Identity work by a young petite female academic home comer: quest for social power in masculine settings

Publication Name

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal


Purpose: How do females with multiple sources of identity deal with intersectional identity tensions and perceived lack of access to social power? The study focuses on how social relationships form and develop in masculinised settings between construction workers and a petite female researcher through perceived notions of equality and inequality. Through autoethnographic tales, the study examines how an academic home comer navigates between conflicting professional and cultural identities, in their native country. Design/methodology/approach: Using collaborative autoethnography, the study examines how the intersections of being a young petite female and a “partial” insider in a male-dominated construction industry influences the researcher's identity work process and her quest for social power. Findings: The findings suggest that to access referent social power, the researcher covers stigmatised intersectional attributes and reveals a more favourable identity. The fieldwork journey of the young petite female researcher highlights that identity work is a situational process that evolves with respondent relationships, respondent assigned roles, perceived notion of access to power and struggles of cultural versus professional identity. The reader is also taken through the collaborative autoethnographic journey of a female researcher and her doctoral studies supervisor. Originality/value: This paper makes several contributions. First, it contributes to the academic literature on intersectionality of identity, especially concentrating on the intersectional attributes of petite physical stature, gender and perceived lack of access to social power. Second, this paper theorises identity work processes as an indirect strategy of social power in researcher-and-researched relationships. Last, through collaborative autoethnography of female researchers' fieldwork journey, this study contributes to the body of knowledge on academic home comers as “partial” insiders in their native country.

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