Linking the Study of Social and Spatial Mobility. Reflections From Research on Subjective Social Positions in the Context of Migration to Germany


  • Lisa Bonfert Université du Luxembourg



migration, social mobility, transnationality, grounded theory methodology, social comparison, reference groups, capitals


To gain a more nuanced understanding of social mobility in a globalized world, in this article I suggest studying the link between social and spatial mobility by exploring social positions in relation to international migration. While migration is often portrayed as a gateway to social mobility, migration scholars have highlighted that transnational spaces and intersecting inequalities may shape social mobility in complex ways. However, little is known about the subjective experiences of spatial and social mobility. Therefore, based on a study of subjective social positions among people who have relocated to Germany, I discuss the implications for a research design that enables social scientists to assess social mobility in contexts of international migration and to explore the spatial dimension in shaping social mobility trajectories. Specifically, I will argue for linking empirical findings from narrative interviews with concepts of space, capitals, and social comparison as well as transnational and intersectional theories. As I will show, this way of inquiring into the social-spatial mobility nexus allows for investigating the complex ways in which spaces affect social mobility, and thus provides a promising gateway to better understand social mobility as a process shaped by both time and space.


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Author Biography

Lisa Bonfert, Université du Luxembourg

Dr Lisa BONFERT is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Education and Social Work at the University of Luxembourg. In her research, she focuses on processes of migration and transnationalization, social inequalities, social protection, and transnational family dynamics.


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How to Cite

Bonfert, L. (2024). Linking the Study of Social and Spatial Mobility. Reflections From Research on Subjective Social Positions in the Context of Migration to Germany. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 25(2).



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