Elspeth Oppermann

Seminar: Managing Heat Stress Within and Across Domains: outdoor workers, rhythm and responsibility in Australia’s monsoonal north.

Wednesday 21st September 16.00-18.00, D72/MR11 FASS, Lancaster University -All Welcome

Australia’s monsoon tropics is characterised by high temperatures combined with extremely high humidity for about half of the year. These conditions pose a profound challenge to human thermoregulation and heat stress is a common experience in the region. The outdoor, labour-intensive workforce is particularly exposed, and produces additional bodily heat through exertion. In their work, humid heat appears as an inescapable material companion with whom workers engage in a temporal dance of exposure, exertion, hydration and cooling, during which heat is either accumulated or lost. The heat-balance rhythm occurs within the domains of work and home and across them. In part, this is because heat is transferred in the body between work and home, and because heat stress has a complex temporality – its physiological causality has time lags from a few minutes to a few days. This challenges the representation of practices in these different domains as ‘separate’ and begs the question of how domestic energy use is being shaped by practices of work and vice versa. It also raises the profoundly political questions of who (or what?) is responsible for, and responsibilized by, these rhythms? How are these co-dependent sequences of practices normalized, justified and enabled, and what kind of ‘Life’ do they produce?


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