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Bielefeld Graduate School

in History and Sociology

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Karolina Barglowski

Social Classifications and Inequalities: Analyzing Migrant's Care Practices within Polish-German Transnational Space

Care, from a national as well as transnational research perspective, is a field prone to the (re-) production of social inequalities. Many studies indicate its gendered and ethnicized nature, recently also pointing at its interrelationship with global inequalities. I argue however, that care has own inequality dynamics, when observed from a transnational and power-sensitive perspective simultaneously, as it is accompanied with limited spaces of action and life-chances not only for those who are seemingly the most disadvantaged, such as migrant care worker.

Social inequalities, corresponding to the theoretical framework in symbolic interactionism and social constructionism, is conceptualized here as systematically limited spaces of action and decision-making based on classifications, such as gender, sexuality and age. They are traced in the transnational social field, composed by actors and institutions, which are embedded in national as well as transnational structures. As literature points out, care is mostly a field marked by practices within families and networks, thus the major focus is on relationships between people located in Poland and Germany, who are tied to each other in various ways.

Mobility between Poland and Germany is inscribed in the social space as a viable strategy or opportunity, i.e. for earning income, fulfilling adventure aspirations or education. Mobility is a figure of transnationality, and by the inflation of transnational research, international mobility tends to be glorified, as a resource or as a trait of (post-) modernity. Mobility evokes notions of flexibility, individualization, agility and autonomy: being an architect of one's own fortune. By that mobility, and in its 'perfect' form of international mobility, seems to match expectations towards the (post-) modern subject.

Care, on the other hand seems to be opposing the expectations of flexibility, agility and autonomy, as it is a field majorly processed outside the productive economic field. Although there is an institutionalization of care tasks to be detected, by its characteristic of being mainly responsible for reproduction and consumption it is barely integrated into the economic field, marked by non-capitalist logics, such as trust, solidarity and emotions. These logics mirror in conceptualizations of informal ties, and extraordinary true for families being widely regarded to be social entities marked by those non-capitalist logics. Despite the fact that families certainly are structured differently than other social entities, they have a major role in perpetuating the (symbolic) order of societies and thus the inequality structures. Their function is to transmit forms of capital to the next generation, which is one example of limited life-chances for some, contradicting meritocratic ideals of 'western' societies.






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