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Immigrant Workers and Meanings of Work

Communicating Life and Career Transitions

Edited By Suchitra Shenoy-Packer and Elena Gabor

This first-of-its-kind book uniquely captures the meanings of work expressed by immigrants. Their stories – from work histories to life transitions and professional journeys – are conscientiously and rigorously mapped by the academic insights of communication scholars, many of whom are immigrants themselves.
Immigrant workers’ narratives of work and its nuances in an adopted country offer many hitherto muted, invisible, and/or purposely silenced perspectives. A variety of new and familiar terms – concepts such as career inheritance, aphorisms, cultural adaptation, acculturation, and cultural distance – and culture-specific terms such as ganas and consejos are discussed alongside the inherent struggles of identity construction across borders.
While the contributors represent diversity in co-cultural affiliations, national origin, and immigration experiences encountered both personally and professionally, the stories of immigrants represent an even larger number of countries and cultures.
This volume compels the academic community to acknowledge immigrants as workers whose voices matter and whose sense and processes of meaning-making is nuanced, complex, and multi-dimensional. Immigrant workers’ voices can contribute significantly to the rich growth of research in organizational communication, meanings of work, career studies, cross-cultural management, psychology of work, and work and society.

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Chapter Four: Immigrants’ Negotiations of Career Inheritance: A (Dis)placement Framework (Rahul Mitra)

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c h a p t e r f o u r Social constructionist and communicative scholars of career examine how people talk about their work and thus constitute it through discourse (Cheney, Zorn, Planalp, & Lair, 2008; Stead, 2004). In particular, Inkson (2004, 2007) highlights the metaphor of legacy, re-presenting career as a form of inheritance, which fore- grounds what individuals have imbibed from role models in different life contexts (e.g., home, workplace). Although most of this literature focuses on white-collar jobs and workers located in the global North, scholars have urged greater attention to how cultural minorities and immigrants, in different locations and professions, negotiate work and career (Gabor & Buzzanell, 2012; Shinnar, 2007; Yakushko, Backhaus, Watson, Ngaruiya, & Gonzalez, 2008). Accordingly, I offer a (dis)placement framework of career inheritance in this chapter, drawing from the experiences of immigrant workers. This framework adds a situated understanding of place to the meaning making of career and is also attuned to the ongoing negotiation of self/other in the realm of work. Specifically, it notes the active negotiation of work values by actors, stemming from various institutional sites, through a communicative process of (dis)placement, or making sense of place. Immigrant experiences add an important nuance to this process, given the varied conditions of flight and xenophobia that might restrict acclimati- zation (Gomez et al., 2001; Mitra, 2011, 2014). There is thus a need for research that privileges the lived experiences of immigrants in order to probe such margin- alized spaces of career negotiation....

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