Laura Machat-From, PhD, Department of Social and Welfare Studies, Linköping University

Identity, Old(er) Age and Migrancy: A Social Constructionist Lens

Identity research in relation to ethnicity and migration has tended to focus on younger people whilst identity research in relation to ageing and old(er) age has not focused on migrants. This inadvertent mutual neglect has led to a lack of identity research that examines the identity categories of old(er) age and migrancy together, a lacuna that this dissertation aims to redress. This dissertation departs from a social constructionist understanding of identity as situationally accomplished in the interplay between how one defines oneself (internally) and how others define one (externally). The questions raised by this perspective and addressed in this dissertation are: When (in what situations) and in relation to whom do old(er) age and migrancy (respectively) seem to become meaningful for identification? How do the identity categories of old(er) age and migrancy seem to be negotiated? The empirical material consists of in-depth interviews with 24 older migrants (13 men, 11 women) aged between 55 and 79 who have been living in Sweden for 18 to 61 years. Interviewees come from 12 different countries that vary in perceived cultural distance from Sweden. The findings suggest that identifications with old(er) age and migrancy seem to be dynamic and flexible rather than necessarily permanently meaningful, thus gaining meaning in specific situations and in relation to particular Others. External definitions furthermore do not always seem to match with internal ones. Regardless of how old(er) age and migrancy are constructed, they seem to be negotiable. This dissertation thus contributes to identity research by studying old(er) age and migrancy together and furthermore sheds light onto how the social constructionist lens allows us to see variability where stability otherwise would be presumed.

Laura Machat-From earned her PhD in 2017 with her dissertation Identity, Old(er) Age and Migrancy: A Social Constructionist Lens. Besides her PhD in Ageing and Later Life from Linköping University, Laura holds a Master’s degree in Migration and Ethnic Studies from the University of Amsterdam and a BA in European Social and Political Studies from University College London. Her research combines the thematic areas of ageing and later life and migration and ethnic studies and draws upon both sociology and social anthropology. Whilst pursuing her PhD, Laura was editorial assistant and book review editor for International Journal of Ageing and Later Life.

All seminars in the series.

See also Program för Forum för forskning om transnationell migration och CEIFO-seminarier höstterminen 2018.