Migrants on the tightrope between translocal belongings: A Multi-sited analysis on social resilience in/between Thailand, Singapore, and Germany

06.12.2017: Vortrag Simon A. PETH

Mittwoch, 6. Dezember 2017, 16:30 Uhr

Institut für Geographie und Regionalforschung

Universität Wien, Universitätsstr. 7/5, 1010 Wien, Konferenzraum


The topic migration is recently widely debated. Human migration is nothing new and takes place since centuries, but the recent refugee crisis, and climate change as root cause for millions of ‘climate migrants’ are heatedly discussed. While the public discourse mostly sees migration as problem that needs to be “managed” in academia far more nuanced views prevail – ranging from alarmistic views to more positive views seeing migration as form of adaptation. Yet, the prevailing question is: if migration is something good or bad!?

In recent years there is a “new enthusiasm” (Faist and Fauser 2011, 2) about the migration and development debate and remittances play a key role in this relation. However, there is the danger to rehash previous debates with an overemphasis on economic remittances while putting the transfer of social remittances (Levitt and Lamba-Nieves 2011) such as new ideas, knowledge, skills, practices, and social capital in second place. Though the literature on social remittances increased during the last decade, however, the debate tends to emphasize the positive relation between migration, remittances, and development. In this regard, remittances in general increase the social resilience of households and communities. It is time to scrutinize this relation without falling back into a pessimistic view on migration. To do so, we need to understand migration processes from a translocal perspective.

Based on eleven months multi-sited empirical research in Thailand (origin), Singapore (destination), and Germany (destination) in this talk I will give you an overview on my running PhD research focusing on translocal belongings, and social practices of transnational migrants and their role for social resilience. In this talk I will argue that the context at the destination of migrants – particularly the occupational engagement – influences decisively in how far social remittances can be used when migrants return home.

Simon A. Peth studied human geography, anthropology, and development economics at the University o Bonn. In 2009 during his studies Simon joined a two year research program on climate change and adaptation in Ethiopia which was a joint project of the German Society for Development Cooperation (GIZ) and the Horn of Africa Regional Environment Center (HoA-REC). His experiences in Ethiopia enhanced his interest on humanenvironment relations in general and the topic of climate change and adaptation in particular. Later, Simon focused human mobility and migration, scrutinizing the complex nexus between the environment and human mobility. For his final thesis, he joint a research project of the United Nations University (UNU-EHS) and CARE International in Bangladesh where he examined internal migration trajectories, seasonal labor migration, and the role of translocality for livelihood security in a changing environment. Today, Simon is a research associate and PhD candidate at the University of Bonn (TransRe Project, www.transre.org). In his research he is focusing on different transnational migration systems between Thailand, Singapore and Germany.