Placemaking -the importance of kinship for migrants’ habitus and territorial integration

Üzeyir Tireli, Jens Christian Jacobsen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This article delves into the evolving significance of kinship among non-Western
migrants residing in Western Europe. In the migrants’ countries of origin, kinship
generally encompasses a rule-based and normative way of life, hinging on each
individual member’s adherence to kinship values. In contrast, life in their new
Western host countries is expected to revolve around the individual’s personal
engagement in education, employment, and healthcare within the context of the
nuclear family. This shift is often framed in integration policies and practical social
work as a transition from viewing migrants as passive recipients of their homeland
traditions to recognizing them as active agents responsible for shaping their own lives.
However, this transformation raises the question of whether kinship diminishes in
significance in these new surroundings or if it can assume a new role as a foundation
for complex individual lives. In this context, active participation (and integration)
would be built upon a secure base strengthened by kinship.
Our analysis focuses on how migrants grapple with two equally crucial systems: the
kinship of their home country and the nuclear family structure of the host country.
Upon their arrival in the host country, migrants confront a weighty choice: Should
they relinquish their kinship relationships because they seemingly serve no purpose
in the host country? And must the migrant assimilate into a nuclear family structure
where welfare is guaranteed by the welfare state, but where each individual citizen is
expected to contribute to community-building and a sense of belonging? These
questions should be considered by both migrants themselves and within the domain
of social work.
This analysis revolves around a single concept central to migrants, namely kinship,
and how it evolves through their experiences in the host country. Migrant relations
encompass group dynamics and cultural values not always comprehensible to most
people in the host country. However, following migrants’ experiences, kinship
emerges as a crucial bridge to integration within a Western welfare state. In our
analysis, we primarily draw upon Pierre Bourdieu’s distinction between official and
practical kinship. We perceive kinship as a tool of power for managing social and
cultural conflicts (Bourdieu 1979, Brighenti 2010) due to kinships serving as bastions
of emotional and value cohesion among their members. Nevertheless, kinship can
also serve as a secure foundation for migrants in novel surroundings, characterized
by foreign demands and expectations (Carsten 2020).
The article concludes by briefly outlining how educational practitioners can monitor
migrant families’ percep-tions of and attachment to their new locale
Original languageEnglish
JournalMigration & Diversity
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)329-341
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023


  • social work and social conditions


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