‚Education Sentimentale‘ in Migrant Students‘ University Trajectories: Family, and other Significant Relations

The passage through university is a process of personal transformation, challenging affective constellations. Dynamic in itself, studying is especially demanding when students migrate, spatially and socially. Their mobilities go hand in hand with different forms of transgressions that bear upon personal relationships. As young adults, most students maintain their familial attachments while also finding new significant relations. Since families are ‘regimes of belonging’, the affective bonds, especially between generations, are often experienced in ambivalent ways. Individual aspirations are often intertwined with those of ‘communities’ forged by kinship ties. Care and support come along with very high expectations as well as fears of failure. Social and spatial mobility often come for a price of alienation and conflict, while thriving on (affective) support. Under these circumstances, emotional interaction styles are likely to become object of reflexivity that may put cultural certainties into question. Also, while negotiating family roles as an ‘offspring’, numerous students engage in establishing new family relations (they may try to mould in special ways) - that add to the range of affective ties.
This presentation draws upon trajectories of individual students with ‘migration background’ who reflect upon their intimate social relations with their kin, friends, and peers. It argues that at this stage of life affective constellations within kinship relations need to be considered against the backdrop of other forms of affective relatedness. To what extend these compete and when do they complement each another is an empirical question, depending on different dimensions of students’ mobilities, choices, and aspirations. It goes without saying that affective relations of students take place in material settings of university realms, their homes as well as the many places in-between. As ‘students’ are multidimensional beings combining studying, working, engaging in private relationships and socializing in different social spaces, their education sentimentale comes about through a biographical navigation that is rather dramatic in nature.

Joanna Pfaff-Czarnecka is a Professor of Social Anthropology at Bielefeld University, Germany, and a Co-Director of its Center for Interdisciplinary Research ZiF. Her interests focus on ethnicity, inequality, democratization processes at the sub-national level as well as anthropology of globalization processes. Among her most recent published works are Zugehörigkeit in der Mobilen Welt: Politiken der Verortung (2012) and she also co-edited Facing Globalization in the Himalayas: Belonging in the Politics of the Self (2014).