The Intersections of Migration, Identity and Occupation

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This paper is a theoretical exploration of the interconnections between identity and doing, that draws together two inherently interdisciplinary fields, namely migration studies and occupational science. Research on international migration addresses a range of issues across a number of scales, including national immigration policies and individual decision-making processes. The study of occupation extends beyond engagement in productive employment to include all that human beings do on a daily basis, such as caring for self and children, and leisure activities. The construct of ‘occupational identity’ developed within occupational science examines the dialogical relationship between what people do, how they see themselves, and how they are seen by others; and in turn, how their sense of personal self and social self also influence what they do. The connection between doing and identity therefore has a performative aspect that affects, and is affected by various aspects of one’s self, such as gender, age, sexual orientation and the like. This paper will specifically draw on the works of Erving Goffman and Judith Butler to explicate conceptualizations of how and why gender is performed by individuals for societal audiences in everyday interaction, and consider the applicability of these conceptualizations to issues of gender, identity, and migration. The notion of displaying one’s gendered self for others, and the possibilities for gendered self within particular spaces, is particularly important for studies of migration. The process of international migration alters the environments in which people conduct their daily occupations and activities. Given the link between occupation and identity, the influences of shifts in geographical context between immigrants’ sending and host countries affect gender norms, roles, and performance. Likewise, changes in space and place are argued to have important implications for the shaping of migrants’ identity and its display through occupation.


Keywords: International Migration, Identity, Occupation, Gender
Stream: Identity and Belonging; the Politics of Diversity; Globalisation
Presentation Type: 30 minute Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Suzanne Huot

PhD Student, Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, The University of Western Ontario
London, Ontario, Canada

I am a doctoral student in an interdisciplinary graduate program at the University of Western Ontario. I will complete a PhD in the Occupational Science stream of the Health and Rehabilitation Sciences program. My research intersts include understanding the transitions experienced by international migrants to Canada and how their negotiation of barriers is a gendered experience. I have completed an MA and BA in Geography at the University of Western Ontario. In addition to being a full time student, I am also a research apprentice on a SSHRC grant exploring discourses of retirement in the Canadian media, and the Executive Director of the Canadian Society of Occupational Scientists.

Dr. Debbie Laliberte Rudman

Assistant Professor, School of Occupational Therapy, The University of Western Ontario
London, Ontario, Canada


Dr. Belinda Dodson

Associate Professor, Department of Geography, The University of Western Ontario
London, Ontario, Canada


Ref: D08P0129