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Research Article  |   May 2003
Establishing Worker Identity: A Study of People in Craft Work
Author Affiliations
  • Virginia Allen Dickie, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, is Associate Professor, Occupational Science Division, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Medical School Wing E, Campus Box 7120, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7120; vdickie@med.unc.edu
Article Information
Work and Industry / Worker Identity
Research Article   |   May 2003
Establishing Worker Identity: A Study of People in Craft Work
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, May/June 2003, Vol. 57, 250-261. doi:10.5014/ajot.57.3.250
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, May/June 2003, Vol. 57, 250-261. doi:10.5014/ajot.57.3.250
Abstract

Having a work-related identity is central to being an adult in America. Going to work and engaging in prescribed work behaviors in the workplace is the usual or typical way that adults achieve worker identities. The purpose of this study, developed from an ethnography of people who make crafts at home and sell their work at craft fairs, was to examine how worker identity is constructed when individuals do not have the external markers of a socially identified job and workplace. I used participant observation of craft fairs and other craft venues, and interviews of people who do this work, as major sources of data. Results of the analysis of the data related to worker identity demonstrated that these crafters followed basic steps, or rules, to achieve such a worker identity. These rules, some for work at home and some for other social contexts, encompassed complex behaviors learned through the process of doing the work as well as from other crafters. The conclusions of the study are first, that individual and social identity formation as a worker involves complex processes for which rules and guidelines do exist. Second, these rules are often discovered through the process of doing the work. Third, the meaning of work and the individual and social identities of being a worker are individual, and finally, knowledge of worker identity formation is gained through the study of both those who successfully achieve such an identity and those who do not.