Strangers in the city: Spacing and social boundaries among accountants in the global city

Rania Kamla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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By conducting in-depth interviews with 40 migrant and local accountants living and working in Dubai, the paper demonstrates how individual accountants draw on the global city as they make sense of and reconstruct professional identities and social boundaries of inclusion/exclusion. The analysis builds on Zygmunt Bauman's three social spacing processes: cognitive, aesthetic, and moral. The findings from lived experiences show that through cognitive spacing, the construction of other nationality groups of accountants as “strangers” is essential to the construction of participants' professional identities. Boundaries between groups of accountants are constructed in professional spaces (e.g., offices, teams, departments, sectors, firms, senior positions) through stereotype-based identity work, stigmatizing accountants from different nationalities, as well as constructing cultures and qualifications as suitable or unsuitable for these spaces. In aesthetic spacing, boundaries and identities are constructed around the extent of freedom to be mobile, travel, and live pleasurably. This gives rise to the “tourist” and “vagabond” categories of accountants, constructing boundaries around who should be included/excluded in senior positions, based on the transitional power of their passports. In moral spacing, some accountants reflect and use their agency to transcend and resist boundaries constructed in cognitive and aesthetic spaces. They enact a moral self, where relationships with “stranger” accountants are based on moral responsibility and care for the Other. Attention to spacing processes in the global city demonstrates how individual accountants are active agents in reconstructing inclusion/exclusion boundaries and divisions in the profession. The findings indicate that if we are to foster a more open and inclusive profession, there is a need to consider spatial/spacing dimensions in both the city and the profession.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2256-2287
Number of pages32
JournalContemporary Accounting Research
Issue number4
Early online date4 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2023


  • Bauman
  • Dubai
  • Dubaï
  • espace
  • frontières sociales
  • global city
  • identity
  • identité
  • social boundaries
  • spacing
  • ville mondiale


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