Could exist a zero (pre-first) generation in migration? Transnational habitus formation and intergenerational solidarities within the Romanian migrant families
Institute of Sociology / Swiss Forum for Migration and Population Studies University of Neuchâtel Neuchâtel, Switzerland
Intergenerational transmissions and cultural reproduction have gotten great prominence in migration studies. However, the generation question arises only for the migrants' line of descent; thus one speaks about first, second, even third generation in migration. What happens with the generation of the migrants' parents? Are they merely sedentary populations, passively subjected to the consequences of their children migration? Moreover, the generational analytical schema does remain relevant to understand family dynamics within migration, in a social world getting in an accelerated process of comopolitanisation? How interaction processes between generations of migrants are affected by the transnationalisation of the social structures and the wide spreading of information and communication technologies (ICTs)? How are migrant families functioning in a transnational social field overlapping space and time discontinuities? These are the questions this paper tries to answer on the basis of a qualitative interview-based research conducted among skilled Romanian migrant families to Canada.
By grounding on the case of Romanian "grand-parents" in Toronto, it argues that a new unexpected actor "the zero generation" emerges on the migratory scene. This actor is part of a two-step process. First, the parents still resident in Romania are extensively engaging in transnational symbolic and material exchanges. While keeping a daily contact with their descendants through email, chat rooms, mobile phones and videophone systems and softwares (like MSN or Skype), they are accommodating at a distance to the Canadian environment of their migrant children. In a second phase, a great part of them develop a heightened mobility between the two countries, mostly to respond to an increasing demand for grandchild care and domestic work. If a couple of them engage in back-and-forth movements for years, others end-up by establishing in Canada as their children are sponsoring them within the family reunification procedure. Lacking necessary linguistic and social skills to integrate within the Canadian society, this retired population surprisingly generates innovative transnational and community dynamics. The interplay of three generations enables also new forms of intergenerational solidarities and transmissions. Combined with the use of the ICTs, it gives raise to new transnational habitus, family reproduction and socialisation practices.