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Immigrants' Negotiations of Career Inheritance: A (Dis)Placement Framework

Immigrants' Negotiations of Career Inheritance: A (Dis)Placement Framework

Presented to the Organizational Communication Division of the International Communication Association 2015, at San Juan, PR.

Although research has explored how career and work are understood as legacy or inheritance in particular social contexts, scholars have called for more nuanced approaches relevant to cultural minorities and immigrants, attuned to the intersections of race, class, and gender, and negotiations of individual agency vis-à-vis institutional structures. My paper addresses this call, by outlining a framework centered on the communicative processes of (dis)placement, whereby actors make meaningful work values, stemming from the various sites they occupy. I argue, every instance of displacement also always includes a process of placement, or embedding oneself somewhere, so that career inheritance is an ongoing movement of navigating work and life across place and time. While extant work on career inheritance has focused on localized, or single community-based negotiations, this paper thus urges a consideration of the transnational and transcontextual meaning-making that shapes contemporary careers.


Rahul Mitra

May 25, 2015


  1. Immigrants’ Negotiations of Career Inheritance: A (Dis)Placement Framework* Rahul Mitra,

    Ph.D. Wayne State University *Forthcoming in S. Shenoy-Packer, & E. Gabor (Eds.), Immigrants communicating meanings of work. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.
  2. Rationale Focus on white collar careers and U.S./European experiences (Gabor

    & Buzzanell, 2012; Shinnar, 2007) Subjective deconstruction of how careers may be inherited and/or appropriated over place and time Theoretical framework examining the communicative interpretation of place and transit
  3. Immigrants “Inheriting” Career Career as legacy or “inheritance” (Berkelaar et

    al., 2012; Bradford et al., 2001; Goodale & hall, 1976; Inkson, 2004, 2007; Kuhn et al., 2008; Kurtz, 1995; Laspita et al., 2012; Lentz & Laband, 1990) Socio-economic, cultural, familial, and professional background Immigrant experiences of work and career meaning- making; alternative interpretations of career “success” and determinant factors (Gomez et al., 2001; Shinnar, 2007; Yakushko, 2006; Yakushko et al., 2008) Ethnic enclaves providing both benefits and handicaps Negotiation of xenophobia and institutional structures (Re)appropriation and/or resistance of mainstream labels (e.g.., “hard worker)
  4. Relevant Observations  Work and careers may be valued according

    to different criteria, both individual and collective (social and/or group- level)  A crucial gap seems to be the meaning-making of immigrant careers around place and transit Nevertheless, places matter, especially as meaning-making regarding home/host/transit are ongoing (Anderson, 1991; Appadurai, 1996; Escobar, 2000) Place provides a crucial material mooring for culture, and its implications for careers and work (Lucas & Buzzanell, 2004; Mitra, in press, 2011; Werbner, 1987)  Proposed: communication as key to the negotiation of work values, pursuant to particular place and transit-based experiences
  5. The (Dis)Placement Framework to Career Inheritance • What is career?

    • Is career important? Why? • Who is the career important for? • How do these understandings change over time? Valuing Work • Home/ Host • Rigid/ Flexible • Self/ Other Displacement • Family homesteads • Workplaces • Schools • Community enclaves Sites
  6. Implications Dynamic meaning-making of work and careers across place and

    time, for immigrants Transcends individual career factors and outcomes to consider embedded and intersecting social and group-level concerns Centers the communicative negotiation of place as material underpinnings of culture and work, especially the ongoing processes of (dis)placement
  7. Questions/contact Corresponding email: Full slides posted online via twitter