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    Struggles for distinction: class and classed inequality in UK museum work

    Evans, Samantha Louise (2020) Struggles for distinction: class and classed inequality in UK museum work. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    This thesis examines the discursive construction of class and classed inequality within UK museum work. Class and classed inequality have been relatively overlooked within the Organisational Studies (OS) literature, in part due to their contested nature as theoretical and discursive constructs. This thesis takes their contested nature as starting point, examining how they are constructed by UK museum workers in relation to their field and their career. Museum work has also been under-examined despite research showing its salient role in maintaining class distinctions. The thesis develops Bourdieu’s conceptual framework combining it with a critical discursive approach to analyse interview, focus group and online data. The thesis shows that class and classed inequality are not fixed but are contingent on a discursive struggle within and between contexts (i.e. societal, field and empirical). UK museum work is shaped by a struggle to keep museums special via distinguishing knowledge and recognition and the disavowal of the market. This diminishes economic capital as reward or requirement, valorises ways of having and being out of reach to many and obscures the unequal relationship between museum and worker. The museum career reinforces these processes and is necessarily exclusive classing workers according to their willingness and ability (habitus and capital) to play the game. The game is shaped by those with most power over discourse (e.g. funders, employers), legitimated through discourse (e.g. a collections meritocracy), and reinforced by the valorisation of discourse (e.g. becoming ‘professional’). Class is further shaped by epistemological struggle between fields (sociology or history), types of knowing (objective or subjective) and who knows best (classifier or classed). This too is shaped by discursive power. The thesis challenges the taken-for-granted construction of class as occupation and advocates the career narrative as a way to know and show class pertinent to the museum field.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 06 Oct 2021 13:30
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 14:53


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