Multilingualism and Identity in Transnational Workplaces in Sweden

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1864 words

Downloads: 20

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Research Questions
  3. Research Plan
  4. The Data
    The Subject Group
    The Settings
    Data Gathering
    Ethical considerations
    Theoretical Background
    Suggested Timeline


The project explores how social identity of immigrant youth is achieved at workplace interactions. I propose to study workplace activities that are accomplished through interaction. For this project, I would like to focus on two types of interactional activities at workplace: (a) task-based activities such as assigned group projects, and (b) various institutional talks, above all, peer-conversations, conversations with clients and job interviews, among others. The data gathered from the workplace activities will be augmented by individual interviews which could itself provide me with extra and important knowledge regarding the immigrant youth’s identity work. By identity, I mean one’s display of, or ascription to, a social category which can be formed, altered, negotiated and thus achieved in interaction by verbal and nonverbal means (using talk and other embodied resources) to refer to and make inferences about self and other. In this project, I intend to study immigrants who are considered young adults (here between the age 18 to 25), who at the time of arrival in Sweden were registered as unaccompanied minors meaning that they were migrant children who moved on their own to Sweden or became separated from their families in transit.

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According to Swedish Migration Agency, in the last decades, there has been a gradual rise in the registration of unaccompanied minors every year. The number in 2007 was 1264 children which rose to over 7000 in 2014 and reached an unprecedented number of 35369 in 2015. Even though the majority of this group of immigrants are still waiting for the decision over their asylum-seeking requests and their residence permits, there are settings often transnational which are welcoming to job seekers with various language competencies where these immigrant youth have typically found jobs such as shop floors, service industries and factories. According to my daily observations due to my current work assignments interacting with a lot of immigrant youth, I have realized that one of their challenges at work is, on the one hand, to manage their linguistic and communicative practices with their clients, group leaders and fellow workers.

On the other hand, within these linguistically and culturally diverse settings, they have to assume identities or manage their being ascribed identities, as they engage in the various sequentially organized activities. These identities can be characterized by discursive or situated practices (see. e. g. Zimmerman, 1998), with regard to individual or in group categorization, meaning using language constituting people as members of the same, or a different, social group (see. e. g. Day, 1998). What this project aims to investigate are, therefore, the processes and strategies by which the target group of immigrants display how to cope with the daily communication at work and how to manage and respond to the language diversity that often introduces and privileges one language over the others (often Swedish and sometimes English) as organizational/official language while other languages are used in the daily interaction at work (e. g. , Hill & van Zyl, 2002).

More importantly, these processes and strategies reveal how the assumed or ascribed identities are used as resources in workplaces. I also emphasize on cross-cultural and social diversity of language in performance and identity and discuss how speakers use language to maintain or cross cultural and ‘language boundaries’ (e. g. Fredriksson, Barner-Rasmussen, and Piekkari 2006, 407) when conducting their activities. A variety of terms will be used in the study such as membership categorization analysis (MCA) (Sacks 1979), normative and non-normative categories, the doing of identity and ‘translocality’ (Greiner & Sakdapolrak 2013) in identity formation that transcends boundaries, to express a certain theoretical assumption about the object of study.

The theoretical framework draws on ethnomethodological conversation analytic approach (Sacks, 1992; Antaki & Widdicombe, 1998) within which this study is situated within the broader discourse analysis (Zimmerman, 1998), and is inspired by a sociocultural linguistic perspective combining sociocultural and linguistic anthropology (Bucholtz & Hall 2005), language and identity as discursive products of social interaction and situated performances (Bourdieu, 1977, 1982; Giddens, 1984; Gumperz, 1982; Heller, 2007a, b; Pujolar, 2008), and interactional linguistics (e. g. , Mondada 2014). This research proposal contributes to the notion that identity emerges and is accomplished in interactional contexts, rather than being inherited and pre-determined (Bucholtz & Hall 2005, Keevallik 2010).

Research Questions

By studying interactional activities at workplaces, this project will try to answer the following questions:

  • How in workplace interactions are participants – particularly the subject group of the study – (as speakers, being spoken to or about) cast into categories with associated characteristics or features?
  • What are the verbal and nonverbal resources used for (co-)constructing such categories?
  • What are the consequences of identity work at workplaces both for the immigrant youth and their colleagues? How are social categorization and the formation of identity in interaction used as resources to accomplish the workplace everyday activities? Through answering the above mentioned questions, the project will also certainly discuss how these immigrants as multilingual and multicultural transnationals demonstrate their linguistic practices through multimodal means of interaction.

Research Plan

The Data

The data used for this project will primarily consist of video and audio recordings of interactions at workplaces. I intend to make ethnographic observation of the setting and gather video and audio recordings of interactional activities. The ethnographic notes will be used as extra information in case of relevance for the clarification of the recording materials. I will also perform post-activity interviews (REF) with people involved in those activities including both the immigrants and their co-interactants in the activities at the workplaces. The reason for the need of interviews is (a) to investigate the participants’ understanding (or possible misunderstanding) of those activities and (b) to increase my own understanding of the people’s contributions (including work-specific linguistic terms, jargons, etc. ) in case of their relevance for the analysis of the primary data, i. e. the recordings.

The Subject Group

As explained, I intend to gather my data at workplaces where immigrant youth (between 18-25 of age) work. I will particularly choose those immigrant youth who were previously registered as unaccompanied minors at Swedish Migration Agency. Even though the majority of unaccompanied minors in the last few years are from Afghanistan and it would be advantageous for me as I share with them a common language, nonetheless, I will gather data from a variety of immigrant youth with various linguistic backgrounds to make the project more inclusive regarding the target group.

The Settings

The settings will be at least in two regions in Sweden particularly in Stockholm and Östergötland’s counties. As I have been working with unaccompanied minors in the past 3 years, I have contacts with a number of companies such as Östgötasvamp in Vikingstad, one of Sweden's largest mushroom growers and Euroform in Tranås, a producer of plastic system solutions, and STAGA, a product and process development company which all are characterized as multilingual workplaces populated by Afghans, Syrians, Chechens, Bosnians, Eritreans, Palestinians, Greeks, Somalis, Bulgarians, Bosnians, Thais, and Swedes as workers.

Data Gathering

The research will be longitudinal, gathering data of immigrant youth in order to analyze their experiences of workplace multilingualism by means of interviews, observations, video-recording, recorded narratives, or survey data. The data will be collected in specific intervals (e. g. once a month), so that I can record the daily routines and the activities in a long stretch of time to find any changes in the roles and the structure of the activities. The video recordings will be transcribed, digitized and the selected excerpts will be analyzed in detail for the purpose of the study. Throughout the research, ethical rules are strictly followed according to the advice given by the ‘Ethical Review Board’.

Ethical considerations

The project will be in line with ethical principles put forth by Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) and also will follow the newly introduced law known as GDPR. (b). I will also design a data management plan for the project in regards to managing personal information in my data, saving the material in a safe server at the university’s website, and how to make the used data in the project available for the public (this is of course a sensitive issue which I would like to receive guidance with the help of the prospective supervisors and the department’s management)

Theoretical Background

The study takes an ethnomethodological conversation analytic approach, analyzing and uncovering the interactional and methodical practices that workers use to make sense of their social world (Garfinkel 1984, Goffman 1961) and understand the commonsense routines and everyday activities (Fitzgerald, Housley, and Butler 2009). The research will be located within an intersubjective (vs. individual), praxeological (vs. cognitive) and performative approach to identity (Bucholtz & Hall 2005). Following a Conversation Analysis (Sacks, 1979) and Ethnomethodological approach (Garfinkel 1967), identity is procedurally relevant to talk in an interaction only when participants are obviously oriented to it (Schegloff, 1997), through which the everyday establishment of social identities and the rules that regulate interactions can be explained (cf. Stokoe and Weatherall 2002). EM and the way it has developed in CA base the analysis on the normative facets of interaction (Heritage 1984). Both ethnomethodological and conversation analytic approaches seek to identify general practices within micro-level social interaction of people by which “social order” is achieved, rather than being “order” as a framework within which actions take place (Garfinkel 1967; Sacks 1992).

Suggested Timeline

I intend to write an anthology of scientific papers to be accumulated as a doctoral dissertation. The time frame embodies conducting a more detailed survey of the field. This takes up much of the time of the first year which also would be spent on courses; I will take specific courses regarding the theory and methodology and also the research field; meanwhile, I will also start collecting my data in the forms of observation with field notes and post-activity interviews, and audio and video-recordings.

For the second year, it is my contention, while continuing collecting the data, I will make use of the departments’ seminars and also existing collegial competences to receive comments on my raw material (in data sessions). I will then begin to analyze my data, which will make be able to compose the first study toward the end of the second year. The study results will be presented in national and international conferences and seminars. I will continue with the data gathering and its analysis even in the third year with the intention of writing the second paper and making plans for the third one. The third year and the fourth year of doctoral studied will be spent on two other articles and also the introduction to the dissertation (Kappa).

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My hope is that by the time that the dissertation is ready for the public defence at least 2 to 3 articles have already been published and the fourth one has already been submitted for publication. I would also like to teach during the doctoral education and also receive administrative assignments such as to be part of organizing committees for symposia or possibly conferences. If given the chance to spend 25% on teaching, supervision and examination, and also administrative experiences, the project’s plan will allow me to finalize the dissertation in 5 years, otherwise in 4 years.

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Multilingualism and Identity in Transnational Workplaces in Sweden. (2020, Jun 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 21, 2023, from
“Multilingualism and Identity in Transnational Workplaces in Sweden.” GradesFixer, 10 Jun. 2020,
Multilingualism and Identity in Transnational Workplaces in Sweden. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 Sept. 2023].
Multilingualism and Identity in Transnational Workplaces in Sweden [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2020 Jun 10 [cited 2023 Sept 21]. Available from:
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