Invisibilized Dirty Work: The Multiple Realities of US Airline Pilots’ Work

Amy L. Fraher*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)
    258 Downloads (Pure)


    This paper builds upon Heather Höpfl’s intellectual contributions in the areas of identity, dirt, and study of the unseen at commercial air carriers, by examining US airline pilots’ work over the decade between 2000 and 2010. Challenging assumptions about pilots being an elite group of unemotional professionals, findings here reveal how a once prestigious profession devolved into ‘invisibilized dirty work’ in the occupational rhetoric of employees. In contrast to dirty work definitions in which the associated taint is static, externally applied, and predates employees’ entry into their occupation, this study finds pilots’ emotional dirty work involves a changed sense of occupational identity due to industry restructuring and increased managerialism in which employees were forced to perpetuate a charade of safety in a system they believe has become increasingly risky.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)131-148
    Number of pages18
    JournalCulture and Organization
    Issue number2
    Early online date2 Nov 2016
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2017


    • occupational identity
    • dirty work
    • airlines
    • pilots

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Cultural Studies
    • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


    Dive into the research topics of 'Invisibilized Dirty Work: The Multiple Realities of US Airline Pilots’ Work'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this