Femininity at Work

Gender, Labour, and Changing Relations of Power in a Swedish Hospital


265 kr

This is a book about gender, labour, and changing relations of power in a Swedish hospital, and presents an ethnographic study of nurses and their work. Paid care work has been a domain of institutional compliance to male dominance, as well as a critical space for women to become economically independent and skilled.

In Femininity at Work Rebecca Selberg gives new analytical perspectives and fresh insights into this area. Selberg situates the new conditions for nurses’ work firmly in the neoliberal transformation of the Swedish welfare state. Nursing has undergone dramatic changes in terms of work intensification and new forms of subordination and class boundaries. At the same time, the nursing profession has embraced nurses’ new role as adjunct managers in running the clinics and taking on new responsibilities offered by New Public Management.

The key contribution of Selberg’s work is her use of the concept of femininity. Through ethnographic explorations of material and ideological conditions of care work, she shows that gendered subjectivities can best be grasped by using the ’plurality of femininities’ as a conceptual tool.

Rebecca Selberg offers an empirically rich investigation of change and continuity in the relationship between femininity and care work among Swedish nurses. In addition to insights into changing conditions of care work within the public sector, the book makes a significant theoretical contribution through its analysis of how labour processes shape and are in turn shaped by femininities.


Rebecca Selberg is a sociologist at Linnaeus University. Femininity at Work. Gender, Labour, and Changing Relations of Power in a Swedish Hospital is her doctoral dissertation.


Femininity at Work is an impressive and absorbing study of gender and labour in a hospital, with a special focus on the nurses and what might be called ’nurse femininity’.” – European Societies

”… the book is well written, clearly organized, and contains rich qualitative data … I would recommend this book to gender and work scholars and for graduate-level courses in the sociology of gender, work, or occupations.” – Gender & Society

”… a deep, substantial ethnography that is surprisingly refreshing, given its well covered subject area. Based on Selberg’s dissertation, it bears the shape of years of laborious ethnographic research characteristic of doctoral work. Yet her deft framing of the book’s key conceptual contributions enables it to engage confidently with critical contemporary debates in the study of neoliberalism and work (situated in this case at the confluence of the public sector, the Swedish welfare state, nursing and care work). This is more than merely a PhD dissertation: it is a timely and challenging intervention that seeks to resituate the importance of studying gender and femininity in the nursing environment, as well as reconsider key understandings that have emerged in this field in recent years. […]

There is a wealth of material here, making for an important contribution not just for students and seasoned researchers studying nursing and health care, but for anyone engaging broadly with questions of gender and labour under neoliberalism.” – Work, employment and society