Work Identity and Contradictory Experiences of Welfare Workers in a Life-history Perspective


  • Betina Dybbroe Roskilde University



work identity, gendered work-life, life-historical subjectivity, psycho-societal, interaction form


Transformation of the welfare sectors challenge professional identities of care and welfare workers in Scandinavia. At the same time welfare and care workers take part in these changes and are changed in the psycho-social setting of the workplace. This article presents research about care work in Denmark with a focus on subjective processing of work identity, applying a psycho-societal theoretical and methodical approach. A life historical and experiential understanding of Alfred LORENZER's cultural theory is applied to understand societal transformations, here in the work place and of professionals in relation to their present scene of work and in relation to their life history. Two concepts are applied, interaction form and scenic understanding, because of their potentials for analyzing workers' experience. The analysis is based on a combined ethnographic and life historical investigation in nursing and involves a young nurse in scenes of the hospital, where gendered life history is re-enacted and present in a gendered work life with fragile possibilities of identification . Social dynamics interact with subjective dynamics in ways that illuminate not only habitual and creative orientations and practices of professionals in care, but also the contradictory transformations of the work, e.g. marketization and democratization in the work place.



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Author Biography

Betina Dybbroe, Roskilde University

Betina DYBBROE is associate professor, Ph.D., director of the Center for Health Promotion Research at Roskilde University. Her research approach is interdisciplinary and psycho-societal, with long experience in life history research, socialization and learning studies, in-depth hermeneutics, and participative methodology. Her research recently covers conceptualizations of care and health as subjective experience; subjectivity, meaning and professional identity in the welfare sectors, health promotion and healthy work and work places, methodologies to study gender and class in health and inequality in health.




How to Cite

Dybbroe, B. (2012). Work Identity and Contradictory Experiences of Welfare Workers in a Life-history Perspective. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 13(3).