Migrating cultural capital: Bourdieu in migration studies

Erel, Umut (2010). Migrating cultural capital: Bourdieu in migration studies. Sociology, 44(4) pp. 642–660.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0038038510369363


A Bourdieusian concept of cultural capital is used to investigate the transformations and contestations of migrants’ cultural capital. Research often treated migrants’ cultural capital as reified and ethnically bounded, assuming they bring a set of cultural resources from the country of origin to the country of migration that either fit or do not fit. Critiquing such ‘rucksack approaches’, I argue that migration results in new ways of producing and re-producing (mobilizing, enacting, validating) cultural capital that builds on, rather than simply mirrors, power relations of either the country of origin or the country of migration. Migrants create mechanisms of validation for their cultural capital, negotiating both ethnic majority and migrant institutions and networks. Migration-specific cultural capital (re-)produces intra-migrant differentiations of gender, ethnicity and class, in the process creating modes of validation alternative to national capital.The argument builds on case studies of skilled Turkish and Kurdish migrant women in Britain and Germany

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