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date: 29 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

In the past, folklorists often approached the study of occupational folklife through a single trade or occupation or through a political lens that prioritized factory floors and union activities. While both approaches resulted in important scholarship, neither fully reflected the complex, multifaceted relationships contemporary Americans have with their jobs. In contemporary life, the majority of workers hold a series of jobs during their careers. Sometimes these “career arcs” are related to a worker’s professional training, but just as often they are not. In addition, the boundaries between work and nonwork have blurred as technology, working women, the diversification of the workforce, and evolving workspaces have transformed the once iconic eight-hour workday into different, arguably preindustrial, patterns. These rapid shifts have made the use of occupational folklore, on-the-job traditions, orally transmitted knowledge, and job-centered narratives all the more important in training and acclimating workers, and in ordering and authenticating contemporary workplaces. This evolving “workscape” has also made it increasingly important for folklorists to approach the study of occupational folklife in a nuanced, multifaceted way.

Keywords: applied folklore, archives, folklife, folklore, labor, occupations, work, workscape

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