Polish migrants, bridging and bonding networks: accessing resources and constructing relationships post-migration

Thursday, June 27, 2013
D1.18A (Oudemanhuispoort)
Louise Ryan , Social Sciences Department, Middlesex University
Within migration studies literature there is a tendency to assume that migrants have ready access to kin and friendship networks which facilitate the migration and settling processes. Through tight bonds of trust and reciprocity, these networks are considered to be sources of social capital, providing a counter-balance to the disadvantages that migrants may encounter in the destination society. This paper argues that more attention is needed to the ways in which migrants access, maintain and construct different types of networks, in varied social locations, with diverse people. 

I suggest that the often simplistic dichotomy of bonding and bridging needs to be re-appraised and instead offer an alternative way of thinking about these social ties. The distinction between them tends to be understood on the basis of the ethnicity of the people involved - bonding involves close ties with 'people like us' while bridging involves links beyond 'group cleavages'. Insufficient attention has been paid to the actual resources flowing between these ties or the kinds of relationship developing between the actors involved. The nature of these social networks may be better understood by focusing on the relationship between the actors, their relative social location, and their available and realisable resources. Data from a qualitative study of Polish migrants in London is used to illustrate this approach.

  • Louise Ryan Migrants' social networks and weak ties.pdf (136.2 kB)