Considerable research on the experiences of contemporary workers theorizes everyday acts of resistance as inconsequential, emphasizing their limited impact on overarching structures of inequality. This chapter offers a different perspective. Drawing on a feminist interpretivist paradigm, I argue that such characterizations of everyday resistance fail to account for the ways in which workers themselves make sense of power dynamics at work. Incorporating such accounts complicates conventional understandings of low-income workers engaged in everyday resistance as either dupes, as is often suggested by academic research, or schemers, as is frequently articulated by the self-perceived targets of worker rule-breaking – their managers. Based on 10 months of ethnographic observation and interviews with nurses and nursing assistants in a long-term care facility, I demonstrate that while workers recognize the constraints within which they act, they nonetheless make sense of their acts of everyday resistance as defiant. The realities of precarious labor and family responsibility do not combine to prevent resistance at work for these women; they combine to transform it. Asserting their agency through a series of relatively mundane and covert acts that gain them autonomy and dignity, workers readily acknowledge their policy refusals while at the same time recognizing the factors that shape them. Describing subversions of authority as strategic collaborations, the constrained agency these workers articulate hinges on their own and their coworkers’ identities not just as workers, but in many cases as low-income working mothers.
The author gratefully acknowledges research support provided by the National Science Foundation.
Crocker, J. (2017), "Dupe, Schemer, Mother: Navigating Agency and Constraint at Work", Oppression and Resistance (Studies in Symbolic Interaction, Vol. 48), Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 157-173. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0163-239620170000048011Download as .RIS
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