Managing spoiled identities: dirty workers' struggles for a favourable sense of self

Gina Grandy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore how a group of dirty workers, that is, exotic dancers employed in a gentlemen's club, engage in identity construction amidst various macro, meso and micro considerations. Design/methodology/approach – This study adopts a social constructivist approach in exploring the stories of a group of 21 dancers employed at a chain of exotic dancing clubs in the UK, For Your Eyes Only. Findings – Identity construction is a complex process whereby dancers struggle to secure a positive sense of self among the various resources they encounter. The findings focus upon the processes of distancing through projecting disgust upon clients, other dancers and other clubs. Dancers do this to minimize the stigma associated with their own identities and position themselves in a more favourable light to others. In doing this, dancers construct a variety of identity roles for themselves and “others.” This process of distancing also results in the construction of a hierarchy of stigmatization whereby dancers categorize motivations for dancing, type of dancing and type of clubs to rationalize the work they perform and manage their spoiled identities. Practical implications – The stories of these dancers illustrate the messy nature of identity construction for dirty workers. In turn, it also illuminates how a better understanding of the complexity of identity construction for exotic dancers can offer insights transferable to other dirty work occupations and organizations in general. Originality/value – The paper provides an indepth look at an occupational site that is relatively unexplored in organization studies and thus makes a unique empirical contribution. It also offers a more comprehensive theoretical lens for understanding identity construction and dirty workers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-198
JournalQualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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