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Youth and Transnationality

Who we are

An increasing number of young people seems to be part of processes which challenge the concept of nation state. They migrate with or without their families, participate in volunteer services, youth exchange and Au Pair programs, spend their holidays or a year off abroad and naturally use new media such as social networks. Such developments raise the question in how far social work has to rethink its definition of ‘lifeworld’ and has to take into account that biographies and the everyday life of young people are more and more spanned across national borders.

In the research group “Youth and Transnationality”, researchers work together to enrich the discussion on the increasing transnationalisation of the individual lifeworlds of young people. Starting from a social work perspective, we recognize the importance of going beyond the national context while looking at the concept of youth. We are interested in reflecting the topic with researchers from disciplines like sociology, psychology, policy and anthropology and to bring together different points of view and empirical findings on young people and their crossing of borders. In common meetings we discuss the empirical approaches and theoretical ideas related to this research object.

What we are up to

Although researchers from different disciplines already identify a rise of cross-border activities carried out by various sections of the population, neither the youth research has considered the transnationalised life worlds of young people nor have the transnational studies focused on the specific age of youth. The research group aims to combine both: to look at the daily lives of young people as well as at the concept of youth from a transnational perspective. Youth can be described as a phase of life characterized by multiple experiences of borders and boundary making. In this regard, we are interested in exploring how national borders are drawn and crossed by young people – within their activities, lifestyles and belongings (Klein-Zimmer 2012; Mangold 2013; Wrulich 2013). Within the research group “Youth and Transnationality” we use among others ethnographic and biographic approaches to focus on questions such as:

  • How do young people negotiate different kinds of ‘borders’?
  • In which contexts do young people use the category of nationality?
  • How far can we reconstruct different forms of transnational ways of being and belonging?
  • To what extent is transnationalisation a ‘normal’ phenomenon that characterizes the everyday life of young people? Who can benefit from a transnationalised life and who cannot? In how far do young people perceive transnationalisation as enrichment or burden?