15 Apr Bringing the Body Back to Work: “Incorporating” Occupational Identity
Karen Lee Ashcraft (University of Colorado, Boulder)
Thursday, April 15 / 4:00 PM
Lane Room, Ellison Hall 3824
Management scholars commonly ask how people find meaning in work. Few ask how work is known by its practitioners in a different sense: namely, how work is understood in terms of the bodies associated with it. The resulting impression is that people derive identity from work, but work does not derive identity from people. Yet research in other fields refutes this premise, serving up ample evidence that gender, race, and other embodied social constructions shape the meaning and value of work. This talk thus proposes that we enhance the current focus on identity AT work with complementary attention to the identity OF work, or “occupational identity” (OCI). OCI is theorized as an evolving cultural formation that answers the twin questions “what is this line of work?” and “who does it?” Whereas emerging management studies of professional identity emphasize how individuals find a sense of self in professional work, the OCI construct captures a vital reverse focus: how the identity of work as “professional” rests on the social construction of practitioners. Using examples drawn from research with commercial airline pilots and other historical cases, the talk demonstrates how OCI yields a novel and productive site for empirical investigations, theoretical explanations, and practical interventions in work and its meaning.
Karen Lee Ashcraft is Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She is the co-author of Reworking Gender: A Feminist Communicology of Organization (Sage, 2004). She specializes in research on organizational communication, gender relations, alternative forms of organizing, ethnography, and power and culture.
Sponsored by the IHC’s Identity Studies RFG and the Dept. of Communication.