Negotiating ‘otherness’ as skilled migrants

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Industrial Relations, 2019, 61 (2), pp. 198 - 224
Issue Date:
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© 2018, Australian Labour and Employment Relations Association (ALERA), SAGE Publications Ltd, Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC. While culture is beginning to be understood as a mechanism of stratification in the labor market alongside attribute-based discrimination, we lack a corresponding understanding of how skilled migrants deal with their otherness in the labor market. This article seeks to contribute to an understanding of the lived experiences of skilled migrants by identifying the material and social consequences of performing extra work to obtain cultural legitimacy. In contrast to the recent focus on understanding cultural others’ responses to pressures for conformity in terms of identity conflict, this study identifies the context in which cultural legitimacy is required and constructed, both in terms of macro-societal and institutional influences on identity regulation within organizations as well as interactional dynamics and power relations. Based on interviews with migrants in the field of accounting and finance in Australia, I draw out the main features of ‘cultural work’ and show the potential consequences of not performing cultural work as well as the means of migrants’ resistance against pressures for conformity.
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