LIVING IN A “BUBBLE”: Global working communities and insulation in mobile contexts
CALL FOR PAPERS
for a Special Issue of Journal of Global Mobility
Paper submission deadline: June 30, 2022
Hugo Gaggiotti, University of the West of England, UK
Peter Case, University of the West of England, UK
Jakob Lauring, Aarhus University, Denmark
Globally mobile workers are often depicted as isolated individuals and families, who navigate crises and hazards more or less on their own (McNulty et al., 2019; Dabic et al., 2015). However, experiential knowledge suggests that in the case of, for example, assigned-, and self-initiated expatriates as well as multinational professionals, their assignments are rarely undertaken as isolated individuals (Fechter, 2016). Rather, it has been documented that mobile workers across the globe seek contact in ways that suggest the existence of distinct communities (Cohen, 1977). These groupings can in some instances become secluded collectives that effectively insulate foreign nationals from the local socio-cultural environments. In this situation, it is not uncommon to observe nationality-based bonding in places where global mobile workers work on international assignments. In some instances, they are even physically isolated in gated communities (Lauring and Selmer, 2009). Alternatively, globally mobile employees and professional experts can sometimes unite around shared identities and values (Harrington and Seabrooke, 2020; Selmer and de Leon, 1993). Although some research has been conducted on mobile work communities, this theme has generally received limited attention and many questions remain unanswered. This could for example be in relation to their ultimate purpose, their acceptance and rejection criteria, and their robustness.
The aim of this special issue is to improve understanding of this under-investigated theme in global mobility research using the theoretical lens of the concept of “community,” whether virtual or physical. Community is a central subject in the social sciences that has been studied extensively in various domains (Delanty, 2003). The concept typically refers to a group of people who share views, values, and norms and, traditionally, has been contrasted with ‘society’ as a concept. In this sense, community represents an organic form of intimate belonging that departs from the rationalized forms of social order in societies at large (Tönnies, 1887). Here it can be mentioned that communities and groups often are formed by the intention of sharing attributes and distinguishes individuals from other people by use of social categorization mechanisms (Tajfel, Turner, Austin and Worchel, 1979). In organisation theory, this view of community as the spontaneous forming of human fellowship has informed concepts such as informal organisation (Roethlisberger and Dickson, 1939) and organisational culture (Parker, 2000; Van Maanen and Barley, 1984). Yet, in general, mobile work communities have been neglected in theoretical and empirical discussions.
Conceptualizing and empirically studying the communities of globally mobile workers faces challenges unique to the category of international professionals. Theoretically, the communities of professional sojourners differ from the communal groupings envisaged in domestically oriented social science literature. Assigned expatriates, self-initiated expatriates, multinational professionals, globetrotting employees as well as international blue-collar workers are not residing permanently in a specific place. In any location, different individuals are constantly arriving and leaving the space of the community. In this way, such communities are transient and dynamic, serving the immediate needs of individuals and families without strong attachment to other members of the group.
Overall, scholars have hypothesized that a major reason why global workers are attracted to building communities amongst themselves is the need to create a shelter against the complexities of cross-cultural and cross-national encounters (Cohen, 1977). The challenges the newcomers face might differ from locals’ everyday life, and this motivates global workers to seek each other’s help. Anecdotal evidence suggests that internationally mobile workers often form isolated nation-based communities that shield them from the otherness of their foreign surroundings (Guttormsen, 2018). An informal community based on the shared national or professional identity may provide a setting where assigned expatriates, self-initiated expatriates and multinational professionals can alternatively maintain or suspend their cultural ethos in favour of a feeling of keeping intact their cultural identity (Yunlu et al., 2018). In short, they manufacture an ad-hoc community. Whether this is based on nationality or other factors such as occupation is still only scantly understood.
The call for papers for this Special Issue invites prospective contributors to think of mobile communities in terms of “bubbles” (Cohen, 1977; Van Bochove and Engbersen, 2015; Spiegel, Mense-Petermann and Bredenkötter, 2017; Zaban, 2015). Bubble is here seen as a rich metaphor that succeeds in capturing the two dimensions of professional mobile communities, i.e., their capacity both to offer shelter and forge collective identity. Bubbles are fragile, as they can burst at any moment. And yet, when they are intact, bubbles shelter those inside from the influences of the outside world. Our point of departure is that the bubble metaphor reflects both the transient nature of mobile working communities as providing temporary contexts for a set of mobile individuals, as well as the ostensibly robust boundaries providing shelter and relief from the surrounding complexity and strangeness.
Methodologically, capturing the relations and boundaries constituting a given community can be approached from a variety of research perspectives. Qualitative research could, for example, be useful for describing experiences of insulation among expatriates. Understanding the networks of solidarity and unity could be assisted by participant observational approaches, alongside the more conventional qualitative techniques such as semi-structured interviews and thematic analysis. Ethnographic approaches for gathering and reporting qualitative data have traditionally been associated with the study of informal communities in a host of contexts (Whyte, 2012 ). On the other hand, experiencing the communitarian phenomenon and the reality of global working communities can be studied from a variety of other methodological perspectives, including quantitative research traditions (e.g., surveys or social network analysis).
We invite both theoretical and empirical papers on this emerging topic. Theoretical papers would ideally discuss any conceptual underpinnings of global working communities as “bubbles” applying the relevant theoretical traditions in fields such as human resource management, strategy, anthropology, sociology, psychology, geography, and migrant studies, as well as economics and business research. Empirical papers are invited from different national, regional and local contexts. The actual shape of the global working communities and the qualitative and quantitative form of the “bubbles” may vary across national and sectoral contexts. We thus encourage papers on mobile workers working and living in any part of the world. We also welcome contributions that explore the communities of mobile professionals transitioning between industrialized and non-industrialized countries. In addition, we would like to see studies of different categories of high or low skilled global workers, professionals, assigned and self-initiated expatriates operating in business, education and development sectors.
We are interested in papers addressing, but not limited to, the following themes:
- Mobile working and communitarian ethos
- Global working and permeable identity
- Professional cultures in mobile contexts
- When the “bubble” bursts: isolation, acculturation or liberation?
- How the composition and permeability of communities vary across types of mobile workers
- The management of communities of mobile workers
- The role of living in a bubble for accompanying dependants
- Advantages and disadvantages both in work and private life of living in a bubble
- The relation between organisations and global worker communities
- Bubbling, networking and matrix shaped communities
- National nostalgia and pseudo nationalistic attachments
- The role of language, jargon and sense of humour when building emotional linkages
- National food habits, celebrations, commemorations, and symbolic identifications in the formation of bubbles
- Online-offline bubbling
- Friendship, relationship formation, and motivation to develop new relationships
- Methodology-focused papers which attempt to capture ‘bubbling’
Submission Process and Timeline
To be considered for the Special Issue, manuscripts must be submitted no later than June 30, 2022, 5:00pm Central European Time. Submitted papers will undergo a double-blind peer review process and will be evaluated by at least two reviewers and a special issue editor. The final acceptance is dependent on the review team’s judgments of the paper’s contribution on four key dimensions:
- Theoretical contribution: Does the article offer novel and innovative insights or meaningfully extend existing theory in the field of global mobility?
- Empirical contribution: Does the article offer novel findings and are the study design, data analysis, and results rigorous and appropriate in testing the hypotheses or research questions?
- Practical contribution: Does the article contribute to the improved management of global mobility?
- Contribution to the special issue topic.
Authors should prepare their manuscripts for blind review according to the Journal of Global Mobility author guidelines, available at www.emeraldinsight.com/jgm.htm. Please remove any information that may potentially reveal the identity of the authors to the reviewers. Manuscripts should be submitted electronically at: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/jgmob. For enquiries regarding the special issue please contact Professor Hugo Gaggiotti at [email protected].
Paper submission deadline: June 30, 2022
Acceptance notification: December 2022
Publication: March 2023
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