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Title: Language and situated agency: An exploration of the dominant linguistic and communication practices in the Philippine offshore call centers.
Keywords: gender, agency, language, call centers, english, globalization
Issue Date: 25-May-2010
Citation: AILEEN OLIMBA SALONGA (2010-05-25). Language and situated agency: An exploration of the dominant linguistic and communication practices in the Philippine offshore call centers.. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: This study investigates claims and negotiations of agency in and through language in a particular workplace context, the offshore call center, as such language is used and made sense of by a particular group of social actors, the offshore Filipino call center workers or customer service representatives (CSRs) included in this study. It proposes that, despite the many layers of control in the offshore call center, which restrict and constrain the linguistic production of call center workers, language remains a site of contestation, a possible site of agency, as the CSRs themselves ascribe alternative meanings to their linguistic and communication practices in the workplace. The informants in this study reveal that they challenge, resist, recast, or appropriate dominant communication and linguistic practices that are deemed demeaning, depersonalizing, and limiting. They also reveal that even when they accept and embrace these practices, it is never fully or without contradictions. Moreover, they actively engage in the construction of an ideology that positions the offshore call center industry as an equalizing and liberating space. In doing these, my informants construct themselves as having a stake in the industry¿s practices and show that they strategize and work to protect their interest. However, this study also proposes that these negotiations of agency need to be seen in relation not only to the constraints that shape and hinder them, but also to the new sets of constraints that these acts of agency may engender. This means that agency should be seen not as total freedom from constraints, but as essentially born out of how social actors who are differently positioned within the social structure negotiate these constraints so that they acquire a certain degree of control, are able to make decisions, and act in ways that are meaningful and beneficial to them. This also means that when social actors choose to dispute or appropriate an existing practice that is perceived to be oppressive, they do not necessarily become free from constraints. The choice to resist also often results in a new set of constraints, which once again, needs to be engaged and negotiated. What this study therefore proposes is a theory of situated agency as it is negotiated and contested in and through language. As such, it seeks to respond to the call for a more nuanced articulation of the relationship between agency and structure, and the significant role that social actors on the ground play in this relationship. As this study illuminates its theory of situated agency in the linguistic practices, beliefs, and ideologies of my informants, this study also positions itself firmly within the growing body of work in sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology that views language as a local practice, and as such, must be examined from the point of view of its users and within local contexts of use.
Appears in Collections:Ph.D Theses (Open)

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