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Accepted paper:

Passion for work and the work of passion


Sarah Winkler-Reid (Newcastle University)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing from research with construction industry professionals, this paper explores their expressions of passion for their work. It asks how we can take seriously this emotion as deeply-felt and authentic, while also recognising the broader forces that foster, and benefit from, passionate workers?

Paper long abstract:

Many of the professionals I encountered during my recent ethnographic fieldwork on construction and urban development in the North East of England, described themselves as passionate about their work. Passion for work was offered as the motivating force for long hours and sacrifice, and while it related intrinsically to the self, passion was also often connected to the importance of working on behalf of others, or contributing to a better society or greater good.

In this paper, I explore the way passion for work is deeply felt as emerging from an internal well-spring. I understand this as part of contemporary formations and experiences of individual personhood, where notions of an authentic, inner self, that needs to be nourished, are central (Taylor 1989). In one sense, passion as 'an expression of essence' (Marx 1844) can be seen as the opposite of alienation, while it also enables intensified exploitation, and is encouraged and increasingly expected in organisations.

How can we take seriously our interlocutors experiences of authentic, deeply-felt passion for their work while also recognising the broader forces that give shape to, foster, and benefit from, passionate workers?

panel AA09
The Politics of Emotion across Anthropology and Geography