I will be presenting this paper of mine on Friday morning at the British Sociological Association (BSA) annual conference (April 23rd-25th). To see the full conference programme click here.
E Pluribus unum? Migrant organisations, community networks and social capital in Austerity Britain
Research on migrant populations has increasingly adopted the concept of ‘social capital’, linking it to that of social networks and community organisations in particular. Though many consider these organisations an important means of support and integration, others have pointed out they can reinforce fragmentation within society. Either way, migrant organisations can be seen as a formalisation of ethnic-based social networks and, some would argue, as an indicator of group-level social capital. This relates to one key theoretical issue around social capital: the extent to which it should be conceptualised as an attribute of individuals, groups or a whole society.
Using Kurdish communities in London as a case study, this paper explores the networking patterns and strategies of migrant organisations and discusses the extent to which these have a direct impact on the social capital of individual users.
Although migrant organisations have been described as a direct expression of collective identity, their development is affected by various ‘external’ factors, particularly the opportunity structure of the host country. In Britain, the economic crisis and recent policy changes in a number of areas have jeopardised the existence of migrant organisations in their traditional form, redefining their role in relation to individuals and to wider society.
Thus, one the one hand, this paper adopts a highly contextualised approach; though on the other it discusses the extent to which a case study can offer insights into the challenges of integrating different levels of analysis – from the individual to the collective – in social capital research.