"I still feel kind of temporary about myself": Liminality in Cruise Ship Work

John Blenkinsopp, Imke Matuszewski

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    Research on organizational socialization has been strongly influenced by the literature on rites of passage but has paid limited attention to its key concept of liminality, the threshold state of being ‘betwixt and between’, in exploring the process by which outsiders become insiders. In traditional organizational careers liminality occurs only briefly, at the initial point of organizational entry. However as contemporary careers typically involve inter-organizational moves the career actor is likely to experience several episodes of organizational socialization and therefore many more periods of liminality. Indeed changes to the labor market such as increased use of temps and freelancers, and fixed-term and zero hours contracts, mean that for many workers a sense of liminality is practically a permanent condition. There is therefore an urgent need to address the neglect of liminality in the organizational socialization literature. This paper presents key findings from a study of organizational socialization of cruise ship workers, a group for whom ongoing liminality is a key feature of their experience. Researchers have explored liminality among workers such as temps, interim managers and, but cruise ship workers’ experience of liminality is much more pronounced, being characterized by repeated crossing and re-crossing of thresholds (both physical and psychological), between home, ship and shore. Their sense of liminality may actually increase over time, as they eventually find themselves feeling ‘betwixt and between’ even when at home. Long-term cruise ship workers may also feel liminal in respect of their careers, viewing working on cruise ships as a temporary situation (even if they end up working this way for a decade or more), pending the launch of the ‘real’ career.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)17406-17406
    JournalAcademy of Management Proceedings
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014


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