Migrant identity orientations and sense of place and belonging reimagined via transitions through liminal spaces

Tutkimustuotos: VäitöskirjaCollection of Articles


The premise of this study is that to understand humanity it is important to understand individual world visions, as these visions reflect an aesthetic understanding of one’s place in the world. Drawing on this premise, this dissertation pursues an insight into the relationship between identity, place, and belonging by focusing on individuals whose identities have been shaped by migration. To be concise, the study asks what meanings individuals whose lives have been intersected with experiences of migration give to experiences of belonging and not belonging. This perspective was chosen to promote a better understanding of the ambiguities and paradoxes that accompany late modern attachments and detachments in condensed time and space. Additionally, the purpose of this project is to evaluate whether dominant frameworks in social work research have hindered the exploration of multiple avenues in addressing the complex dynamic between belonging and not belonging.

The knowledge interest in this study combines Paul Ricoeur’s ‘paradox of autonomy and vulnerability’ with Stuart Hall’s outlook on human struggles that emphasizes an innate human need to carve out meaningful spaces. Accessing this type of knowledge required a collaborative approach to data collection, since the research participants needed enough space for their current world visions to unfold. The dissertation used qualitative methods and two sets of data. The first data set consists of in-depth interviews with three participants with a migrant background. The second set of data consists of interviews based on picture collages made by six additional participants. The interviews were analyzed thematically using research questions informed by the concepts of identity, place, and belonging, and in the analysis the key concepts were categorized considering the values, feelings, and actions that the participants attached to them.

The results illustrate how agency in the realm of collective belonging is negotiated on the threshold between the known and the unknown, where a successful transition opens new possibilities for the individual to join in. Negotiations about self-perception take place on the threshold between the self and the other in the personal realm of belonging, where a successful transition affirms self-image. On the threshold between the mundane and the sacred, the individual negotiates deeper meanings around belonging by weighing out what is truly important in the transcendental realm of belonging. With the idea of valuable thresholds, belonging that has hitherto been seen in social work research primarily as an outcome of attachment to culture, ethnic origin, nation, or state, can be seen in a new light: as understood through endless transitions through crucial liminal spaces interfacing co-dependent realms of belonging.

This research introduces a multilevel perspective on belonging by addressing individual agency in relation to societal and institutional structures by highlighting their historical conditions. In addition, it lays the groundwork for future research by inviting further explorations into the dynamic between self-perception, agency, and meaning. The findings indicate the need to acknowledge that discourses can unintentionally strengthen harmful categories, and thereby researchers must be encouraged to imagine alternative social realities where nonessential vulnerabilities are not strengthened. As a tool for social work professionals, engaging in analytical self-reflection about one’s own fears and hopes is proposed, since these underlying currents in the human psyche are omnipresent, and once acknowledged they help to identify valuable liminal spaces.
ISBN (elektroninen)978-952-03-2453-7
TilaJulkaistu - 2022
OKM-julkaisutyyppiG5 Artikkeliväitöskirja


NimiTampere University Dissertations - Tampereen yliopiston väitöskirjat
ISSN (painettu)2489-9860
ISSN (elektroninen)2490-0028


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