How Are Social Relations and Locality Connected? New Ambivalences in the Research on Migrant Families

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 4:45 PM
Room: 313+314
Distributed Paper
Gwendolyn GILLIÉRON , Integration and Participation, University of Applied Sciences and Arts, 4600 Olten, Switzerland
Thomas GEISEN , University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Northwestern Switzerland, 4600 Olten, Switzerland
Research on transnationalism is an attempt to avoid methodological nationalism by focusing on families and its members, which do settle at different places or move between these places. In this perspective not only national belonging becomes relativized, blurred and diminished, but local, regional and national attachments of individuals and social groups as well. Here questions of belonging arise anew for migration research: what gives migrants a sense of belonging with others and what relevance can be given to the location where people live? Migrants and their families do often experience social interweaving relations, which are not bounded to one single national territory, but interact in a multi-local situated context. At the same time the existing boundaries of the nation-states do still influence a lot the mobility and opportunities of individuals.

The proposed paper discusses the ambivalence of social belonging and local/regional attachments under modern conditions of social fluidity and multi-local attachment in social relations. First, the paper starts with the elaboration of the theoretical problem as sketched and explores methodological questions related to that. Second, referring to empirical research on migrant families, the paper analyses family practices in which social and cultural boundaries are negotiated with reference to the places to which family attachments exist. Empirical findings show that there is no social belonging to a community or society without local/regional attachment(s) and it is precisely the new constellation between the social belonging(s) and the local/regional attachment(s) which can be seen at the basis of ‘the migrant condition’ of human beings. Situating the self and the family in a context of fluidity and constant change entails developing family practices in which belonging can be understood as the ambivalence of social and cultural affiliations, as well as establishing individual and collective attachments to certain places and regions of (biographical) relevance.