The Symbolic Dimension of Social Protection: Unequal Expectations in Transnational Social Relations

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 16:00
Location: Hörsaal I (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Karolina BARGLOWSKI, Bielefeld University, Germany
Joanna Jadwiga SIENKIEWICZ, Bielefeld University, Germany
Inequalities in the nexus of global social protection and migration are widely analyzed from the ‘formal’ perspective of welfare state analysis and/or ‘informal’ perspective of migrants’ protective networks. While these dimensions of social protection (formal and informal) have recently been analyzed as interrelated instead of separated, the far largest part of research investigates the ‘material’, i.e. tangible or economic, aspects of social protection, such as financial remittances, social support and caregiving. The ‘symbolic’ dimensions however largely influence the exchange of and access to ‘material’ aspects, because they legitimize expectations and actual flows of different resources. Legitimate expectations toward each other are influenced by the social contexts, in which social relations are embedded. In transnational social spaces, this means that the social expectations are influenced by the different national location of members in social networks, i.e. the different formal protection systems they are subject to. This situation exacerbates migrants asking for help from their relatives and friends in those countries with perceived worse formal protection. It also leads migrants to be pressured to be (or display) that they are well-off. In cases, where they are not, they often engage in forms of ‘symbolic social protection’ directed to the emigration country with low material value, which they legitimize as having a high symbolic value. The empirical results stem from research on two transnational social spaces: Kazakhstan-Germany and Poland-Germany. Based on 70 semi-structured interviews conducted with migrants from Kazakhstan and Poland in Germany and their significant others in Kazakhstan and Poland, we elucidate how the symbolic dimension of social protection is involved in the inequalities in the provision of social protection in transnational social relations.