Uncertain Lives: Neoliberalism and the Shaping of Home Among Service Workers in Gatlinburg

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Department or Administrative Unit

Anthropology and Museum Studies

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This paper examines the practice of living in weekly rental residences among low-wage, tourist industry workers in Gatlinburg, considering how personal understandings of “home” interface with aneoliberal “flexible” labor system. While this is a critique of mass tourism in Gatlinburg, I want to emphasize that the working and living conditions described here are not unique. Across the U.S.neoliberal restructuring of the wage labor system leaves workers with only low-wage, flexible, or contingent job options (Bourgois 2003[1995]; Bourgois and Schonberg 2009; Fairbanks and Lloyd 2011).In this respect, Gatlinburg shares similarities with other American towns and cities, especially in Appalachia, where deindustrialization has been accompanied by a growth in contingent, part-time service work (Cattell-Gordon 1990; Dudley 1994; Newman 1985; Tice and Billings 1991). I suggest that these flexible labor systems produce chronic economic uncertainty that results in a refashioning of homemaking practices that produce shifts in the order and function and meanings of home spaces.


This article was originally published in North American Dialogue. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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North American Dialogue


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