Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


The “Natural” Engineer: A Dedicated, Responsible, Technical, Problem-Solver




College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Contemporary rhetoric describes our era as increasingly postindustrial with science and information based occupations leading growth. A critical profession in this postindustrial era is engineering, a profession dominated by norms of rationality and linear problem-solving, while simultaneously idealizing individuality and creativity. Using qualitative interview data collected from 36 men and women trained in engineering the idealized norms of the profession and what it is to be an engineer will be examined. Drawing upon Pierre Bourdieu's theoretical notion of the habitus, a conceptualization of the engineering habitus is developed. Central elements of this habitus, it will be shown, are being dedicated, independent, problem-solving, and technically oriented. The interview data will be used to reflect that these characteristics are internalized by members of the profession and their salience reinforced through the perception that they are natural. Through the alignment of these ideals with professional and organizational norms (the field) the traits in turn reinforce the profession's status quo. A status quo that will be critiqued as particularly gendered.

Conference Name

106th ASA Annual Meeting

Conference Location

Las Vegas, Nevada

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