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Identity dilemmas in the world of services: from invisibility to interaction

The aim of the article is to analyze the construction of identity in services work. The work draws mainly on the French sociology of work and on Symbolic Interactionism. It starts with a brief reconstruction of sociological theories on labor identity, emphasizing the services sector. This is followed by an empirical analysis of two service occupations: cleaning workers and retail sellers. The method was based on triangulation of sources, associating quantitative data from Brazilian government agencies (Demographic Census, PNAD and RAIS) and qualitative primary and secondary data. In the case of cleaning workers, outsourcing contracts have a negative impact on the dynamics of recognition, although the low self-esteem is better related to a cultural construction of "dirty work" and to the invisibility that characterizes these jobs, mainly in activities akin to domestic affairs, like cleaning, repairing and maintaining. The retail sellers, in turn, face dilemmas related to the way of interacting with customers, which are influenced by management and marketing strategies, and also by identity shifts related to the relevance of consumption practices as identity markers in the modern society of consumers.

Sociology of work; Work identity; Symbolic Interactionism; Service sector

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