Bloody suffering and durability: How chefs forge embodied identities in elite kitchens

Robin Burrow*, Rebecca Scott, David Courpasson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article, we elaborate on the significance of suffering in processes of embodied identity construction. Drawing on interviews with 62 chefs employed in elite kitchens around the world, we make two main contributions. First, we extend our understanding of suffering as a traumatic, alienating experience by theorizing it as a distinctive form of embodied identity work. We show how suffering can function as a mechanism through which people forge an understanding of who they are. Our second contribution extends the first by elaborating on what we call the aesthetics of suffering. We show how suffering can be perversely appreciable, distinguishing and endured in culturally significant, identity-implicative ways. Via this theorization, we progress our understanding of how identities are forged through (and read from) suffering bodies, and add an additional layer of interpretation to research in which matters of embodied identity and suffering are nascent but largely neglected.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman Relations
Early online date3 Oct 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022.


  • aesthetics
  • chefs
  • durability
  • embodied identity work
  • embodiment
  • fine dining
  • suffering

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