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Immigrant Workers and Meanings of Work

Communicating Life and Career Transitions

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 Eight: Immigrant Women Negotiating Shifting Meanings of Work and Confronting Micro-aggressions with/in the Ivory Tower


← 98 | 99 →CHAPTER EIGHT

Immigrant Women Negotiating Shifting Meanings of Work and Confronting Micro-aggressions with/in the Ivory Tower


In 2012, newly admitted immigrants held 3,378 new faculty and research positions in the United States (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2012). As “an invisible minority on many U.S. campuses” (Foote, Li, Monk, & Theobald, 2008, p. 168), immigrant academics’ intellectual migration to the United States, their experiences, and the ways in which they navigate the academy are seldom explored (Chen, 2014; Foote et al., 2008; Kim, Wolf-Wendel, & Twombly, 2011; McCalman, 2007; Robbins, Smith, & Santini, 2011; Skachkova, 2007; Thomas & Johnson, 2004). Moreover, current research tends to examine immigrant experiences in general, rather than the particularities of specific groups, such as female immigrant faculty. Motivated by this gap, this chapter focuses on first-person accounts of how immigrant women across intersecting identity positions experience and negotiate the complex meaning/fulness of academic work. We argue that the voices of immigrant women faculty can shed light on the complex interplays between macro-level social structures and micro-level individual experiences (Sorrells, 2013), and those voices can also enlighten us on the politics of meaningful work across micro, meso, and macro levels (Broadfoot et al., 2008; Cheney, Zorn, Planalp, & Lair, 2008; Lair, Shenoy, McClellan, & McGuire, 2008). Additionally, the contributions of this chapter answer Mohanty’s (2011) call to “unpack the notion of ‘international faculty’ by looking at it through the lens...

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