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“[They] thought I didn’t know how to be a chef because I didn’t speak Finnish”: Gatekeeping and professional role enactment in a multilingual kitchen context

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Kristina Humonen


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The chapter focuses on the dynamic process of claiming and negotiating professional roles in a multilingual work context. We explore the ways employees leverage their ‘linguistic competence’ to claim situated positions of power both vertically (management) and horizontally (peers). Our analysis draws on a corpus of 42 hours of ethnographic observations, 18 hours of interactional data, and interviews collected from a Finnish restaurant. The staff at this location comprises an international workforce originating from six different countries. We place special emphasis on one employee, ‘Ibou’, and illustrate how his strategic utilisation of linguistic resources and gatekeeping allows him to claim positions of power and how, at times, his self-claimed roles are contested by his peers. Ibou’s case serves as an example of a migrant worker who defies conventional expectations associated with his role as a language-learner, newcomer, and lower-ranking employee.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Humonen K, Angouri J

Editor(s): Angouri J; Kerekes J; Suni M

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: Language, Migration and In/Exclusion in the Workplace

Year: 2023

Pages: 191-215

Print publication date: 12/09/2023

Online publication date: 06/09/2023

Acceptance date: 19/12/2022

Series Title: Volume 10 in the series Language at Work

Publisher: De Gruyter Multilingual Matters

Place Published: Bristol


DOI: 10.21832/9781800416956-011

Notes: Book DOI:

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9781800416956