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Sustaining Enchantment: How Cultural Workers Manage Precariousness and Routine

Race, Identity and Work

ISBN: 978-1-78769-502-3, eISBN: 978-1-78769-501-6

Publication date: 7 November 2018


Deriving pleasure and meaning from one’s job is especially potent in the cultural industries, where workers routinely sacrifice monetary rewards, stability, and tidier careers for the nonmonetary benefits of self-expression, autonomy, and contribution to the greater good. Cultural labor markets are consequently characterized by the continual churning of its workforce; the lure of “cool” employment attracts an oversupply of aspirants while precariousness and routinized work lead to short careers. This article draws on qualitative data to further conceptualize the appeal and limits of nonmonetary rewards over time. Why do workers stay in precarious “cool” jobs? More specifically, how do workers stay committed to their jobs and perform the requisite deep acting for their roles? Through qualitative research on two sets of workers – music industry personnel and craft cocktail bartenders – this article examines patterns in these workers’ “experiential careers.” We identify three strategies cultural workers use to re-enchant their work lives: (1) deep engagement, (2) boundary work, and (3) changing jobs. In doing so, we show how the experiential careers of cultural workers resemble more of a cycle of enchantment than a linear path to exiting the field.



Frenette, A. and Ocejo, R.E. (2018), "Sustaining Enchantment: How Cultural Workers Manage Precariousness and Routine", Race, Identity and Work (Research in the Sociology of Work, Vol. 32), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 35-60.



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