Working at the edge: emotional labour in the spectre of violence

Jenna Ward, Robert McMurray, Scott Sutcliffe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Drawing on semi-structured interviews with police officers, door(wo)men and prison officers we present intimate, emotional and sometimes harrowing accounts of both the physical and emotional pain routinely endured by those employed as agents of social control. This article positions labour undertaken in such contexts as ‘edgework’; exploring how the boundary, or ‘edge’, between safety and danger is negotiated and managed ‘in the moment’ through embodied performances of empathetic and antipathetic emotional labour and emotional neutrality. Placing the concepts of edgework and emotional labour in dialogue, we open up a space in which to explore gendered conceptualisations of emotional labour and offer a more feminist appreciation of edge work that moves us beyond narrow concerns with pleasure, to account for embodied experience and emotional performance. In so doing, this paper offers a unique insight into the emotional labour repertoires of both men and women who work in the spectre of violence.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalGender, Work and Organization
Early online date11 Jul 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Jul 2019

Bibliographical note

© 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.


  • pain
  • violence
  • emotional labour
  • Police
  • prison officers
  • door staff
  • extreme work
  • edgework
  • embodied

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