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Experiences of Ageing


Fri 28. 8.  11:00 - 12:30
room FA 204

Identity talk from 'young' older workers


Handley, Karen Maria
Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom

The mainstreaming of compulsory education and state pensions in the 20C has shaped expectations about work, career and the lifecourse, institutionalising and reifying the temporal boundaries of a working life. ‘Younger’ workers – particularly those engaged in knowledge work – are encouraged to be entrepreneurial or climb the corporate ladder; whilst ‘older workers’ tend to be positioned as ‘on the decline’ before crossing the work-life boundary into retirement. This 'unitary' (and to come extent, gendered) identity is a product of a modernist capitalism (du Gay, 1996) that has since fragmented due to greater workforce heterogeneity, and increasing complexity of career pathways in post-Fordist organisations (Ainsworth and Hardy, 2004). Yet assumptions of a homogenous category of 'older workers' persist, leading scholars to call for more attention to the diversity which abounds within this group (e.g. Vickerstaff, Loretto and White, 2007). Our paper contributes to this call by presenting a qualitative study of an under-researched 'missing middle' - those in their late 40s or early-to-mid 50s engaged in knowledge sectors of the UK economy. Workers in this age-group are subject to a range of discourses, for example about 'mid-career' plateaux, "weary women" (Pritchard, 2013), 'active ageing' and 'active retiree'. Using Clarke's approach to situational analysis (2005), we use interview data to examine how workers position themselves as workers through the performative function of talk, and we map the identity positions enacted and resisted, as well as those expected-but-unseen among participants. Our paper discusses issues around [in]visibility, 'potential', agency, identity, and generational relations. *References* Ainsworth, S. and Hardy, C. (2004) Critical discourse analysis and identity, Critical Discourse Studies, 1, 2, 225-259 Clarke, A. (2005) Situational analysis: grounded theory after the postmodern turn. Thousand Oaks: Sage. du Gay, O. (1996) Consumption and identity at work. London: Sage publications. Loretto, W., Vickerstaff, S. and White, P. (2007) The future for older workers. Bristol: Polity Press. Pritchard, K. (2013) Weary women: re-constructing retirement in the 21st century. Conference presentation at the WU Discourse Symposium, Vienna, December 2013. Abstract available at: http://m.wu.ac.at/fas/bizcomm/symposien/symposium2013/pritchard.pdf