Family Life in the Age of Migration and Mobility: Theory, Policy and Practice

About the Conference
In an age of migration and mobility not only do many facets of contemporary family life take place against the backdrop of intensified movement in its various forms, but the practices of families themselves are deeply embedded in such movements. This conference seeks to ‘make sense’ of the challenges this poses for families and for academic, empirical and policy understandings of family life in Europe and beyond. The conference adopts the concept of ‘mobilities’ as its central analytical frame. By examining a wide range of topics and drawing on several disciplinary perspectives, including anthropology, sociology, socio-legal studies and social/public policy, the conference seeks to ‘stretch’ the application of the mobilities lens into new areas of family life. Three key themes frame the conference:
(I)    multi-local family lives in national and transnational contexts,
(II)   the globalization of reproduction and social reproduction across the family-life cycle, and
(III)  national, supranational and transnational policies and laws relating to family life in an age of migration and mobility.
The aim is to generate original insights for the fields of family and migration studies, as well as for the mobilities paradigm per se. In a period in which issues around family life, migration and mobilities are high on the political agenda in Europe and elsewhere, the intention is also to draw on the insights gained from theoretical and empirical analyses to address deficits in the policy framing of those issues.
This conference will explore contemporary family life through the lenses of mobilty and migration. Its central aim is to connect a research field fragmented in terms of discipline and scientific focus, and thus enable an interdisciplinary exchange generating new insights for theory, policy and empirical analysis relating to the lives of families in the context of contemporary patterns of movement. In defining the scientific scope of the conference, we conceive mobilities as multiple, and are particularly interested in social/occupational (vertical) mobility and geographical (horizontal) mobility/migration, and intersections between them. We also adopt a broad understanding of ‘family’, examining various stages of the family-life cycle, and ‘private’, as well as ‘public’ aspects of family-life. The dominant focus is on Europe, but in line with a mobilities paradigm we also explore ‘non-European’ family life through global and transnational lenses. Finally, we approach the topic from theoretical, empirical and policy positions, and from several disciplinary perspectives, including but not only, anthropology, sociology, socio-legal studies and social/public policy. The primary intention is to overcome deficits in the academic and policy framing of issues around mobility/migration and family life that result from too narrowly defined research questions in the respective disciplines. To help achieve this, three key themes will be addressed within the conference.

Multi-local family lives in national and transnational contexts
In an age of mobility/migration, increasing numbers of families in Europe (have to) manage their everyday lives and relations between generations and genders in more than one place. Research on mobility and family life within the nation state will be confronted with research on transnational family relations. To date, the two research strands exist separately, the former as a topic of demography and the sociology of family, the latter as a topic of migration studies. What are the commonalities and differences between these two forms of multi-local family life, both in terms of the underlying dynamics and the family-practices that ensue? Within this theme, we also address the implications for non-migrating family members in migrant-sending countries, focusing on the material and cultural dynamics (e.g. those of communication technologies) of gendered and intergenerational relations in transnational families.

Family and globalised (social) reproduction across the life cycle
Reproductive and social reproductive aspects of family life are increasingly mobile, in terms of where they take place and who does them. The conference will examine this phenomenon at three stages of the family life-cycle – reproduction, childrearing and ageing – with a view to developing understanding of the (dis)continuities between each stage in their underlying processes and implications for the (re)configuration of family life. A particular focus will be on how patterns of inequalities relating to gender, class, age, nationality and ethnicity are being re-worked within and beyond Europe through shifts in the locus and agents of (social) reproduction.

Family life in a mobile age: challenges for policy
The third and final theme relates to the policy and legal contexts at national, supranational and transnational levels, which frame family life in an age of mobility/migration. The conference will demonstrate the ways in which legal and policy analyses can contribute to theoretical and empirical understanding of mobility/migration and family life. It will seek to identify the weaknesses and gaps in current legal and policy frameworks, and the consequences for individual families and the broader patterns of inequalities identified through theme two. It will also examine how research can contribute to transforming policy and legal provision relating to family life at the nexus of mobilities.


Linköping University (Faculty of Arts & Sciences) Fritz Thyssen Foundation Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (RJ) Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main