How to Read a Story About Burn-out

This research project was conceived  in response to a call from Het Nieuwe Instituut, the museum for architecture, design and digital culture in Rotterdam. 

In western cultural history, burn-out tends to be presented as a condition reserved for a particular few, often insinuating issues of class and gender. However, this tendency runs contrary to the reality of burn-out which is a more universal condition that especially impacts working-class women.

Addressing this omission in the story of burn-out is significant as routine experiences of exhaustion amongst women tend to be forgotten or relegated in our collective consciousness. Considering this perspective, my research project utilizes a family photo archive as a starting point for awakening a critical train of thought about burn-out in the female body.

Contributing to feminist scholarship, this research aims to elevate individual experiences of burn-out to more collective questions of women’s work in the family. The central method is a form of narrative unearthing, a way of noticing affective moments in family history by using the female body as a source of information. Most significantly, this story is in conversation with emerging research techniques within the field of machine learning that read and assign meaning to body language. This research will benefit from access to a number of collaborators and archives, notably those of Het Nieuwe Instituut and those concerned with women’s work, the body and artificial intelligence.

[Photograph from my family archive: Maria Julia Serra, my grandmother (centre) on holiday in Portugal in 1961 with family.]

How To Read a Story About Burn-out Natalie Dixon

How To Read a Story About Burn-out Natalie Dixon