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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 Seven: Discontinuities and Dislocations: Immigrant Meanings of Work during Ambivalent Work–Life “Choices” (Suchitra Shenoy-Packer)


c h a p t e r s e v e n My immigrant life has been relatively easy. I came to the U.S. as a 20-year-old, educated young woman with a bachelor’s degree in English and nearly three years of work experience as a journalist in India, eager to earn my master’s degree in communication. My parents were able to pay for my first semester of graduate school, after which I got teaching assistantships and self-funded the rest of my education. A semester before I graduated, I got a full-time job at a community college, where I worked a little under a year and a half. Soon after, I started work- ing on my fully funded doctoral degree and, after earning my Ph.D. four years later, accepted a tenure-track faculty position at an urban university in the United States. Through it all, I got married, divorced, remarried, and became a mother— all in my adopted homeland. This is the straightforward account of my years in the U.S. I have lived a figuratively rich, independent, highly intellectual, professionally fulfilling, and per- sonally resilient life, and I am proud of my immigrant journey. Yet, interspersed throughout my life are stories of rejections and disappointments, that is, another, not so straightforward, account—of micro-aggressions and attacks on personal dignity; of self-silencing and defensive communication; of seemingly apparent but nonexistent or limited power and agency; of foreignness and loneliness; of stress- ors over visa statuses and fear of immigration officers for no obvious...

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