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Du är NK!

Konstruktioner av yrkesidentiteter på varuhuset NK ur ett genus- och klassperspektiv 1918-1975

Karin Åmossa

Stockholm Studies in Economic History 2004, 213 s. ISBN 91-22-02091-8
Bogomtale fra forlaget.

Abstract

How were work identities of female and male shop assistants in the clothing departments at NK constructed, and how did this change over time? The starting point of this thesis has been that identities are contextually constructed. Focus has been set on trying to understand how the process of ‘making’ identity has been done in a historical perspective for shop assistants in clothing departments at the department store NK, AB Nordiska Kompaniet, in Stockholm.

Shared narratives are crucial in the process of making collective identities. This thesis analyses narratives on relations between shop assistants and the company, the trade union and the commodities that were sold. The results show that the constructions of work identities, besides from being an ongoing process, have been characterized by a constantly ongoing struggle about expectations on their nature. The perspective is both discursive and materialis­tic.

NK had approximately 2000 employees. All these people could not have personal relations to each other. To create an imagined community and a sense of collective identity, common narratives were important. The employees were in the company’s internal narrative named the ‘NK-ists’. It was said to be important to work in the ‘NK- spirit’. Narratives outside the NK-collective did effect the imagined community within, sometimes causing the collective to join closer together and sometimes dividing it.

Work identities and the gendered division of labour are connected. Notions of gender and of what kind of work that is considered to be suitable to men or women at different times and in different places colour the narratives that construct work identities. The narratives dealt with in this thesis originate in existing events and in myths about the department store NK, and the shop assistants working at NK had to relate to these. The employer had picked one group of employees for whom this was especially true: the shop assistants. They were told: “You are NK”.

Keywords: Work identities, gender, gendered division of labour, narratives, department stores, NK, shop assistants, shop work, clothing, trade unions, Anthony Giddens.