This chapter summarises how my research, as well as collaborations with colleagues, has sought to advance the field of qualitative SNA in migration studies, not simply as a methodology but as an epistemological approach informed by classic network theorists. While recognising some of the specificities of international migration, I argue that classic studies of social networks, involving non-migrants (for example, by Bott and Wellman), can add useful insights about how macro-structural contexts are mediated through relational ties. Drawing on these insights can help to avoid simplistic migrant exceptionalism. Building upon classic work, the chapter sets out my conceptual framework of ‘telling network stories’, which underpins this book. Moreover, I suggest how this approach can help to tackle some of the persistent challenges in how social networks are studied within migration research by, for example, going beyond the merely metaphorical use of the term ‘network’.
In this concluding chapter, I begin by summarising the contribution of my epistemological, methodological and empirical approaches. I then briefly consider the implications of recent, ‘unsettling events’, including Brexit as well as the pandemic. The years in which I have been writing this book, 2020–22, have been defined by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and, of course, after years of heated debate, Brexit came into effect in January 2021. Other recent events including the war in Ukraine and the return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan also shape migration flows. Drawing upon follow-up communication with some of my participants, I explore how their changing migration plans are shaped by relationality to significant others. Finally, I reflect upon possible future directions for my work and the application of my framework.
Drawing upon the narratives of my diverse participants, this chapter looks across a wide range of employment from finance, to teaching and health care, to construction. In so doing, I explore how networks may operate differently across particular sectors of the labour market. In this way, I complicate the notion of ‘network consequences’ by going beyond assumptions of direct causality to explore stories of how social ties may operate indirectly to support employment strategies. Furthermore, using both in-depth interviews and network visualisation techniques, this chapter examines the meaning and dynamism of weak ties. In addition, bringing together the narratives of diverse participants from a wide range of origin countries, this chapter presents powerful stories of anti-migrant sentiment and workplace racism over many decades and how migrants narrate mobilising support and resources to navigate and challenge employment discrimination.
This chapter contributes to growing interest in how migrants make and sustain new friends in new places, as well as how networks evolve in particular places over time, as part of dynamic processes of embedding. Drawing upon SNA concepts such as elasticity, homophily and propinquity, as well as a life course lens to analyse change over time, the chapter adds to understandings of the dynamic contexts, characteristics and constraints that influence migrant friendship formations. While much research on migrants’ relational ties focuses on transnationality, this chapter focuses on relationality in the local places where migrants live, study, work and socialise to understand how friendships are formed and sustained. Furthermore, rather than generalised and vague notions of ‘friends’, I apply the framework of telling network stories to understand how participants narrate the meaning and roles of close, trusting and enduring friendships, as well as negative ties.
This chapter sets the scene for the book and describes how my interest in social network research emerged during the last two decades of my research career. The chapter outlines how the various projects that underpin the book emerged and also situates the work within my own networks of influential relationships. My own experiences as a migrant are not the focus of this book, but, adopting a reflexive approach, this chapter briefly considers how my own positionality has influenced the subject matter and approach of my research endeavours over the years. This introductory chapter explains the structure of the book and also presents the first of the short case studies or ‘thick descriptions’ that will be used throughout to provide rich qualitative insights into specific themes.
This chapter sets out my empirical and methodological approach. I am interested in how networks are co-constructed by interviewer and interviewee within research contexts informed by particular spatio-temporal settings. Engaging with participants who migrated in different periods, from the 1940s to the 2010s, I seek to understand the salience of historical time. Furthermore, by reinterviewing particular participants over several years, I seek to understand changes through biographical time. No new data were collected for this book. Instead, I revisited and synthesised qualitative data generated over 20 years of my migration research in London. By describing the process of reanalysing that combined data set and the challenge of how to present the data in meaningful and digestible ways to readers, through thick descriptions, this chapter also contributes to empirical, methodological and analytical techniques associated with revisiting existing data sets.
Leading migration researcher Louise Ryan’s topical and intersectional book provides rich insights into migrants’ social networks.
It draws on more than 200 interviews with migrants who followed various transnational routes in every decade since the 1940s, in order to build valuable longitudinal perspectives and comparisons. With a particular focus on London, it charts how social networks are formed and sustained, how trust is developed and how social support is accessed, and explores the key opportunities and obstacles that migrants encounter.
This is a seminal fusion of migration studies and social network analysis that casts new light on both subjects, essential for those interested in immigration, ethnicity, diversity and inequalities.
Focusing on migrants’ stories of arrival, this chapter provides insights into dynamic interpersonal relationships, the resources flowing between them and their relative social location within specific social contexts. I seek to go beyond a narrow quantification of ties, and implied causality, at one end of the spectrum and a vague metaphorical notion of ‘network’ at the other end. Through the use of rich network stories, the chapter illustrates how to better understand entangled relationality, including negative ties, fleeting acquaintances, weak ties as well as strong kinship and friendship ties. Rather than direct causality, this approach suggests how actors’ migration decisions and processes are situated within diverse webs of social ties that offer varied and even, at times, contradictory influences.
This chapter explores migrants’ transnational relationships, including the role of new technologies in how long-distance communication has changed over time. Analysing network stories, this chapter considers the meaning of transnational social ties. By presenting nuanced and at times emotional stories, the chapter suggests the support and care but also the tensions and pressures that can exist between transnational connections. Furthermore, the chapter contributes to understanding how transnational relations change over time. Using longitudinal network analysis, I explore changes in the extent, durability and meaning of spatially dispersed relationships. As migrants age, for example, their strongest ties may be to children and grandchildren in the destination society, while networks of family and friends shrink in the origin country, associated with a sense of dis-embedding, and with implications for possible return or retirement migration.
This chapter undertakes the work of examining a new kind of aspiration that has collective transformative potential through a close reading of two key Asian American and Asian Australian media texts, and how they have been received by their respective audiences. The texts are Indian American comedian Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act series, which aired on Netflix from 2018 to 2020, and Sri Lankan Australian stand-up comic Nazeem Hussain’s Legally Brown series, which appeared on Australia’s ‘multicultural broadcaster’, SBS, in 2013–14. The case study approach employed here pays particular attention to episodes about the status and future of one’s own migrant community, such as Minhaj’s on the importance of the Asian American vote in the 2020 Presidential election and Hussain’s skits on ‘Uncle Sam’ and ‘Muslim Shore’.