Social Mobility, Habitus and Identity Formation in the Turkish-German Second Generation

Jens Schneider and Christine Lang

in New Diversities Volume 16, No. 1, 2014 - Social Mobility and Identity Formation

Social mobility literature widely assumes that socially upward mobile individuals 'alienate' from their 'milieu of origin' while adopting the patterns of acting and thinking of the 'new milieu'. The most frequent underlying concepts are the 'habitus transformation' or even the 'habitus cleft', which presume that the acquisition of a new habitus necessarily involves moving away from the previous one. This article presents three contrasting case studies from a research project among socially upward mobile individuals of Turkish background in Germany to show that the static juxtaposition of 'either ... or' is too narrow. Most respondents maintain intensive relations with family and friends from their 'milieu of origin', while at the same time 'assimilating' to the expected habitus in their professional environments and high-ranking positions. This article suggests borrowing elements from Identity Theory – especially concepts such as hybridity and multiplicity – to show that transformations in individual habitus do not necessarily go along with relevant levels of 'alienation' in neither direction. As a consequence, the authors propose 'habitus diversification' as a more promising concept for including frequent bridging strategies and the active switching between 'habitual' codes and languages.

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