Migration and minorities

Quêtes incertaines de moments et d’espaces de bonne vie : expériences croisées de femmes et familles immigrantes, de bénévoles et professionnel.le.s de la santé et du social (session 2 of 2)

June 29, 2021 10:45
June 29, 2021 12:15

Perrenoud Patricia, Haute Ecole de Santé Vaud/Haute Ecole Spécialisée de Suisse Occidentale; Rapp Elise, Haute Ecole de Santé Vaud/Haute Ecole Spécialisée de Suisse Occidentale


Dutta, Ndandita, PhD (cand) at University College London

Gerber, Roxane, University of Geneva, Switzerland, NCCR – On the move; Ravazzini, Laura University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, NCCR – On the move

Rabe, Milena, PhD(stud) in Clinic and Polyclinic for Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy; University Hospital Bonn

Dans les régions francophones et anglophones du Nord de l’Europe et de l’Amérique, la bonne vie est fréquemment posée en des termes de liberté, d’autonomie, de responsabilité et de réalisation de soi. Cette vision individualiste, néolibérale, est interrogée depuis plusieurs décennies en sciences humaines et sociales, car elle ne tient compte ni des inégalités sociales, ni des visions plus collectives de la vie et du développement humain. Cette session propose d’explorer les expériences de femmes et de familles immigrantes habitant ces régions et d’interroger tant ce qui facilite que ce qui interfère avec l’accès à des instants et des espaces de bonne vie. Sur différents terrains de recherche, l’idée d’une bonne vie n’apparaît en effet pas comme un état stable, un objectif qui pourrait s’atteindre par différentes stratégies, mais plutôt comme un résultat temporaire, parfois fugace, émergeant de différentes conditions matérielles ou sociales et de la rencontre avec d’autres, femmes et familles immigrantes, bénévoles ou professionnel.le.s de la santé et du social. Comprenant des interventions émanant de chercheur.e.s en sciences sociales et d’acteurs et actrices du milieu associatif, la session illustrera comment les statuts de séjour, l’accès au logement ou à l’emploi, la relation aux outils numériques ou le maintien des liens familiaux, contribuent à l’expérience d’une plus ou moins bonne vie de femmes et familles immigrantes. 

Au-delà de grandes catégories telles celles du logement ou de l’emploi, la session propose également un abord microsocial d’une quête plus ou moins explicite, plus ou moins facilitée, d’une bonne vie, en analysant des éléments concrets partagés par des femmes, des familles, ainsi que des bénévoles et des professionnel.le.s de la santé et du social. Différents discours, expériences et pratiques, qui questionnent les visions culturelles occidentales de l’autonomie, contredisant en particulier l’utilisation de cette notion en tant qu’indicateur de l’expérience d’une bonne vie ou de la réalisation d’un accompagnement professionnel et bénévole efficace. Enfin, entre trajectoires de vie, capabilités, rencontres fortuites et pratiques émergentes, la session questionne les quêtes de moments de bonne vie en marge de la standardisation des procédures des soins de santé et de l’aide sociale, et en considérant la superdiversité des femmes et des familles immigrantes.

Keywords: immigrant women, transnational families, interdependence, structure, agency, 

English version 

Uncertain quests for times and places of good life: experiences of immigrant women, families, as well as volunteers and health/social care professionals

In French and English-speaking regions of Northern Europe and America, a good life is frequently associated with the ideas of freedom, autonomy, responsibility and self-realisation. This individualistic and neo-liberal stance has been questioned for several decades in the social sciences, as it does not account for social inequalities nor acknowledges collective representations of life and human development. This session proposes to explore the experiences of immigrant women and families living in these regions and to question both what facilitates and what interferes with access to times and places of good life. Research fieldworks and social action initiatives unveil that a good life does not equate to a stable state, which could be achieved through an array of strategies. Rather, it is often a temporary state, emerging from material or social conditions; from being there in the company of other social actors. The session will include presentations by social scientists and by actors from the associative sector. It will discuss how circumstances such as residence status, access to housing or employment, to digital tools for the maintenance of family ties, contribute to or undermine immigrant women’s and families’ experience of a good life. 

Beside broad categories such as housing or employment, the session also examines easier and harder paths to times and places of good life from a microsocial stance, by analysing concrete situations shared by women, families, as well as volunteers and health/social care professionals. Different discourses, experiences and practices, which question western cultural visions of autonomy, contradicting in particular the use of this notion as an indicator for the experience of a good life or for the realisation of an effective professional and voluntary support. Finally, between life trajectories, capabilities, chance encounters and emerging practices, the session discusses the quest for times of good life beyond the standardisation of health and social care; and acknowledges the superdiversity of immigrant women and families

Fun and Pleasure in Beauty Salons: Everyday lives of South Asian migrant women in the UK

Dutta, Ndandita, PhD (cand) at University College London

What does a beauty salon mean for migrant women from South Asia in the UK? It is unimaginative to think of a beauty salon simply as a commercial space where the aesthetic and therapeutic needs of a client are met by the beautician. Beyond its functional use, women make meaning of the space of the beauty salon in ingenuous ways which can only be understood through frameworks of fun and pleasure. From relishing fried snacks to listening to Bollywood songs together, from seeking advice on marital problems and social security to sharing gossip about in-laws, women use beauty salons in creative ways. Drawing on my ethnographic research in two beauty salons in London run by first-generation migrant women from India, Pakistan and Nepal, this paper investigates how the optics of fun and pleasure alter our understanding of space by retrieving the multiple meanings the space of the beauty salon holds for migrant women. 

In so doing, this paper will focus on the embodied and collective aspects of fun and pleasure. No doubt the lives of South Asian women in the UK are embedded in power relations of gender, class and race, and steeped in anxiety heightened by the pandemic, but they are not devoid of fun and pleasure. What kinds of fun, pleasure and intimacy are enabled in a beauty salon? Here, I consider fun and pleasure on their own terms instead of reading them as acts of resistance against systems of oppression given the normative, neoliberal and consumerist nature of beauty salons. The objective behind using the lens of fun and pleasure is to discard the binary of ‘serious’ and ‘frivolous’ where only the serious is deemed worthy of generating knowledge (Anjaria and Anjaria, 2020: 233). This also reveals the disjuncture between the daily lives of South Asian women and the theoretical frameworks that researchers often use to study them. Moreover, this paper will also look at what the study of everyday life reveals about transnational networks and multiculturalism among migrant women.

Keywords: Immigrant women, care work, transnational networks 

The Happiness-Integration Nexus: The case of Transnational Families

Gerber, Roxane, University of Geneva, Switzerland, NCCR – On the move; Ravazzini, Laura University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, NCCR – On the move

Switzerland has one of the highest levels of subjective well-being and happiness score in the world. However, ambivalently, immigrants in Switzerland show a low level of well-being in comparison with immigrant population in other European host countries. This ambivalence might be because projects regarding family life are often hardly compatible with migration plans. It is commonly believed that migration is associated with an increase of well-being and a better life in the host country. However, migration is a strenuous process that involves not only economic, but also mental and affective costs, especially in the case of involuntary migration and separation of the family. In line with globalization, increasing mobility and the development of new ways of communication, in the last decades, new forms of family configuration have emerged, and one of them is the “transnational family”. This paper focuses on the life satisfaction of immigrants living in Switzerland, and in particular, of those who live long-distance transnational relationships with other family members. We investigate the nexus between self-reported life satisfaction and integration using the Migration-Mobility Survey (MMS). This new data allows accessing information on recently arrived immigrants and their family relationships, even across borders. We apply longitudinal analyses over two waves of the MMS to establish in which way the relationship between integration and subjective well-being goes for recently arrived migrants in general and for migrants living in transnational arrangements in particular.  

nccr – on the move. The Migration-Mobility Survey (MMS).

Keywords: Transnational family, migration, Migration-Mobility Survey

Transnational temporary care workers in Germany: structural stressors und individual answers

Rabe, Milena, PhD(stud) in Clinic and Polyclinic for Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy; University Hospital Bonn

Background: Ten thousands of East European women and men live and work as “live-ins” in private households in Germany, caring for the elderly. The so called 24-h-care workers work (nearly) around the clock, often without right to leisure time and within unclear legal conditions. The transmigrants usually live several months per year in Germany and in their home country. Living and traveling between different countries does not only come along with organisational problems – currently visible in restricted exit and entry to Germany for these care workers due to the Corona pandemy (Schwiter, 2020). Women and Gender Studies refer to a multitude of inequalities of live-ins, e.g. a lack of social protection or emotional and care inequality with regard to the instance that caregivers may give less attention to their own relatives in favour of caring for strangers (Lutz, 2018). An intersectional point of view indicates that these care workers, (trans)migrants, (mostly) women can be affected by diverse stressors: Studies refer to the vulnerability of nurses in professional caring settings of elderly towards stress and burnout (e.g. Cameron & Brownie, 2010). Furthermore, migration itself can be seen as a critical life incident associated with possible negative consequences for mental health (Sieben & Straub, 2011). Consequently, health research often focuses on stressors and strains; the health care sector being governed by a “pathogenetic paradigm” (Pelikan, 2017, p. 261).  Research in the field of foreign domestic workers, with a special interest in health promoting factors, is still scarce. Aim & Method: This study is guided by a salutogenetic viewpoint, which asks for factors that promote care workers` health. Instead of neglecting or relativising inequalities and strains the research uses them as starting point for the search for possible individual and collective agency. In 15 semi-directive interviews, conducted between April and October 2020, 14 female and 1 male care workers were asked which stressors and strains they face and how they cope with potential challenges. Data were analysed using content analysis. This study takes a look at individual and interpersonal resources. Preliminary results: Next to mentioning difficulties within their work, the interviewees explain how they developed tactics to address the challenges they are faced with. They highlight how they value their work, including the relationship with the person they care for and mention the chance to financially fulfil personal wishes or those of family members. Their discourses presents a more diverse and positive picture of work and life than often depicted in literature. Following Metz-Göckel et al. (2009) migration, I argue that migration can be understood as a resource. This study supports the opinion of social scientists who claim that the pursuit of self-development by care workers living in structural inequalities should also be accounted for (Satola, 2019; Schirilla, 2015). The results can also be read as individual answers to the quest of a good life and complement Western perspectives of preconditions and ways of a good life.

Keywords: Immigrant women, care work, structure, agency