Carolin Fischer presents her paper 'The (changing) role of family among Afghan communities in Britain and Germany' in Parallel session I(D) of the conference Examining Migration Dynamics: Networks and Beyond, 24-26 Sept 2013
This paper explores how Afghan families shape migration from Afghanistan and processes of settlement and community formation at European destinations. Social relationships based on family and tribal ties are sources of solidarity and make mutual assistance an imperative. How these attributes of Afghan families are maintained or re-shaped through migration and settlement in western countries has not been explicitly addressed. Focusing on the lives of Afghans in Britain and Germany I examine the reconfiguration of families and agency of family members, taking into account structural conditions enforced in the receiving society. I conducted a series of in-depth interviews with people who left Afghanistan at different stages during the last four decades and now live in Britain or Germany. The interview transcripts contain large segments on personal stories and explicitly address experiences of migration and settlement in the two destination countries. Afghan families play important roles at various stages of migration and settlement processes. They are key factors for peoples’ decision to migrate and inform choices of destination countries and places of residence. Families also influence social interaction and shape processes of community formation in countries of residence. However, newly emerging patterns of solidarity and community organization among Afghans in Britain and Germany suggest that dynamic reconfigurations occur in conjunction with peoples’ lives in receiving societies while core attributes of families are being maintained. Such reconfigurations primarily occur as a result of differences between first and second- generation immigrants. When aiming to unpack how structural environments in Britain and Germany enhance peoples’ ability to exercise agency and choice, the challenge is to disentangle how changing scopes of agency affect family ties as a mode of social integration.