Camp Staffing: The Construction, Maintenance, and Dissolution of Roles and Identities at a Summer Camp

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This study analyzes junctures in the experiences of a summer camp staff from the perspective of structural interactionist theory, emphasizing the process by which staff construct and maintain a wilderness community, social roles, and identities. Data were collected by means of three qualitative methods: open‐ended surveys, in‐depth interviews, and participant observation. Findings indicate that staff brought varied expectations to camp yet constructed normative channels of interaction during the first week. Initial patterns of interaction sediment into concrete roles that are internalized as camp identities. From the removed and isolated local social world of the wilderness community, participants created social roles and identities that allowed for ephemeral identity transformations. When the wilderness community dissolved, staff members initially reported readjustment difficulties but ultimately returned to preestablished identities in the outside world. These findings are relevant to understandings of individuality in a social context and shed light on everyday processes of social removal.


Sociology and Corrections

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Sociological Spectrum: Mid-South Sociological Association