Research background


Internationally, the last two decades have witnessed an upsurge in intercultural tensions, xenophobia and social disharmony, driven by religious, sectarian, and ethno-cultural disagreements. Indeed, since 9/11, new forms of extreme ideologies, radicalisation, populism and estrangement have dominated national and global agendas. Migrant youth in Western cities have become the focus of some of these debates, in particular as they relate to global terrorism, rising insecurity, increased urban segregation, and lack of social integration. At the centre of these fears is the perception that some migrant youth cannot simultaneously hold multiple allegiances. This view, among others, has contributed to a palpable ‘sceptical turn’ against multiculturalism and diversity, particularly in Europe. In this context, the transcultural networking practices of migrant youth – on social media, in their neighbourhoods or abroad – have become increasingly scrutinised; as it is believed that migrant youth estrange themselves from their host societies through these practices.


Migrant youth identities are far more complex than that though. As recent research illustrates, migrant identities are mediated through complex layers that can include personal, local, and cross-border networks, engendering new possibilities to create and express multiple attachments to cultural systems and socio-political communities. Scholars have begun to understand some of these multiple attachments as ‘transcultural’ processes. [1] Yet, little is still known of the potential gains that transculturalism offers migrant youth; what attributes and capacities they accumulate from balancing, concurrently, the demands of their cultural identities and wider social belongings. Further, while some comparative research focuses on migrant youth integration, these research failed to address migrants’ complex and multiple relations; especially those now available because of technological and communications advances. There is, thus, an urgent need to examine the multifaceted everyday experiences of migrant youth to better understand not just the broader processes of social integration, but also the utility of ‘transcultural capital’ for them, their communities, and their wider societies.


[1] Hoerder, D, Hebert, Y & Schmitt, I (2005) Negotiating Transcultural Lives: Belongings and Social Capital Among Youth in Comparative Perspective, University of Toronto Press, Toronto; Triandafyllidou, A (2009) 'Sub-Saharan African Immigrant Activists in Europe: Transcultural Capital and Transcultural Community Building', Ethnic and Racial Studies, vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 93-116.