Why do interpreters need to be beautiful? Aesthetic labour of language workers

Jinhyun Cho*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    This article explores the intersections between language, gender and commodi-fication in the Korean language market, in which the focus is currently shifting from language proficiency to personal aesthetics. By drawing on the concept of 'aesthetic labour', it explores how and why beautification has emerged as one way of enhancing individual competitiveness among English-Korean female interpreters who are engaged in heavy competition in the context of market saturation. This process is best embodied by the recent media phenomenon of eoljjang tongyeoksa or 'good-looking interpreters', which refers to a number of beautiful female interpreters working on television and sensationalised in the media. This paper examines how contemporary female interpreters cope with a market demand for performing beauty work in addition to language work in order to highlight aesthetic labour as a strategically gendered approach for self-commodification in a patriarchal language market.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)482-506
    Number of pages25
    JournalGender and Language
    Volume11
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2017

    Keywords

    • aesthetic labour
    • translation and interpreting
    • Korea
    • commodification and English

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