorstaff or ‘bouncers’ to regulate ‘unruly’ bodies in and around commercial space. Using participant observational data generated in south-west Britain, this paper describes how the door supervisors’ routine work tasks (largely comprising requests and demands) provide the conditions of possibility for hierarchical conflict and (near) violence between themselves and (potential) customers inside and at the entrances to licensed premises. Besides providing a thick description of this work and the phenomenology of physical violence, the paper supports recent theoretical arguments for an explicitly embodied sociology. Centrally, the paper maintains that bodies matter and that an empirical, inter-pretative sociology cannot ignore the corporeal dimensions of social life if it is to arrive at an adequate understanding of everynight tensions and conflict.

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