A World of Work

A World of Work

Imagined Manuals for Real Jobs
Edited by Ilana Gershon
Afterword by Jean Lave
  • Honorable mention, Society for the Anthropology of Work Book Prize (SAW Prize)

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.

Contributors: Lovleen Bains, Mumbai; Chiwoza Bandawe, University of Malawi; Joshua A. Bell, Smithsonian Institution; Michelle Bigenho, Colgate University; Warren Chamberlain, Vita Needle Company, Massachusetts; Melissa Demian, Australian National University; Ilana Gershon, Indiana University; Kathryn Graber, Indiana University; Graham M. Jones, MIT; Amanda Kemble, University of Michigan; Briel Kobak, University of Chicago; Corinna Kruse, Linköping University, Sweden; Joel Kuipers, The George Washington University; Carrie Lane, California State University, Fullerton; Jean Lave, University of California, Berkeley; John Law, Open University; Heather Levi, Temple University; Marianne Elisabeth Lien, University of Oslo; Caitrin Lynch, Olin College; Loïc Marquet, Paris; Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, Indiana University; Chris Swift, Leeds Teaching Hospitals; Claire Wendland, University of Wisconsin–Madison; Clare Wilkinson-Weber, Washington State University Vancouver; Helena Wulff, Stockholm University

Ilana Gershon

Ilana Gershon is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Indiana University. She is the author of The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting over New Media and No Family Is an Island: Cultural Expertise among Samoans in Diaspora and editor of A World of Work: Imagined Manuals for Real Jobs, all from Cornell. 



No Family Is an Island
Cultural Expertise among Samoans in Diaspora
Ilana Gershon
Ilana Gershon investigates how and when the categories "cultural" and "acultural" become relevant for Samoans as they encounter cultural differences in churches, ritual exchanges, welfare offices, and community-based organizations.



The Breakup 2.0
Disconnecting over New Media
Ilana Gershon
A few generations ago, college students showed their romantic commitments by exchanging special objects: rings, pins, varsity letter jackets. Pins and rings were handy, telling everyone in local communities that you were spoken for, and when you broke...