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Learning from Small Change: Clerkship and the Labors of Convenience

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Abstract

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.

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