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Family Upheaval

Family Upheaval: Generation, Mobility and Relatedness among Pakistani Migrants in Denmark

Mikkel Rytter
Series: EASA Series
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 250
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  • Book Info
    Family Upheaval
    Book Description:

    Pakistani migrant families in Denmark find themselves in a specific ethno-national, post-9/11 environment where Muslim immigrants are subjected to processes of non-recognition, exclusion and securitization. This ethnographic study explores how, why, and at what costs notions of relatedness, identity, and belonging are being renegotiated within local families and transnational kinship networks. Each entry point concerns the destructive-productive constitution of family life, where neglected responsibilities, obligations, and trust lead not only to broken relationships, but also, and inevitably, to the innovative creation of new ones. By connecting the micro-politics of the migrant family with the macro-politics of the nation state and global conjunctures in general, the book argues that securitization and suspicion-launched in the name of "integration"-escalate internal community dynamics and processes of family upheaval in unpredicted ways.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-940-4
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Mikkel Rytter
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-27)

    This book is about Pakistani migrant families who have been living more or less permanently in Denmark since the late 1960s or early 1970s. After four decades in Denmark, many families have achieved levels of material prosperity, economic security and social mobility that the first generation could only dream of before they left Pakistan; however, their success has come at a price.

    In general, the approximately 25,000 people in Denmark who have a family history related to Pakistan have done extremely well as hard-working breadwinners, whether successfully self-employed in ‘ethnic’ businesses such as corner shops, taxis or travel agencies, or...

  7. Part I Histories

    • [Part I Introduction]
      (pp. 28-32)

      The first part of the book is concerned with various aspects of Pakistani settlement and family life during the last four decades, and how the processes of securitisation which followed the terrorist attacks of September 11 have affected the general status of Muslims in Denmark. It engages with what, from the position of the external observer, could be called ‘the Pakistani paradox’. On the one hand, Pakistani migrants are renowned entrepreneurs who are willing to take chances and start up private businesses; the upcoming generation of young Pakistanis is doing extremely well in the educational system; families have started to...

    • Chapter 1 Macro-perspectives: The usual suspects
      (pp. 33-49)

      The terror attacks of September 11 promoted a new agenda for international relations and securitisation. Nation-states around the world responded to September 11 according to their own particular history, political system and general situation (Grillo 2004). In Denmark, the terrorist attack became a significant element in the new reorganisation of the welfare state and redefinition of the country’s relations to the wider world.

      First of all, September 11 tapped into existing discussions and discourses about the problematic nature of Muslim immigration. Right-wing populist parties such as the Progress Party (Fremskridts Partiet) since 1973 and the Danish People’s Party (Dansk Folkeparti)...

    • Chapter 2 Micro-perspectives: Notions of improvement
      (pp. 50-68)

      Transnational migration is widely regarded as a way of improving living standards and future prospects for people all over the world, but some livelihood strategies are widely held to be more successful than others. This holds true for Pakistanis who have been living in Denmark for four decades. Some families have gained the reputation of being more successful than others, something that is often referred to in emic discourses as ‘a family that has done well’ (en familie der har klaret sig godt). As will be argued in this chapter, notions of improvement are contested, and may change over time....

  8. Part II Marriages

    • [Part II Introduction]
      (pp. 69-71)

      In South Asian traditions, and within a religious Islamic framework as part of the Sunna of Prophet Muhammad, marriage is a sacred, respected and extremely important institution. Partner choice and marriage are, ideally, once-in-a-lifetime decisions. To second-generation Pakistanis it is therefore not so much a question of whether they are going to be married or not, but rather a question of when, where and to whom. In this respect, marriage constitutes an inevitable, irrevocable decision about one’s life trajectory and future horizons.

      It is part of Pakistani tradition that marriages are arranged between families. It is a parental duty and...

    • Chapter 3 Between preferences: Love marriage as symbolic mobility
      (pp. 72-89)

      At first, Yasmeen and Imran, fellow Roskilde University students and occasional classmates, did not really notice each other and spoke only sporadically. Gradually, however, they became more and more interested in each other. They started communicating by email, talked after class, and on one occasion they even risked getting caught and went to the movies together. Yasmeen and Imran were both well aware that by doing so they were going well beyond the rules ofpurdah, the common code of acceptable behaviour for young unmarried men and women enforced by their families and the gossiping Pakistani migrant community in greater...

    • Chapter 4 Welfare state nomads in the borderlands of Sweden and Denmark
      (pp. 90-105)

      ‘You see, I live the life of a nomad!’ Zagib burst out in the cafeteria at the Panum Institute, where he was a medical student. We were having coffee at a table in a quiet corner, and Zagib had just related that he married Sara, his paternal cousin, in Pakistan in 2004. He had known from early childhood that his father and paternal uncle (father’s brother) would like Sara and him to get married, so it was never really a question for him whether they should be married or not, but rather a question of when and where the big...

    • Chapter 5 ‘The Danish family’ and ‘the aliens’
      (pp. 106-118)

      The previous chapter discussed how transnational couples become semi-legal when they commute between their legal residence in Sweden and family, friends and work in Denmark. This chapter analyses how ideas of national identity, relatedness and belonging are embedded in the Danish legislation on family reunification of 2002, and more specifically in the requirement of ‘national attachment’. As several of the cases presented in the previous chapter illustrate, the requirement of national attachment is very difficult to comply with. Actually it is currently the most frequent reason for newlyweds to be denied family reunification in Denmark.

      Applying insights from anthropological studies...

  9. Part III Homelands

    • [Part III Introduction]
      (pp. 119-121)

      Pakistani migrant families are situated in a transnational social field stretched out between Pakistan and Denmark (and Sweden). For migrants in the diaspora, Pakistan constitutes a ‘homeland’ distant in time and space, ascribed with multiple meanings. The notion of the homeland is never fixed, but inevitably subject to change over time: in personal biographies, during family cycles, or when transmitted between the first- and second-generation cohorts of migrants.

      The homeland has always been a rallying point among Pakistani migrants in Denmark. Pakistan is significant in every family history and is present among first-generation elders in the narratives, experiences and (often...

    • Chapter 6 Pakistan – Denmark: Back and forth
      (pp. 122-137)

      ‘Old people love Pakistan, their children hate it!’ Mr Shah snapped impatiently, in response to my series of questions about returnee families and the potential intergenerational problems such returns may involve, when I visited him for the first time in the office of his tile factory outside Kharian. Back in 1990 he sold his business in Copenhagen and returned to Pakistan with his wife and two sons, and settled in an impressive three-storey house just outside his native village. But Mrs Shah, who had been born and raised in the United Kingdom, found it very difficult to adapt and accept...

    • Chapter 7 An imagined return: Negotiations of identity and belonging
      (pp. 138-150)

      Whereas Chapter 6 discussed the problems migrant families face in Pakistan when they attempt to return, this chapter takes us back to the Danish setting and presents an ‘imagined return’, in the form of a stage play, written and performed by members of the Organisation of Pakistani Students and Academics (OPSA) to celebrate the fifty-fifth anniversary of Pakistan as an independent nation-state. In brief, the plot was about a migrant family who return to Pakistan for the summer holidays, to be confronted by their relatives, their origins and their common national history.

      By presenting the characters and actions of a...

    • Chapter 8 The Kashmir earthquake: Dynamics of intensive transnationalism
      (pp. 151-164)

      In Chapter 6, I discussed how Pakistani families over the years have attempted more or less successfully to return to Pakistan, and, in Chapter 7, how a stage play at a family show came to constitute an ‘imagined return’ to the actors and the audience. In this chapter, I go on to discuss how a catastrophe like the Kashmir earthquake of 2005 can make Pakistan stand out as an obvious homeland to migrants in diaspora – but only for a while. In this respect, the disaster made Pakistan become a ‘momentary homeland’ to many Pakistani migrants in Denmark.

      In October 2005,...

  10. Part IV Afflictions

    • [Part IV Introduction]
      (pp. 165-166)

      The fourth and final part of this book is dedicated to the religious life and conceptual universe on the basis of which Pakistani migrant families have reconstructed a moral and cosmological vision to support themselves in their new and all-too-often hostile Danish environment. In this endeavour, I could have focused on the public aspects of religious life, such as the establishment of numerous Copenhagen-based mosques that have served Pakistani migrants in different aspects of their lives over the years. But as my main focus is the migrant family, I turn my attention toward the specific religious ideas and practices that...

    • Chapter 9 In-laws and outlaws: Suspicions of local and transnational sorcery
      (pp. 167-183)

      Mrs Mian leaned forward and looked me straight in the eyes: ‘I suspect at least one of my sons to be afflicted bykala jaddu!’ Mrs Mian, a Pakistani woman in her mid-fifties and the mother of five grown-up children, has lived with her husband in a suburb of Copenhagen since the early 1970s. Before she revealed her anxieties about whether her son might be a victim of sorcery, we had already met a couple of times and talked about her life and family situation. Now, in order to convince me of her suspicions, she went through the circumstances that...

    • Chapter 10 Demonic migrations: The re-enchantment of middle-class life
      (pp. 184-198)

      Whereas the previous chapter discussed how the destructive–productive qualities of suspected sorcery reorganise family relatedness and moral orders in transnational networks, this chapter discusses how the better-educated second generation of Pakistanis in Denmark deal with experiences categorised askala jaddu, despite the fact that many regard it as a superstition, a ‘cultural’ phenomenon whose existence they doubt. Ambiguous encounters withkala jaddunot only urge the second generation to reconsider their religious beliefs and practices, but make them question their shared self-image as an educated, modern elite. Noman, an unmarried man in his early thirties, captured this paradox of...

  11. Conclusion: Family upheaval
    (pp. 199-208)

    This study has examined the negotiation of relatedness, identity and belonging in Pakistani migrant families from four different angles: intergenerational mobility and community competition; the institution of marriage; the contested notion of homelands; and the occurrence and suspicions of sorcery and affliction. The open and flexible agenda of this approach has enabled me to move with the flow of my interlocutors and their concerns, instead of being restricted to a predefined analytical framework of ‘cohesion’ or ‘integration’, as is common in more policy-oriented research. All four perspectives illustrate the destructive–productive constitution of the migrant family, where neglected responsibilities, obligations...

  12. References
    (pp. 209-224)
  13. Glossary
    (pp. 225-226)
  14. Index
    (pp. 227-234)