Liminality at Work in Norwegian Hotels
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionUnderthun A, Jordhus-Lier DC. Liminality at Work in Norwegian Hotels. Tourism Geographies. 2017:1-18 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14616688.2017.1314546
Hotels are spaces of temporary accommodation, but they are also important temporary spaces for an increasingly mobile and segmented workforce with different backgrounds and motives. In this paper we wish to address the temporary and transitional nature of hotel work by employing the term ‘liminality’. More specifically, we analyse the hotel as a liminal space for transient workers that view this work as a temporary endeavour. By drawing upon data from a study of hotel workers in Norway, we discuss how the liminality of hotel work may be understood. Here, we turn to an important debate within tourism studies on the blurring relationships between consumer and producer identities in resorts, often referred to in terms such as ‘working tourist’ or ‘migrant tourist-worker’ (Bianchi, 2000). For a relatively privileged group of workers, the hotel becomes a space of liminal lifestyle pursuits as well as a space of work. We also contrast this privileged group with a different and less privileged liminal group of ‘expatriate workers’ (cf. Longva 1997). Bianchi (2000) highlights the potentially problematic effect of transient lifestyles and consumption of recreation, a problematic we wish to develop further by investigating how worker representation and solidarity develops in liminal spaces of work. While strategies of liminality may have a transformative impact on the individual, their aggregate effects might simultaneously alter the way in which hospitality work is negotiated – from the collective to the individual level. As such, hotels as employers of working tourists pose a great challenge to collective representation, and may undermine effective worker action for less privileged groups of workers. The final section of this paper addresses this challenge, asking what bearings the individualism that dominates liminal work spaces has for trade unionism in the hospitality industry.