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Accomplishing public work: encounters with park rangers

Ablitt, Jonathan 2021. Accomplishing public work: encounters with park rangers. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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The aim of this ethnographic study is to advance the understanding of the situated contingencies and implications of working in public view. It does so by tracing the quotidian work practices and face-to-face interactions of the Urban Park Rangers in Cardiff, UK as they routinely go about their rounds, maintaining and managing urban park space. Their maintenance and management work is inevitably public, and a central organisational aspect of it is the regularity and ordinariness of their encounters with members of the public. As legitimate ‘approachables’ and ‘auditables’, it is a practical requirement of their job to regularly account for their practice, and such characteristics as ‘professionalism’, ‘strategy’, and ‘system’ are displayed as in-built features of their work activities. Analyses pay close attention to the participants’ observations and category work, and show how the categorial device of ‘public worker’–‘member of the public’ is omnirelevant in the relational organisation and mutual elaboration of their practice and the space. The parks themselves are collaboratively, ordinarily, and emergently assembled through practical action and interaction. Not only must they account for their practice, but as ‘stocked characters’ (Goffman, 1971) the Park Rangers are also approached about troubles outside of their technical remit: burst river banks, what time the boat hire opens, what the rugby score was, and so on. Their public availability and visibility produce them as constituent features of the urban fabric to the point that they become practically responsible for myriad public troubles, and must ‘pick up the slack’ of other practitioners and organisations. It is therefore proposed that ‘stocked characters’ are vital to the accomplishment of public space as public space. The experience of ‘being in public’ is ordinarily contingent on the assumption of the express availability of some public worker to ask for help, information, assistance, or who you can go to with some trouble and whose category-boundness to the space obliges them to help to the best of their ability. Public work, then, is shown to be radically constitutive of public space.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 16 March 2022
Last Modified: 08 Jul 2022 10:00

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