“Talk about Luck”: Coherence, Contingency, Character and Class in the Life Stories of Filipino Canadians in Toronto.

Bonnie McElhinny, Valerie Damasco, Shirley Yeung, Angela DeOcampo, Monina Febria, Christianne Collantes, Jason Salonga

University of Toronto, Canada

WS129: Language as social practice in the globalized new economy

In this paper, we undertake a study of life stories told by Filipino Canadians, with particular attention to the ways in which they talk about their choice of profession, and with particular attention to what constitutes coherence for these speakers. For many immigrants to Canada, including Filipino Canadian immigrants, a discontinuous narrative about one’s professional life is the norm. Indeed, one of the more pressing issues currently facing Canada is the fact that many professional immigrants do not end up working in the jobs for which they were trained; instead, they work at more menial jobs. “He is not working in his profession” was the formulation used by some Filipino-Canadian speakers to flag both the work someone was trained to do and its continuing force for thinking about her identity, as well as the fact that that person might not be working in that job. These discontinuities, and the ways they shape the life chances of their Canadian-born children, are also often part of the ways first-generation Filipino-Canadians tell the stories of their work-lives. We begin by briefly reviewing the relevant literature on life histories and the methods we used for eliciting the life histories analyzed here. Then we offer a brief history of Filipinos in Canada, followed by an analysis of the life stories.

Session: Workshop (part 1)
Language as social practice in the globalized new economy
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 13:45-15:15
room: 03