Undergraduate Shuxi Wu shares her research
Shuxi Wu is a Junior majoring in Anthropology with a concentration in Cultural Anthropology. She is currently working on a project titled: “Transnational Professionals: Global Hires, the New Knowledge Economy, and the Metanational Corporation”
Transnational migration has never been in more urgent need of discussion. Anthropological examination of the subject, however, has focused primarily on the clearly disadvantaged (low-skill workers vulnerable to exploitation) or the powerful driving figures of globalization (termed the “transnational capitalist class”), whereas the middle strata of skilled employees are often overlooked. In policy debates, skilled foreign employees are seen as displacers of American workers. In economic analysis, however, professional knowledge is regarded as valuable capital. It is imperative to put these fields in dialogue with each other for a non-fractured image of highly skilled foreign workers.
This ethnographic study of relocated, highly skilled East and Southeast Asian employees or “global hires” of two Portland-based transnational corporations (Nike, Inc. and Columbia Sportswear Company) examines the experience and agency of global hires in the transnational circuit. I analyze how the status of foreign workers with special knowledge construe both leverages and obstacles in the employees’ relocation experience and result in a variety of strategies for negotiation of better opportunities within their structural position. Drawing theoretical inspirations from David Harvey’s model of flexible accumulation and Yves Doz’s concept of the metanational, I first show the methods and rationale with which corporations condition the transnational labor flow in the new knowledge economy. I then discuss global hires’ strategies in negotiating for mobility and workplace niche – strategies informed by agentic considerations of possibilities and limitations attached to their status; Bourdieu’s notions of habitus and practice will be seminal here. The project started in Winter 2018 and data-collection is still on-going; it is scheduled for its first presentation this year in May, and I hope to extend my fieldwork site to the companies’ branches in Asian countries afterwards.
Shuxi has received the UROP Mini Grant.