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ABS300 - Towards a theoretical revision of the concept of dirty work in emerging countries

3.6 Tensions, extensions, and new formulations in cultural-historical activity research
5:40 PM, mardi 29 août 2017 (20 minutes)
This paper aims to propose a critical analysis of the concept of dirty work, firstly presented by American sociology in the fifties of the 20th century. Such a concept was firstly proposed in order to describe a set of jobs covering tasks socially seen as fastidious, dangerous, servile and not attracting any prestige or social valorization for those engaged in them. In emerging countries like Brazil, where unemployment and informal jobs are very frequent, the concept or dirty work grew-up and presently recovers not only not-prestigious jobs, but equally morally problematic ones (like prostitution), work done in special conditions (like work in prison), and work in context of job- exhaustion (like work of banking employees).  It is argued here that this excessive enlargement of the concept of dirty work is theoretically problematic since it proposes a unique characterization for a set of distinct phenomena. We will present arguments in order to show that even very negatively socially represented jobs in emerging countries like Brazil can be very strong in terms of their links to a professional gender, and a specific collective of colleagues. The concept of dirty work should, in consequence, be reserved for job domains where workers suffer from isolation concerning their relationship to a cultural instance, the professional gender, and their relationship with a group of colleagues allowing to discuss their shared job activity. The concept of dirty work should refer only to those activities in which one can’t identify an instituted sense of collective work.
Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte - UFRN