Classed and Gendered Experiences of Precarity in Dirty Work

Rachel Morgan, Annilee Game, Natalia Slutskaya

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter examines how precarity affects the experiences of low skilled dirty workers – a group characterised by stigma and devaluation. Utilising Axel Honneth’s ideas of mutual recognition and the normative significance of work for identity, we explore how precarious working conditions affect self-understanding at the intersection of class and gender. Drawing on ethnographic data from street cleaners and refuse workers across four London boroughs, our findings demonstrate lack of secure employment has resulted in experiences of self-doubt and diminished sense of self-worth. Additionally, our findings highlight how secure employment and the ability to provide for one’s family is imperative to these workers, due to the heavy reliance on working class masculinity norms for affirming identity. Thus, we argue the centrality of work for a positive sense of self remains classed and gendered. We also show how the increasingly precarious nature of work is perpetuating feelings of vulnerability and therefore undermining opportunities for class solidarity through collective action in the face of moral injury for working class men.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDiversity and Precarious Work During Socio-Economic Upheaval
Subtitle of host publicationExploring the Missing Link
EditorsElina Meliou, Joana Vassilopoulou, Mustafa F. Ozbilgin
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781108933070
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024

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