Engendering Migration, Development and Belonging: The Experiences of Recently Arrived Afghans in Europe

What are the experiences of recently arrived Afghans in Europe and how is the understanding of home, belonging and the ‘self ‘shaped by gender? How does this understanding affect their capacity and willingness to engage with development in Afghanistan?

Project Summary

This project examines how gender shapes understandings of home, belonging and the self among recently arrived Afghan migrants in Europe. It explores the implications of these understandings for the capacity and willingness of Afghan migrants to engage with development in Afghanistan. The project expands on relationships between migration and development as seen in policy such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), considering also the hopes, desires and capacities of migrants.

A multi-disciplinary framework, drawing on theories of gender, self-identity, migration and development is used to analyse qualitative data on four important destinations for recently arrived Afghans: Denmark, Germany, the UK and Switzerland. The project has three objectives. First, the project examines how subjective and socio-cultural understandings of gender in their communities of origin and host countries shape young Afghans’ desires. Second, it investigates how policy affects these desires and how receiving societies perceive and incorporate recently arrived Afghan migrants. Third, the project examines the implications of gendered desires for Afghan migrants’ identities and their contributions as development actors.

The project will make four contributions to academic and policy discourses on migration and development, and the SDGs specifically. First, its gender focus on the specific backgrounds and reception conditions of recent Afghan migrants re-evaluates the assumptions of theory and practice of migration and development. Second, it specifies how gendered everyday experiences in Europe affect aspirations and capacities to contribute to Afghanistan. Third, it connects development of the ‘self’ with development of the ‘home country’. Finally, it refines the development contributions of migrants to countries with protracted conflict.

Academic Output

Working Paper

[En]gendering Migration, Development and Belonging: The Experiences of Recently Arrived Afghans in Europe

This paper engages with the effects of neoliberal trends in European migration and asylum governance. We explore how and with what consequences conditions of continuous precarity in conjunction with an integration imperative affect the lives and self-images of recently arrived African refugees in Germany and Switzerland. In both countries, we observe a shift from granting residence permits based on humanitarian reasons to granting permits based on labour market performance. As a result, refugees increasingly face the pressure to earn their right to remain. Building on qualitative interview data, critical engagements with the principles and politics of integration and theories of violence, we argue that persons holding a precarious legal status are under great pressure to fulfil neoliberal integration requirements in order to secure their legal residence in Europe and to prevent being deported to their country of citizenship. Employing the continuum of violence as an analytical entry point adds important facets to our understanding of the effects contemporary asylum governance has on its subjects. While enabling us to specify causes and effects of experienced violence, our findings also illuminate how those affected by structural and symbolic violence are pushed into a situation in which they unknowingly and unwillingly contribute to upholding precarity as a central instrument and effect of contemporary asylum governance.

Executive Summary

This project examines how gender shapes understandings of home, belonging and the self among recently arrived Afghan refugees in Europe. The main research question asks how the desires of Afghan refugees for their present and future selves are affected, often adversely, by state policy and the way they are perceived by and incorporated into receiving societies and transnational social networks? A multi-disciplinary framework, drawing on theories of gender, dynamics of inclusion and exclusion, self-making, migration and development is used to analyse qualitative data on four important destinations for recently arrived Afghans: Denmark, Germany, the UK and Switzerland.

Research Team

Carolin Fischer
Coordinator
University of Neuchâtel

Janine Dahinden
Co-Coordinator
University of Neuchâtel

Alessandro Monsutti
Co-Coordinator
The Graduate Institute

Esra Kaytaz
Principal Member
Coventry University

Mikkel Rytter
Principal Member
Aarhus Universitet

Narges Ghandchi
Principal Member
Aarhus University

Anna Wyss
Principal Member
Université de Neuchâtel

Emily Bowerman
Associated Member

Hannah Elwyn
Associated Member

Nicholas Van Hear
Associated Member
University of Oxford

Lars Feldvoss
Associated Member

Sabir Zazai
Associated Member

Liza Schuster
Associated Member
University of London

Status

ongoing

Disciplines

Themes

Regions

Countries

Afghanistan, Denmark, Germany Switzerland, United Kingdom

Host Institution

Coordinator

Year