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Calendars and keys: The classification of “home” and “work”

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Sociological Forum


This article presents a discussion of the relationship between classification systems and individuals' everyday activities. The concept of “boundary work” is defined as the practices that concretize and give meaning to mental frameworks by placing, maintaining, and challenging cultural categories. “Home” and “work” provide a case study for examining boundary work across a range of realm relationships, from those that are highly “integrating” to those that are highly “segmenting.” Boundary practices involving calendars and keys, clothes and appearances, eating and drinking, money, people and their representations (like photographs and gifts), talk styles and conversations, reading materials and habits, and work breaks (including lunches and vacations) are discussed. Mary Douglas's work on categorical purity helps illustrate the relationship between cognitive order and visible behavior seen in the boundary work of home and work.

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Nippert-Eng, C. Calendars and keys: The classification of “home” and “work”. Sociol Forum 11, 563–582 (1996).

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