Transnational Mobiles – Experiences and Biographical Costs of Perpetual Strangers

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal 07 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Claudia VORHEYER, University of Zurich, Switzerland
Mobility and migration are omnipresent in contemporary societies and (global) society. Predominantly idealised and glamorised by media and public discourse  the „darker side of hypermobilty“ as Cohen (2015) puts it, has been largely overlooked. The majority of sociological research, especially studies dedicated to transnational professionals and privileged, focus on the positive side of transnational mobility and migration, stressing for instance the open opportunity structures in the European context. However, much less attention has been paid to the downside in forms of potential risks, traps and biographical costs. The paper aims to present preliminary results of a qualitative, biographical-oriented study on privileged onward migrants who are conceptualised as perpetual strangers. These transnational mobile professionals and their families, which are moving frequently and voluntary in geographical, cultural and social space, can experience mobility and migration in their life courses in different ways. From a biographical oriented research point of view mobility and migration is either passed in the context of an institutional schedule model or followed intentional, they can initiate processes of suffering or processes of biographical transformation (of self-identity).  On one hand border and boundary crossing extend options of action and widen the experience realm and social universe of individuals. On the other hand plurality and heterogeneity as well as uncertainty and unsteadiness, otherness and ambivalence become potential challenges. Drawing on narrative interviews it is possible to capture both sides of the coin, the gains and benefits as well as the difficulties and hardships. In particular, the paper gives special attention to the experienced social, emotional and professional biographical costs connected with the processes of repeated transnational migration and mobility, including question of feelings of belonging respectively not belonging due to such a nomadic life style.