class="csc-frame csc-frame-default"Is historical epistemology a contradiction in terms?

Zentrum Geschichte des Wissens

Universität Zürich

Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich

Zentrum Geschichte des Wissens

Universität Zürich

Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich

LARISSA SCHÜLLER

Work in communications = Female work: Technology, gender and communicative practices in Swiss Telephone Exchange, 1881-1980


The PhD project deals with the work of telephone operators in Swiss telephone exchanges. Telephone operators established connections between the telephone subscribers and taught them how to use the telephone. This work at the switchboard was, from the very beginning, carried out almost exclusively by women.

The starting point of the PhD project is an image of women, shaped since the last third of the 18th century, according to which women are particularly suitable for the domestic sphere and maintaining social relationships as well as for the communication necessary for this. The project argues that, according to this bourgeois ideal, communication work was (and is) women’s work.

Based on the investigation of a typical female profession, namely that of the telephone operator, the project asks to what extent these bourgeois attributions remain stable even in processes of mechanization, how technologies stabilize or transform cultural gender stereotypes, and what influence they have on communicative ideals and practices, on the organization and evaluation of work and knowledge, and on how employees perceived themselves and were perceived by others.