Identity and the professionalisation of charity shops
This thesis is a study of organising practices and cultural identities amongst those at the top of charity shop organisations ('Heads'). Its main argument is that people's personal identities are crucial in shaping their material practices and therefore the subsequent economic outcomes of these practices. Those wishing to understand the aspects of life conventionally referred to as 'economic' can learn much by investigating the identification processes of the people involved. Similarly, if policy-makers (governmental or organisational) wish to achieve certain 'economic' outcomes, their policies should address processes of identification. This argument is examined using research into material practices and identity processes in charity shop organisations, in particular the Heads. The thesis questions how the rapid professionalisation of charity shops in the 1980s and 1990s was related to the identifications of a certain generation of charity shop Heads. Using participant-observation fieldwork of three charity shop organisations and semi-structured interviews with twenty charity shop Heads, it develops theories of identity and theories of professionalism. To theories of identity it adds a five-level understanding of selfhood; a distinction between three separate identification processes; the suggestion that personal, organisational and sectoral identities are related and co-emergent; and the argument that identities must be studied as 'produced-in-interaction' as well as received from 'external' discourses. To theories of professionalism it proposes a move beyond the limited view of 'a professional' as a member of an expert occupational group, towards 'professional' as a fluid but powerfully normative description that can be applied to all organisational actors and activities. Finally, the thesis offers support for its main argument and policy recommendations for those working with charity shop organisations; and addresses the spatialised nature of identity processes.