culture + work

Workshop – 28 October 2022 – Amsterdam

PROGRAM (09:00 – 17:00)

Session 1 ‘Work identities and the meaning of work’

Bryan Boyle
Butlers: An analysis of labour-induced contradictory class states

Laura Vonk
Uniforms, materiality and work identities

Abigail Harrington
A comparative case study to investigate workers’ experience of digital intermediaries in two cultural industries

Anja Eleveld
Meaningful work in Mandatory Work programs.  How do limitations on welfare recipients’ autonomy impact their meaningful work experiences?

Session 2 ‘Selecting, entering and staying’

Britt Swartjes
Getting in or moving on? On experiences of work and representation in the music festival sector

Luisa Burchartz, Thijs Bol & Sara Geven
Valuing Education and Skills over Careers: The Case of Software Development Firms in Germany

Kobe De Keere & Fabio Cescon
The entrepreneur, the trailblazer and the cosmopolitan: identity regulation through employee testimonials

Session 3 ‘Resources, capitals, mobilities’

Orian Brook, Dave O’Brien & Mark Taylor
How do we explain inequality within artistic and cultural occupations? The problem of downward social mobility

Sam Friedman
Using Privilege to Plug Uncertainty: Class Origin and Knowledge Ambiguity in the UK Civil Service

Roza Meuleman & Gerbert Kraaykamp
Cultural bridges: The Conversion of Cultural Capital and Cultural Network Resources into Occupational Returns

Miriam Kullmann & Rebecca Zahn
Learning from ‘academic wives’: the gendered nature of work in the law school

Session 4 ‘Employment policies’

Yvette Basson
Supported employment: providing persons with disabilities employment opportunities and training

Kristina Kolbe
The art of (self)legitimization: how private museum founders represent themselves as elite actors in an unequal world

Katie Bales & Amir Paz Fuchs
Hidden work, the State and private profit

Pauwke Berkers, Yosha Wijngaarden, Frank Kimenai & Rick Everts
Basic income, post-precarious outcome? How  music professionals perceive participating in an experiment with basic income


‘Work has no intrinsic meaning’ C. Wright Mills (1951: 215) famously wrote. That does not make work meaningless but only that it needs to acquire meaning through cultural work. The professional activities we carry out, the way we are compensated for it, the identity we derive from it or what eventually gives us access to all of this, is strongly determined by cultural dynamics. Hence, whether it is on the classical problem of alienation through labour or on more contemporary issues such as employee diversity, none of it can be fully discussed without taking the role of culture seriously.

When it comes down to investigating the relationship between work and culture, the debates have been rather fragmented. This primarily because the multiple aspects of culture have usually been disconnected from each other. While some institutional scholars have been preoccupied with studying the role of organizational culture, others have mobilized the notion of culture to talk about unequal distribution of labour market changes (e.g. ethnicity, class, gender or race) or the implementation and content of antidiscrimination law in the work place. In other cases, the notion of culture entered the study of work by focusing on the way identities are constructed and regulated. Or, culture was also put under the spotlight by those who are studying the field of cultural production and the different forms of practices it engenders such as gatekeeping or aesthetic labour. And the list continues.

Despite the value of each of these research lines for better understanding the nature of work, the fragmented way in which culture has been treated makes it difficult to fully grasp the overall cultural reality of work. This workshop aims to take a first step in remediating this situation by inviting scholars from different fields to join in a discussion, based on their own work, on how we should frame the relationship between culture and work.

We plan several sessions on different work + culture related topics and encourage researchers to join us and present new (work-in-progress) studies that allows for further exploration and open debate.

We welcome contributions in the following areas:

Formation of work identities

Workplace culture, diversity policies, and antidiscrimination law

Cultural resources/capitals and inequality in the labour market

The cultural and political meaning(s) of work

Cultural practices at work (gatekeeping, matching, aesthetic labour)

Set up

The goal of the workshop is to arrive at in-depth debates and exchange of interdisciplinary views, over a series of topical sessions. Therefore, besides regular presentations (15 minutes) we want to encourage all participants to also share a paper (this can be a first draft or preliminary research note) with their fellow presenters a couple of weeks before the start of workshop. We are convinced this approach will lead to a more qualitative discussion, hopefully directly enriching the research we are all currently working on. If the exchange during the workshop proves exceptionally fruitful, (a selection of) our work might be bundled and published collectively (in a special issue or an edited volume). We encourage researcher in all stages of their careers to apply (from PhD’s to full professors) and want to be a platform to present work-in-progress and preliminary research.


Submission abstracts: 1 June 2022 (around 200 words). Notification of acceptance by 1 July 2022.

Submission (preliminary) discussion papers: 30 September 2022

Submit by email:

Date: 28 October 2022 (09.00 – 17.00) (with coffee/thee, lunch and dinner)

Costs: the workshop is free of charge, we provide coffee/thee, lunch and drinks but do not cover travel expenses or hotel accommodation.

Location: Amsterdam, Roeterseiland, Nieuwe Achtergracht 166, The Netherlands, Building C – Room: C0.02

Organizers: Anja Eleveld, Kobe De Keere, Roza Meuleman

Institutions: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Radboud Universiteit


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