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Understanding careers as translations: the importance of Bruno Latour for the study of careers

Hannelore Ottilie Van den Abeele (Faculty of Business Economics, Hasselt University, Diepenbeek, Belgium) (Department of Cultural Studies, Faculty of Arts, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium)

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management

ISSN: 1746-5648

Article publication date: 1 April 2024

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper argues that Bruno Latour’s work on translation provides an alternative to dominant anthropocentric, individualistic and managerial approaches in career studies by considering careers as precarious effects of networks instead of the implicit assumption of individual strategic career actors in extant career research paradigms.

Design/methodology/approach

The article first compares the three main current approaches to studying careers – structural functionalist, interpretivist and critical – illustrated by three exemplary empirical studies. Subsequently, three concepts from the sociology of translation that are relevant for the study of careers are introduced: career making as translating interests, careers as effects of networks and career action as dislocated and overtaken. Taken together, these three concepts allow us to conceive of careers as practices performed by human and nonhuman actors. Finally, an example from an ethnographic case study in the field of contemporary art illustrates how a Latourian approach can be used.

Findings

Latour’s work on translation provides conceptual and methodological tools to investigate career processes and practices in an era of unpredictability.

Originality/value

The paper introduces Bruno Latour’s work on translation to the study of careers.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Vroni Lemeire and Anneleen Masschelein for their much appreciated support in writing this article. Furthermore, I would like to sincerely thank the editors of the special issue “Out in the Field with Bruno Latour” and the reviewers of this article for their constructive feedback during the revision process.

Citation

Van den Abeele, H.O. (2024), "Understanding careers as translations: the importance of Bruno Latour for the study of careers", Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/QROM-09-2023-2595

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2024, Emerald Publishing Limited

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