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The socio-materiality of dirty work: a critical realist perspective

Galazka, Anna ORCID: and O'Mahoney, Joseph ORCID: 2023. The socio-materiality of dirty work: a critical realist perspective. Work, Employment and Society 37 (2) , pp. 432-448. 10.1177/09500170211011321

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New materialist applications in ‘dirty work’ studies have rightly emphasised the importance of materiality alongside symbolism. However, these approaches have neglected important themes irreducible to the material world, such as temporality, reflexivity and social structure. This article develops an alternative critical realist perspective on socio-materiality in dirty work which emphasises these themes. It draws on 2016-2017 ethnographic data on the work of clinical photographers of wounds in a UK specialist outpatient wound healing clinic. First, it shows how photographers’ reflexivity mediates the relationship between their embodied materiality and their agency in the physical domain. Second, it highlights the temporal dynamics between reflexive agents, their material environment, and the context of their operation. Finally, it emphasises the non-conflationary relationship between the social structures of the medical hierarchy and photographers’ agency in dirty work. Together, these contributions highlight the utility of an emergent, realist ontology in understanding the dynamics of dirty work.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
Publisher: SAGE
ISSN: 0950-0170
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 22 April 2021
Date of Acceptance: 19 March 2021
Last Modified: 06 Nov 2023 17:09

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