The Construction of Workers’ Identity in Liminal Spaces
In the last decade, advances in technology have transformed the way in which we work, making it more and more fluid. One manifestation of this phenomenon is the fact that the border between work and non-work is disappearing. Many people, indeed, often work even on weekends. Moreover, a large number of workers continue working outside their home or their office environments. For example, it is more and more frequent to see managers or employees engaged in work calls in airports, public transport, cafés, hotels or other ‘liminal spaces’. These spaces have become a part of workers’ daily routines and contribute to building their identities in a changing world. In this article, I consider the concepts of liminality and of identity, as discussed in the literature. Then, I examine the construction of workers’ identity in these ‘places of passage’. I focus, especially, on what happens both in public transport and in other ‘places of passage’, such as cafés, airports and railway stations.
Andrews, H., and Roberts, L. (2012), Liminal Landscapes: Travel, Experience and Spaces In-Between, London: Routledge.
Ashforth, B.E. (2001), Role Transitions in Organizational Life: An Identity-based Perspective, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.
Ashforth, B.E., Johnson, S.A., Hogg, M., and Terry, D. (2001), “Which Hat to Wear”, Social Identity Processes in Organizational Contexts: 32–48.
Ashforth, B.E., Kreiner, G.E., and Fugate, M. (2000), “All in a Day’s Work: Boundaries and Micro Role Transitions”, Academy of Management Review, 25 (3): 472–491.
Augé, M. (1995), Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, London: Verso.
Bartel, C.A., and Dutton, J.E. (2001), “Ambiguous Organizational Memberships: Constructing Organizational Identities in Interactions with Others”, in M.A. Hogg and D.J. Terry (eds), Social Identity Processes in Organizational Contexts, pp. 115–130, Philadelphia (PA): Psychology Press.
Bauman, Z. (1995), Life in Fragments: Essays in Post-modernity Morality, Oxford: Blackwell.
Baumeister, R.F. (1986), Identity: Cultural Change and the Struggle for Self, New York (NY): Oxford University Press.
Baumeister, R.F. (1998), “The Self”, in D.T. Gilbert, S.T. Fiske and G. Lindzey (eds), The Handbook of Social Psychology (4th edn.), pp. 680–740, Boston (MA): McGraw-Hill.
Beech, N. (2011), “Liminality and the Practices of Identity Reconstruction”, Human Relations, 64 (2): 285–302.
Berg, J.M., Dutton, J.E., and Wrzesniewski, A. (2013), “Job Crafting and Meaningful Work”, in B.J. Dik, Z.S. Byrne and M.F. Steger (eds), Purpose and Meaning in the Workplace, pp. 81–104, Washington (DC): American Psychological Association.
Breakwell, G.M. (1986), Coping with Threatened Identities, London: Methuen.
Brown, A.D., and Starkey, K. (2000), “Organizational Identity and Learning: A Psychodynamic Perspective”, Academy of Management Review, 25 (1): 102–121.
Cable, D.M. (2019), Alive at Work: The Neuroscience of Helping Your People Love What They Do, Cambridge (MA): Harvard Business Press.
Casey, E.S. (1993), Getting Back into Place: Toward a Renewed Understanding of the Place-World, Bloomington (IN): Indiana University Press.
Collinson, D.L. (2003), “Identities and Insecurities”, Organization, 10 (3): 527–547.
Cook-Sather, A. (2006), “Newly Betwixt and Between: Revising Liminality in the Context of a Teacher Preparation Program”, Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 37 (2): 110–127.
Cooley, C.H. (1902), Human Nature and the Social Order, New York (NY): Scribner’s.
Costas, J., and Fleming, P. (2009), “Beyond Dis-Identification”, Human Relations, 63 (3): 353–378.
Czarniawska, B., and Mazza, C. (2003), “Consulting as a Liminal Space”, Human Relations, 56 (3): 267–290.
Dale, K., and Burrell, G. (2008), The Spaces of Organization and the Organization of Space: Power, Identity and Materiality at Work, London: Palgrave.
Deleuze, G. (1992), “Postscript on the Societies of Control”, October, 59: 3–7.
Donkin, R. (2009), The Future of Work, New York (NY): Palgrave Macmillan.
Duffy, F. (1997), The New Office, London: Conrad Octopus.
Ebaugh, H.R.F. (1988), Becoming an Ex: The Process of Role Exit, Chicago (IL): University of Chicago Press.
Elsbach, K.D. (1999), “An Expanded Model of Organizational Identification”, in B.M. Staw and R.I. Sutton (eds), Research in Organizational Behavior, pp. 163–200, Greenwich, CT: JAI.
Eriksson-Zetterquist, U. (2002), “Gender Construction in Corporations”, in B. Czarniawska and H. Höpfl (eds), Casting the Other: Production and Maintenance of Inequality in Organizations, pp. 89–103, London: Routledge.
Fiol, C.M. (2002), “Capitalizing on Paradox: The Role of Language in Transforming Organizational Identities”, Organization Science, 13 (6): 653–666.
Gagliardi, P. (1990), Symbols and Artifacts: Views of the Corporate Landscape, New York (NY): Walter de Gruyter.
Garsten, C. (1999), “Betwixt and Between: Temporary Employees as Liminal Subjects in Flexible Organizations”, Organization Studies, 20 (4): 601–617.
Gecas, V. (1982), “The Self-Concept”, Annual Review of Sociology, 8: 1–33.
Giddens, A. (1991), Modernity and Self-Identity, Cambridge: Polity Press.
Gluckman, M. (1962), Essays on the Ritual of Social Relations, Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Goffman, E. (1959), The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, New York (NY): Anchor Books.
Greenhalgh, T., and Peacock, R. (2005), “Effectiveness and Efficiency of Search Methods in Systematic Reviews of Complex Evidence: Audit of Primary Sources”, British Medical Journal, 331: 1064–1065.
Hawkins, B., and Edwards, G. (2015), “Managing the Monsters of Doubt: Liminality, Threshold Concepts and Leadership Learning”, Management Learning, 46 (1): 24–43.
Hochschild, A. (2001), The Time Bind: When Work Becomes Home and Home Becomes Work, New York (NY): Owl Books.
Hughes, E.C. (1958), Men and Their Work, Glencoe (IL): Free Press.
Ibarra, H. (1999), “Provisional Selves: Experimenting with Image and Identity in Professional Adaptation”, Administrative Science Quarterly, 44 (4): 764–791.
Ibarra, H. (2007), “Identity Transitions: Possible Selves, Liminality and the Dynamics of Voluntary Career Change”, INSEAD Faculty and Research Working Paper: 1–57.
Ibarra, H. (2003), Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career. Boston (MA): Harvard Business School Press.
Iedema, R., Long, D., and Carroll, K. (2012), “Corridor Communication, Spatial Design and Patient Safety: Enacting and Managing Complexities”, in A. van Marrewijk and D. Yanow (eds), Organizational Spaces: Rematerializing the Workaday World, pp. 41–57, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
Islam, G. (2016), “Weekend as Community, Consumption and Colonization: Struggles over Liminal Time in Two Days, One Night”, M@n@gement, 19 (2): 146–151.
Islam, G., and Zyphur, M. (2009), “Rituals in Organizations: A Review and Expansion of Current Theory”, Group & Organization Management, 34 (1): 114–139.
Kreiner, G.E., Hollensbe, E.C., and Sheep, M.L. (2006), “Where Is the ‘Me’ among the ‘We’? Identity Work and the Search for Optimal Balance”, The Academy of Management Journal, 59 (5): 1031–1057.
Kunda, G. (1992), Engineering Culture, Philadelphia (PA): Temple University Press.
Lazazzara, A., Tims, M., and de Gennaro, D. (2020), “The Process of Reinventing a Job: A Meta-Synthesis of Qualitative Job Crafting Research”, Journal of Vocational Behavior, 116: 1–18.
Leary, M.R., and Tangney, J.P. (2003), “The Self as an Organizing Construct in the Behavioral and Social Sciences”, in
M.R. Leary and J.P. Tangney (eds), Handbook of Self and Identity, pp. 3–14, New York (NY): Guilford Press.
Marx, K. (1972), The Marx–Engels Reader (Vol. 4), New York (NY): Norton.
Mayrhofer, W., and Iellatchitch, A. (2004), “Rites, Right? the Value of Rites De Passage for Dealing with Today’s Career Transitions”, Career Development International, 10 (1): 52–66.
McCall, G.J., and Simmons, J.L. (1966), Identities and Interactions: An Examination of Human Association in Everyday Life, New York (NY): Free Press.
Mead, G.H. (1934), Mind, Self, and Society, Chicago (IL): University of Chicago Press.
Mehta, R., and Belk, R.W. (1991), “Artifacts, Identity, and Transition: Favourite Possessions of Indians and Indian Immigrants to the United States”, Journal of Consumer Research, 17 (4): 398–411.
Meyer, J.H.F., and Land, R. (2005), “Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge 2: Epistemological Considerations and a Conceptual Framework for Teaching and Learning”, Higher Education, 49 (3): 373–388.
Miller, P., and Rose, N. (1995), “Production, Identity, and Democracy”, Theory and Society, 24: 427–467.
Newman, K.S. (1999), Falling from Grace, Berkeley: University of California Press.
Pearce, C. (2003), “Corridor Teaching: Have You Got a Minute…?”, Australian Family Physician, 32 (9): 745–747.
Peleg, A., Peleg, R., Porath, A., and Horowitz, Y. (1999), “Hallway Medicine: Prevalence, Characteristics and Attitudes of Hospital Physicians”, The Israel Medical Association Journal, 1 (4): 241–244.
Pratt, M.G., and Foreman, P.O. (2000), “Classifying Managerial Responses to Multiple Organizational Identities”, Academy of Management Review, 25 (1): 18–42.
Pratt, M.G., Rockmann, K.W., and Kaufmann, J.B. (2006), “Constructing Professional Identity: The Role of Work and Identity Learning Cycles in the Customization of Identity among Medical Residents”, Academy of Management Journal, 49 (2): 235–262.
Preston-Whyte, R. (2004), “The Beach as a Liminal Space”, in A.A. Lew, C.M. Hall and A.M. Williams (eds), A Companion to Tourism, pp. 349–359, Malden (MA): Blackwell Publishing.
Pritchard, A., and Morgan, N. (2006), “Hotel Babylon? Exploring Hotels as Liminal Sites of Transition and Transgression”, Tourism Management, 27 (5): 762–772.
Putnam, R. (2000), Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, New York (NY): Simon and Schuster.
Sahlins, M. (1993), “Goodbye to Tristes Tropes: Ethnography in the Context of Modern World History”, The Journal of Modern History, 65 (1): 1–25.
Sahlins, M. (2000), “Ethnographic Experience and Sentimental Pessimism: Why Culture Is Not a Disappearing Object”, in L. Daston (ed.), Biographies of Scientific Objects, pp. 158–293, Chicago (IL): University of Chicago Press.
Schein, E.H. (1996), “Kurt Lewin's Change Theory in the Field and in the Classroom: Notes Toward a Model of Management Learning”, Systems Practice, 9 (1): 27–47.
Schrage, M. (1999), Serious Play: How the World’s Best Companies Simulate to Innovate. Boston (MA): Harvard Business School Press.
Schultz, M. (1991), “Transitions Between Symbolic Domains in Organizations”, Organization Studies, 12 (4): 489–506.
Shields, R. (1991), Places on the Margins: Alternative Geographies of Modernity, London: SAGE.
Shortt, H. (2015), “Liminality, Space and the Importance of ‘Transitory Dwelling Places’ at Work”, Human Relations, 68 (4): 633–658.
Snow, D.A., and Anderson, L. (1987), “Identity Work among the Homeless: The Verbal Construction and Avowal of Personal Identities”, American Journal of Sociology, 92: 1336–1371.
Stryker, S. (1980), Symbolic Interactionism: A Social Structural Version, Menlo Park (CA): Benjamin/Cummings.
Stryker, S., and Serpe, R.T. (1982), “Commitment, Identity Salience and Role Behavior: Theory and Research Example”, in W. Ickes and E.S. Knowles (eds), Personality, Roles, and Social Behavior, pp. 192–218, New York (NY): Springer-Verlag.
Sturdy, A., Schwarz, M., and Spicer, A. (2006), “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Structures and Uses of Liminality in Strategic Management Consultancy”, Human Relations, 59 (7): 929–960.
Sveningsson, S., and Alvesson, M. (2003), “Managing Managerial Identities: Organizational Fragmentation, Discourse and Identity Struggle”, Human Relations, 56 (10): 1163–1193.
Tempest, S., and Starkey, K. (2004), “The Effects of Liminality on Individual and Organizational Learning”, Organization Studies, 25 (4): 507–527.
Tempest, S., Starkey, K., and Ennew, C. (2007), “In the Death Zone: A Study of Limits in the 1996 Mount Everest Disaster”, Human Relations, 60 (7): 1039–1064.
Thomassen, B. (2012), “Revisiting Liminality: The Danger of Empty Spaces”, In H. Andrews and L. Roberts (eds), Liminal Landscapes: Travel, Experience and Spaces In-Between, pp. 21–35, London: Routledge.
Thornborrow, T., and Brown, A. (2009), “Being Regimented: Aspiration, Discipline and Identity Work in the British Parachute Regiment”, Organization Studies, 30 (4): 355–376.
Trice, H.M., and Beyer, J. (1984), “Studying Organizational Cultures through Rituals and Ceremonials”, Academy of Management Review, 9 (4): 653–669.
Turner, B.A. (1971), Exploring the Industrial Subculture, London: Macmillan.
Turner, V. (1969), The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Turner, V. (1974), Dramas, Fields and Metaphors, Ithaca (NY): Cornell University Press.
Turner, V. (1977 ), The ritual process: Structure and anti-structure, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Turner, V. (1982), From Ritual to Theatre: The Human Seriousness of Play, New York (NY): Performing Arts Journal Publications.
Turner, V. (1991), The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure (7th edn.), Ithaca (NY): Cornell University Press.
Van Gennep, A. (1960 ), The Rites of Passage, Chicago (IL): University of Chicago Press.
Van Maanen, J. (1998), “Identity Work: Notes on the Personal Identity of Police Officers”, Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, San Diego (CA), USA, August 9–12.
Whittle, A., Meuller, F., and Mangan, A. (2009), “Storytelling and Character: Victims, Villains and Heroes in a Case of Technological Change”, Organization, 16 (3): 425–442.
Wittgenstein, L. (1994), Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (English Translation). London & New York: Routledge.
Wrzesniewski, A., and Dutton, J.E. (2001), “Crafting a Job: Revisioning Employees as Active Crafters of Their Work”, The Academy of Management Review, 26 (2): 179–201.
Yanow, D. (2006), “How Built Spaces Mean: A Semiotics of Space”, in D. Yanow and P. Schwartz-Shea (eds), Interpretation and Methods: Empirical Research Methods and the Interpretive Turn, pp. 349–366, New York (NY): M. E. Sharpe.