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A World of Work: Imagined Manuals for Real Jobs

by Ilana Gershon (Editor) - £12.50  Cornell University Press (2015)
paperback    ISBN 13: 9780801456855 | ISBN 10: 0801456851

Ever wondered what it would be like to be a street magician in Paris? A fish farmer in Norway? A costume designer in Bollywood? This playful and accessible look at different types of work around the world delivers a wealth of information and advice about a wide array of jobs and professions. The value of this book is twofold: For young people or middle-aged people who are undecided about their career paths and feel constrained in their choices, A World of Work offers an expansive vision. For ethnographers, this book offers an excellent example of using the practical details of everyday life to shed light on larger structural issues.
 
Each chapter in this collection of ethnographic fiction could be considered a job manual. Yet not any typical job manual to do justice to the ways details about jobs are conveyed in culturally specific ways, the authors adopt a range of voices and perspectives. One chapter is written as though it was a letter from an older sister counseling her brother on how to be a doctor in Malawi. Another is framed as a eulogy for a well-loved village magistrate in Papua New Guinea who may have been killed by sorcery.
 
Beneath the novelty of the examples are some serious messages that Ilana Gershon highlights in her introduction. These ethnographies reveal the connection between work and culture, the impact of societal values on the conditions of employment. Readers will be surprised at how much they can learn about an entire culture by being given the chance to understand just one occupation.

(Price & availability last checked: June 2015)

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