Moffitt, U., Nardon, L., Zhang, H. Negotiating Identity and National Belonging in the Public Sphere: Narratives of High-Skilled Work, International Journal of Intercultural Relations


We investigate how economic immigrants in Canada negotiate their identity in the process of “becoming Canadian” through an analysis of public texts. Drawing on the master narrative framework, we examine the interplay between individual and societal narratives as immigrants grapple with the tension between notions of “desirable” immigrants as those that are well integrated professionally and the reality of facing career related barriers. Among those whose success stories align with the master narrative of professional attainment there was little questioning of this expectation, thereby allowing it to remain invisible. Among those who had not (yet) achieved work related success in the receiving country, they tended to engage alternative narratives elaborating on the antecedents, outcomes, and barriers to labor market participation. Despite the countering nature of these alternative narratives, they strengthen the societal expectation of professional success as a key pathway to inclusion, thereby reinforcing the rigidity of this narrative. We contribute to literature on the social construction of national identity by examining the process of becoming national and the role of labor market participation in immigrants’ perceptions of inclusion in their new society. Our study highlights the importance of including immigrants’ voices in the construction of a more inclusive society, which may aid in breaking down exclusionary narratives of national identity.