Learning to inhabit the liquid liminal world of work: an auto-ethnographic visual study of work-life boundary transitions

Izak, Michal, Shortt, Harriet, and Case, Peter (2023) Learning to inhabit the liquid liminal world of work: an auto-ethnographic visual study of work-life boundary transitions. Management Learning, 54 (2). pp. 198-222.

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This article explores a conceptually modified notion of liminality in order to make better sense of contemporary ‘flexible’ working life. Previous conceptualizations of liminality rely on the assumed existence of socially sustained boundaries and the possibility of boundary spanning. Under conditions of liquid modernity, however, boundaries or thresholds have been destabilized to the point of collapse. Nonetheless, individuals still feel the need to establish and maintain intersubjective boundaries to preserve their own sense of well-being. To understand the new predicament faced by employees, we reconceptualise liminality for liquid times – through the notion of liquid liminality – and, simultaneously, problematize dominant conceptions of work-life balance. The implications that liquid liminality carries for the notion of flexible knowledge work are discussed. Our auto-ethnographic visual study of an academic returning from maternity leave uses a socio-material lens to exemplify the struggles of the contemporary flexible knowledge worker. It also demonstrates how the constant transition between workplace and home life is freighted with anxiety and exhaustion. We also outline opportunities for establishing new learning habits that follow from our theoretical framing and empirical analysis.

Item ID: 72577
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1461-7307
Keywords: Auto-ethnographic visual study, flexible work, liminality, knowledge work, learning, liquid modernity, sociomateriality
Copyright Information: © The Author(s) 2022. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).
Date Deposited: 13 May 2022 01:42
FoR Codes: 35 COMMERCE, MANAGEMENT, TOURISM AND SERVICES > 3507 Strategy, management and organisational behaviour > 350709 Organisation and management theory @ 100%
SEO Codes: 28 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 2801 Expanding knowledge > 280106 Expanding knowledge in commerce, management, tourism and services @ 100%
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