When two worlds collide: The role of affect in ‘essential’ worker responses to shifting evaluative norms

Natalia Slutskaya, Annilee Game, Rachel Morgan, Tim Newton

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Concerns about devaluation and misrecognition are central for understanding the experiences of workers in stigmatised occupations. Yet contemporary approaches have been criticised for over-simplifying workers’ responses to mis/recognition. Povinelli’s concepts of ‘trembling of recognition’ and ‘social tense’ offer a useful starting point for extending existing understandings of mis/recognition by highlighting the contextual importance of temporality. To explore these ideas, we report on an ethnographic study of waste management workers in London, UK. The findings suggest that dirty workers’ responses to mis/recognition are a complex mix of discordant cognitive and affective reactions and narrative strategies, shaped by changing normative ideals. The findings suggest that recognition derives not only from workers’ encounters, meanings and feelings attached to the past and present but also from the sense that they have a valued part to play in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-227
Number of pages17
Issue number1
Early online date5 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023

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