Learning from Small Change: Clerkship and the Labors of Convenience



Convenience stores are atop the list of global retail chains blamed for homogenizing landscapes, deskilling labor, and eroding local cultural difference. Further still, their very ubiquity and “nonplace”-ness is said to challenge conventional modes of ethnographic inquiry. In the following article, I move beyond such broad assumptions by examining how the convenience store constitutes a meaningful lifeworld and culturally embedded economic institution. Drawing on my training and experiences as a clerk, I explore in particular how impersonal familiarity is constructed and contested within the context of this retail environment.