Work(ing) artefacts: tools of the trade, totems or trophies?

Richard NS Robinson, Tom Baum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
31 Downloads (Pure)


Do workplace artefacts have utility for their custodians beyond the workplace context? A new materiality perspective allowed the conversation to move beyond the parameters of the organisation and into the private spheres of both practicing and retired para-professionals. In this study of chefs, we discover the deliberate acquisition of occupational artefacts beyond their organisational utility. These artefacts betray a post-occupational identity deeply revelatory of materiality. We ask in what ways are these artefacts symbolic, or totemic? Findings provide fresh insights into how artefacts are mobilised as reverent ‘working’ objects, as totems and trophies for nostalgia. This facilitates reflections on how work was or ought to be, and so in turn who or ‘what I am’ or ‘who I was’. Theoretically, this enables us to extend the nexus of materiality and work and materiality and everyday life over both time and place.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-189
Number of pages25
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number2
Early online date13 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • artefacts
  • materiality
  • agency
  • nostalgia
  • chefs
  • occupational culture/community


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