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Abstract

This article examines the nexus of spatial and social mobility by focusing on how migrants in Germany use cultural, economic and moral boundaries to position themselves socially in transnational social spaces. It is based on a mixed-methods approach, drawing on qualitative interviews and panel data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Survey. By focusing on how people from different origins and classes use different sets of symbolic boundaries to give meaning to their social mobility trajectories, we link subjective positioning strategies with structural features of people’s mobility experience. We find that people use a class-specific boundary pattern, which has strong transnational features, because migrants tend to mix symbolic and material markers of status hierarchies relevant to both their origin and destination countries. We identify three different types of boundary patterns, which exemplify different ways in which objective structure and subjectively experienced inequalities influence migrants’ social positioning strategies in transnational spaces. These different types also exemplify how migrants’ habitus influences their social positioning strategies, depending on their mobility and social trajectory in transnational spaces.

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