Adult Immigrants Biographies and Social Mobility in Transnational Perspective: The Ambivalent Role of Credentials and Educational Participation

Monday, 11 July 2016: 16:15
Location: Seminarraum Geschichte 1 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Milena PREKODRAVAC, Soziologisches Forschungsinstitut Gottingen (SOFI), Germany
Janina SOEHN, Soziologisches Forschungsinstitut Gottingen (SOFI), Germany
Most international immigrants emigrate broadly speaking in order to seek a better live. However, as has been repeatedly shown for various immigration countries, clear-cut social upward mobility in the new country is far from guaranteed. Adult immigrants who bring along educational credentials and work experience from abroad are confronted with the substantial risk that potential employers and/or state institutions devalue this qualification. The consequence of such devaluation processes are unemployment or under-employment in badly paid jobs, i.e. social downward mobility or stagnation, as well as self-contempt. One possible strategy for the individual immigrant to counter such risks is to “re-invest” into cultural capital (Bourdieu) to be accumulated in educational institutions in the receiving country. These individuals are at the center of my study: Why and how do immigrants who experienced the devaluation of their devaluation of their educational credentials and professional experience find their way to “going back to school” in the country of reception, in this case Germany? Assuming that education participation and educational attainment can be both an important of individuals’ identities and a significant part of their socio-economic mobility throughout their lives, how do they perceive their transnational educational biography? I will present first results of in-depth interviews, with immigrants attending German educational institutions like government-sponsored vocational training for the unemployed. The theoretical concept of bounded agency applied to biographical-narrative research will help to understand how immigrants maneuver between restrictions they encounter and chances they take. The analysis of boundary making with regard to ethno-national categories and educational-occupational ones related to social hierarchies will shed light on the complex relations of intersecting inequalities in these immigrants’ lives. This research is part of a three-year mixed-method project on immigrants’ transnational life courses and their educational opportunities, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).