Doing identity in transnationalised space. Adolescents` self-representation in urban Switzerland

Author(s) : Bernadette Brunner, Kathrin Oester

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« Transnationalism has become one of the key concepts for the analysis of international migration. In recent years, technological innovations in transportation and communication have increasingly facilitated the establishment and maintenance of transnational ties and practices for migrants. Hence, “transnationalism from below” has become a reality, as has the more researched “transnationalism from above” which refers to cross-border activities initiated by influential players, such as multinational companies, nation states or educational and economic elites (Guarnizo 1997). The present paper gives insights into the mechanisms and effects of transnationalism from below, especially into the social mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion. In an effort of “grounding transnationalism” (Guarnizo and Smith 1998: 11), we examine the identity management of adolescents in a highly transnationalised urban area in Switzerland. For these grassroots actors the “transnationalisation of the social world” (Pries 2008) has opened up a broad array of possible identity options which include among others the identification with the sending and/or receiving state, the diasporic community, etc. While the possible selves at an actor’s disposal have multiplied, new patterns of social integration into the host society emerge which have not been studied in detail (cf. Portes et al. 1999: 227). Using interviews and audio-visual means of self-representation, we investigate how migrant youths and their Swiss classmates represent and negotiate their heterogeneous backgrounds in the ethnically mixed and socioeconomically underprivileged suburb of Berne. »


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