Bonds of opportunity or constraint? understanding the impact and use of social networks amongst urban migrants in Johannesburg.

Date
2012-08-28
Authors
Nystrom, Daniel
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Abstract
This study looks at the importance of social networks amongst urban migrants in Johannesburg. The aim of the study was to look at how the social networks of international migrants function, and how migrants make use of these networks in an urban setting; examining whether this differs between migrants with established social networks available at their final destination before departure, and migrants without such social networks, and if so, how it differs. The study looks at the importance of social networks throughout the entire migration process, more specifically investigating their impact on the decision-making, journey, arrival and adaptation conditions. The literature review highlights research within the areas of social capital and social networks, research which was used to develop the definition of social networks used in this thesis. The literature review further shows that most research on the subject has emphasised the advantages of having friends or family available at the country of destination. This chapter also establishes a set of important indicators which formed the framework of areas which needed to be included in the analysis of adaptation. In order to analyse the importance of social networks, a mixed methods approach was adopted. This approach allowed the quantitative section to establish particular relationships between variables, while the qualitative section explained these relationships further. The comprehensive quantitative data which was used came from the African Cities Project (ACP) which was a comparative and longitudinal survey conducted in 2008. To further explore the findings from this data, a case study was conducted using in-depth interviews with the most interesting migrant group identified in the ACP data; the Somalis. The decision to select the Somalis as the subject of the qualitative case study was based on the findings of the quantitative analysis, and in particular the fact that the Somali respondents in many ways contradicted much of the previous literature on social networks. The findings of this thesis suggest that the significance of social networks during the migration process has often been exaggerated in the literature. According to the data used in this study, migrants without social networks tend to be more successful in many areas, especially when it comes to adapting to the new country. Having personal networks at the country of destination before departure seems to be less important than the cultural knowledge needed to find and make use of the networks and assistance available.
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Social networks , Urban migrants , Johannesburg
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