Precarious migrant knowledge workers: new entrepreneurial identities in Naples, Italy

Nicholas Harney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to examine migrants working as inter-cultural mediators at the interface of the formal and informal economies in southern Italy so as to question the conventional representation of knowledge workers.Design/methodology/approach - Ethnographic evidence collected between September 2004 and July 2005 is presented of the knowledge work of these precarious non-European Union migrants in Naples, Italy.Findings - This paper displays the need to consider alternative forms of knowledge work and knowledge worker that are central to the globalizing economy. Migration and difference and their resulting social realities are seen as central features of contemporary economic change. Depicting the creative, flexible, problem-solving aspects of intercultural mediators who work with undocumented and documented migrants in the Naples area, this paper shows how these African migrant mediators make use of their full repertoire of formally trained knowledge and more centrally their social, tacit, experiential and embodied knowledge intimately linked with their Africanness and self-awareness of their precarious migrant status to gain the trust of other Africans. In fact, their flexibility in the face of changing circumstances and their manipulation, reading and negotiation of cultural codes depending on circumstances reveals a flexible, enterprising style suited to the challenges of the knowledge economy.Research limitations/implications - It displays how current conceptualisations of the knowledge economy and knowledge worker in contemporary advanced economies need considerable revision to include other types of migrant normally excluded from discussions.Originality/value - This is one of the first attempts to display the relationship between knowledge workers, immigrants and the informal economy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)572-587
JournalInternational Journal of Manpower
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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