Comparative Research on Highly Skilled Migrants. Can Qualitative Interviews Be Used in Order to Reconstruct a Class Position?


  • Anja Weiß Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München



class, highly skilled migration, transnationalisation, documentary method, BOURDIEU, transnational middle class, state, social inequality


BOURDIEU's theoretical concept of "classes on paper" is based on the nation-state frame. In order to include the social position of migrants, who live and work in more than one nation-state, a concept of social and structural transnationalisation is required. Using the example of highly skilled migrants, the article advances such a concept and shows, using qualitative data and "grounded theory", how and where transnational class formation takes place. The project diverges from the dominant perspective of migration research in that it does not attempt to reconstruct cultural specifics but strategically selects a sample of highly skilled migrants as a "qualitative experiment". The approach is ambitious—in transnational social spaces neither factual information nor indicators of habitus can be placed in one single frame of reference—and includes diverse kinds of data and analytical strategies to comprehend and reconstruct transnational class positions. The paper examines the notion of transnational class formation and introduces the author's empirical research before examining, in the final part of the paper, theoretical insights around (trans-) national class formation. The results show that despite the differences in national origin of the highly skilled migrants, they operate within global labour markets and inhabit similar economic and social spaces within the city. However, the paper also argues that different types of highly skilled migrants in different types of political-economic contexts, whilst inhabiting similar economic positions and similar social space, move along different and unequal paths. This divergence, we suggest, can be traced to broader structural processes of global inequality. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs060326


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Anja Weiß, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

Dr. Anja WEISS is a researcher and lecturer at the Department of Sociology, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Germany. She is currently working on a transnational theory of social inequality which builds on results from the project "Highly Skilled Migrants" funded by the German Research Association. With Arnd-Michael NOHL, Karin SCHITTENHELM and Oliver SCHMIDTKE she is heading the international study group "Cultural Capital During Migration" funded by the VW Foundation. Her general research interests are: social inequality, racism and interethnic conflict and migration.



How to Cite

Weiß, A. (2006). Comparative Research on Highly Skilled Migrants. Can Qualitative Interviews Be Used in Order to Reconstruct a Class Position?. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 7(3).