Growing Up In Times Of Crisis: Negotiating Economic Constraints And Opportunities In Transnational Families

Boampong, Michael (2020). Growing Up In Times Of Crisis: Negotiating Economic Constraints And Opportunities In Transnational Families. PhD thesis Birkbeck, University of London.


In the past three decades, neoliberal development has intensified economic migration. Meanwhile in western countries, the political-economic landscape has changed following the 2007–8 global financial crisis. Despite increasing research on everyday family experiences regarding the financial crisis, its implications on transnational childhoods and social fields has been underresearched.

Based on a multi-sited ethnographic study with 95 people (33 children, 22 young people and 40 adults) embedded in transnational social fields, this research explores the economic crisis‘ impact on social reproduction processes among Ghanaian-British transnational families. The study is inspired by Katz‘s notion of critical topography, which has the potential of revealing the effects of political-economic constraints on children and social reproduction. Qualitative methods, including repeated semi-structured interviews, observations and group discussions, as well as visual methods, were used to obtain children and other young people‘s transnational perspectives.

To examine families‘ constraints and how such constraints and opportunities are dealt with, I will draw on three concepts: social reproduction; capital; and transnational social fields.

Research findings indicate children and other young people are 'doing family‘ through kinship and non-kinship relationships within a transnational and transglobal context in their quest to survive economic constraints. This can be seen in twofold: material social practices (e.g. resource flows) of survival and leveraging on capital to achieve life course aspirations. To understand this, the emplacement of 'other' children and young people in surviving constraints and capital formation for the maintenance of transnational social fields is crucial.

I will argue that children and young people‘s capital and network formation are important assets for their sustenance and reproduction of transnational families during crises. However, their emplacement reveals their vulnerability and agency which shapes transnational social fields. This study offers insights into Childhood Studies and theoretical debates on structure and agency as well as transnational childhoods.

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