Becoming ‘the Internationals’—how Place Shapes the Sense of Belonging and Group Formation of High-Skilled Migrants

Abstract

Within the context of the transformation of work, mobility turns into a characteristic of contemporary (work-)lives and a pre-requisite for career biographies. High-skilled migrants who are employed in academia, IT or engineering increasingly incorporate the mobility demands of their ‘mobilised professions’. This paper examines how mobile professionals relate to their current place of residence, what kind of frictions they face and what forms of (alternative) belonging they develop in response. In doing so, the paper links ideas from governmentality studies with recent work from migration studies and the spatial sciences. Our analysis draws on interviews with high-skilled migrants in Manchester (UK). While broadly accepting the mobility demands of their respective fields of work without questioning, their resulting mobile practices often undermine the development of a sense of belonging based on place attachment and local social interaction. Our empirical material suggests that this potential conflict is mediated through the constitution of a group of ‘internationals’ who share mobile biographies and the experience of in-betweenness. Based on our findings, we suggest three directions for future research: to focus on the relational aspects of place ties, to investigate the role of the workplace and more specifically the employer, and to explore how places shape differential politics of belonging.

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Correspondence to Jörg Plöger.

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Plöger, J., Kubiak, S. Becoming ‘the Internationals’—how Place Shapes the Sense of Belonging and Group Formation of High-Skilled Migrants. Int. Migration & Integration 20, 307–321 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12134-018-0608-7

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Keywords

  • High-skilled migrants
  • Labour mobility
  • Belonging
  • Social integration
  • Entrepreneurial self
  • Cosmopolitanism