White Corporate Feminine Spirituality: The Rise of Global Professional Women's Networks
Professor Melissa Fischer has contributed to the book ethnographies of Conferences and Trade Fairs with a chapther on how to make ethnographic sense of conferences and trade fairs as phenomena in contemporary society. The chapter is titled 'White Corporate Feminine Spirituality: The Rise of Global Professional Women's Networks'.
Her contribution is part of an anthropological anthology that
attempts to make ethnographic sense of conferences and trade fairs as phenomena in contemporary society. Specifically it is about transnational white corporate spiritual feminism – its rise and growth in the new millennium. Drawing on several decades of fieldwork in global women's networks in the United States and Europe, particularly participant-observation at meetings, Melissa Fischer argues that this new focus on spiritual and mental wellbeing is one of a series of disparate projects that make up contemporary neoliberal feminism. Specifically, the gendered logic of global women's networks has shifted over the past several decades. During the nineties and two-thousands, network leaders moved away from producing meetings centering exclusively on women's occupational mobility to a focus on women's empowerment and the business case for gender equality in the global economy. Now, turning their attention to producing feminine, feeling and soulful subjects,
some leaders seek a different kind of competence in the global economy. Such subjects are purportedly able to successfully navigate an increasing intercultural business world composed of powerful actors who traverse traditional distinctions between the global north and south. Such conferences are new training grounds for the making of a new female global elite of cultural polyglots, able to master dominant and alternative forms of gender, racial and emotional capital. The call for feminine spiritual values in business can be understood as participating in what sociologist William Davies has called "the happiness industry", which he argues includes a move toward the new religion of our age: our emotions.
Melissa Fisher, White Corporate Feminine Spirituality: The Rise of Global Professional Women's Networks in Ethnographies of Conferences and Trade Fairs - Shaping Industries, Creating Professionals edited by Hege Høyer Leivestad and Anette Nyqvist, Palgrave 2017.