Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Anthropology

Content Description

1 online resource (v, 354 pages) : illustrations.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Elise Andaya

Committee Members

Atsushi Akera, Jennifer Burrell, James Collins


engineering, flexibilization, gender, globalization, labor, migration, Women engineers, Women in engineering, Women immigrants, Semiconductor industry, Sex discrimination in employment, Work-life balance, Belonging (Social psychology), Adaptability (Psychology)

Subject Categories

Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Social and Cultural Anthropology


This dissertation explores gender, flexibilization, and belonging within professional high tech employment, particularly amongst women and migrant engineers. Prior studies of women in the “integrated circuit” focused on low-skilled factory labor (Nakamura 2014, Grossman 1980); however, women are increasingly choosing careers in the male-dominated engineering workforce, which designs and manufactures semiconductor technology. Fieldwork for this dissertation took place between May 2018 – Aug 2019 in the Northeastern US, a regional hub for semiconductor manufacturing companies. Thirty-eight life history interviews were conducted with participants from several companies in the area, along with frequent follow ups and participant observation with seventeen engineering families. This data was supplemented by close monitoring of local and national news related to immigration and high-skilled labor. This dissertation works at the nexus of anthropology and engineering studies, bringing together anthropological perspectives on gender, migration and transnational labor with studies of gender and ethnicity in engineering. To anthropology, I bring an analysis of how transnational capitalism produces flexible citizens, who perform complex negotiations of gender, race and ethnicity in a multicultural high-tech workplace. To engineering studies, I offer a perspective on gender and race in engineering that transcends national boundaries and shows how global political and labor structures shape the experiences of engineering workers. Building upon Gammeltoft’s conception of belonging as an essential human need, I demonstrate how neoliberal modes of workplace discipline erode women and migrants’ sense of community through cultivated logics of efficiency, flexibility, and individualism. Thus, in contrast to substantial literature on women in engineering professions that investigates identity and gender performance, this research demonstrates how neoliberal logics and market structures also undermine women’s professional stature and their career prospects within the firm. I find that these engineering outsiders endure intense flexibilization and face gendered and racialized codes of conduct in this male-dominated career. Drawing upon feminist critiques of flexibility, I find that here at the “bleeding edge” of technological production, due in part to the engineering profession’s dependence upon management, women and migrant workers have few options beyond increasing feats of self-discipline. I theorize belonging as a holistic alternative to “inclusion”, arguing that the logics of efficiency and flexibility impede the essential care work needed to produce belonging on the frontiers of flexible labor.