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Work Identity without Steady Work: Lessons from Stage Actors

Research in the Sociology of Work

ISBN: 978-1-78635-406-8, eISBN: 978-1-78635-405-1

Publication date: 19 August 2016


Work has historically been an important basis of identity, but the sharp decline in the availability of stable attachments to jobs, organizations, or occupations jeopardizes paid work’s capacity to sustain identity. If available work opportunities are increasingly precarious and short-term, can the same be said for identities? Analysis of the efforts of members of an unusual occupational group – stage actors – to support an identity based on unstable work provides insights into the variability and indeterminacy of responses to structural employment uncertainty. Despite manifold identity threats, actors struggle to maintain identity as actors both in others’ eyes and in their own.




Many thanks to Steve Vallas for invaluable assistance, and thanks also to Sam Kaplan and Silke Roth for helpful feedback.


Leidner, R. (2016), "Work Identity without Steady Work: Lessons from Stage Actors", Research in the Sociology of Work (Research in the Sociology of Work, Vol. 29), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 3-35.



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