Occupational limbo, transitional liminality and permanent liminality: New conceptual distinctions

  • Matthew Bamber, Jacquelyn Allen-Collinson, John McCormack
  • Human Relations, June 2017, SAGE Publications
  • DOI: 10.1177/0018726717706535

Stuck in limbo: 'teaching-only' staff in UK universities

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

What is it about?

This article contributes new theoretical perspectives and empirical findings to the conceptualization of occupational liminality. Here, we posit ‘occupational limbo’ as a state distinct from both transitional and permanent liminality; an important analytic distinction in better understanding occupational experiences. We propose a conceptualization of occupational limbo as always-this-and-never-that, where this is less desirable than that. Based on interviews with 51 teaching-only staff at 20 research-intensive ‘Russell Group’ universities in the United Kingdom, the findings highlight some challenging occupational experiences for teaching-only staff. Interviewees reported feeling ‘locked-in’ to an uncomfortable state by a set of structural and social barriers often perceived as insurmountable. This work has wider application to other occupational spheres, and can thus enhance the understanding not just of teaching-only staff and academics, but also of other workers and managers.

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The following have contributed to this page: Professor Jacquelyn Allen-Collinson and John McCormack