Doing Family and Mobilities – Parallel Session 3 – FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 24TH – 10:30

Doing Family through Mobility – families’ time-spatial organisation and negotiation of children’s mobility practices in rural and urban settings – Ekman-Ladru/Joelsson/Cele/ Fridén Syrjäpalo/Balkmar/Henriksson (Stockholm/SWE)

Doing Borders while Doing Care in Crossborder Commuter Families – Bollig/Behnke (Trier/GER)

Emotional Compatibility of Familial Belonging across Space. Thoughts along an ethnographic pathway – Jaeger (Tübingen/GER)


Doing Family through Mobility – families’ time-spatial organisation and negotiation of children’s mobility practices in rural and urban settings – Ekman-Ladru, Danielle / Joelsson, Tanja / Cele, Sofia / Fridén Syrjäpalo, Linda / Balkmar, Dag / Henriksson, Malin (Stockholm/SWE)

An important part of families’ local worlds is how and where they live. The location of the home in relation to the city centre, to public services, infrastructure, work places, schools and recreational spaces, housing type as well as neighbourhood structure and characteristics shape family routines. Families are not isolated or separated entities, but are embedded in a range of different socio-spatial contexts. While contemporary childhoods are becoming increasingly urban due to a centralisation of public services and work places in cities, children and families continue to live also in rural places. In this paper, we discuss how families in different urban and rural settings ‘do family’ in relation to the time-spatial organisation and negotiation of everyday mobility practices including children’s mobility in and between different socio-spatial contexts. Drawing on theories of ‘doing family’ and of mobility as relational, interdependent and assembled, we view family as an everyday accomplishment of all its members, and families’ and children’s mobility practices as ‘produced and distributed through relational arrangements’ (Nansen et al. 2015: 469). These include relations with family members, peers, neighbours and (semi-)professionals, as well as various relations with the material world in family and (semi-)public space. This conceptualisation of the doing of family in relation to mobility practices shifts focus from the individual and starts from an interdependent (human as well as non-human) context. In discussing some preliminary results of three research projects on everyday mobility, will focus on the material, spatial, temporal and bodily as well as emotional aspects of everyday mobility practices and how these are involved in the doing and making of family.

Doing Borders while Doing Care in Crossborder Commuter Families – Bollig, Sabine / Behnke, Selina (Trier/GER)

Given by its concept of the ‘transnational family’, Migration Research has impressively shown how mobility is to be understood as an essential factor in the doing family of (short-term) migrants. Mobility and family practices are here interwoven in the way families organize their relationships and care responsibilities across distances and borders, using and adapting to both transnational and nation-state contexts. Less explored, however, is how this nexus of doing family, parental care practices, and national and transnational infrastructures unfolds in the context of cross-border everyday mobility. Commuting to work in a neighboring country, although, is an increasing everyday reality for families with young children in European border regions (Wille et al. 2015, Perchinig et al. 2018), such as for instance in the so-called Greater Region (GR), which spans the former Saar-Lor-Lux area. The GR is the largest European border region with the highest rate of daily cross-border commuters, approx. 20,000 of them having children under six years of age. The German-Luxembourg border is of particular interest here, as cross-border commuting parents – a very heterogeneous group of families mostly living in Germany and working in Luxembourg – are now entitled to use both national childcare systems on almost equal terms, and thus make more and more cross-border choices regarding childcare services for their children. This leads to an increasing transnationalization of the field of ECEC in this border region, a multilevel process which stretches from educational and care arrangements of young children, to organizational change processes in ECEC institutions, to adaptive municipal and state childcare policies. In this paper, we will first very briefly outline this transnationalization of ECEC in GR at its multiple levels, and second, show to what extent commuter parents relate their diverse practices and concepts of caring for the youngest to this cross-border options. By linking the concepts of “doing border / doing space” and “un/doing family” (Jurczyk 2020) we will especially highlight the interrelatedness of “family practices, time and space” (Morgan 2020) by family’s spatialization of ECEC in this particular region. The analyses are based on interviews with cross-border-commuter parents and with ECEC-directors located at the German-Luxembourgian Border, which have been conducted in the research project ‘Border Spaces of Early Education’ at Trier University.


Perchinig, Bernhard; Horváth, Veronika; Molnár, Dániel; Tavodová, Lenka (2018). A Multitute of Mobilities: Cross-Border Practices in the Austrian-Hungarian and Austrian-Slovak Border Regions.

Jurczyk, K. (eds.)(2020). Doing und Undoing Family. Weinheim: Beltz Juventa.

Morgan, David H. J. (2020). Family practices in time and space, Gender, Place & Culture, 27:5, 733-743, DOI: 10.1080/0966369X.2018.1541870

Wille, Christian; Reckinger, Rachel; Kmec, Sonja & Hesse, Markus (eds.)(2015). Spaces and Identities in Border Regions. Politics – Media – Subjects. Bielefeld: transcript.

Emotional Compatibility of Familial Belonging across Space. Thoughts along an ethnographic pathway
– Jaeger, Ursina (Tübingen/GER)

Drawing on data of a long-term ethnography of a kindergarten class* on the not-so-wealthy outskirt of Zurich, Switzerland, the contribution scrutinizes family configurations across transnational space. It asks how different modes of familial belonging (felt, performed, attached) are entangled with multiple frames of reference. The empirical focus lies on a girl, Zaylie, and her mother, Rose, whose everyday lives unfold transnationally. The two were ethnographically accompanied through their everyday life in the diversified Swiss neighbourhood, and on a family visit to Ghana. It thus pays attention to the family configuration in interactions with the kindergarten, the social welfare office, while shopping or in church, but also when the Swiss nuclear family is incorporated into a much larger family context in Ghana. Here, the analytical focus will be on the emotional (in-)compatibility of different modes of familial belonging, as Rose and Zaylie move (together) across socio-spatial orders. How can Zaylie at the same time be the child of the unemployed black poor woman, but also of the successful migrant who helps to support the extended family? What does it mean to be a mother of a ‘Swiss kindergarten child’ in Ghana? How do emotional attachments migrate with the mother-child relationship through the various frames of reference? The simultaneous incorporation in social and local respects is there by not understood as incorporation to antagonistic others, but as mutually generating and constituting reference points. A conceptual lens of multi-referentiality is developed and it is shown how such an approach can help to understand the relation of (migrant) families with educational institutions and social work.

*Funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, the PhD study “Everyday Multi-Referentiality” was embedded in the bigger research project “Conspicuous Children. An Ethnography of Processes of Recognition in the Kindergarten” (2016-2019). The project was hosted at the Zurich University of Teacher Education, and dealt with teacher’s practices of differentiation in the everyday life of kindergarten. For my PhD in social anthropology, I extended the field and started to leave the schooling institution together with individual children. It aims at understanding what is happening to the configuration of social belonging when children (and their families alike) simultaneously transgress an infinite number of boundaries of socio-spatial orders.