Abstract Processes of migration are embedded in social networks, more recently conceptualised as social capital, from sending households to migrants’ formal and informal associations at their destinations. These processes are often assumed to reduce individuals, households and economies’ vulnerabilities and thus attract policy-makers’ attention to migration management. The paper aims to conceptualise the gendered interface between social capital and vulnerability. It utilises Bourdieu’s notion of social capital as an analytical starting point. To illuminate our conceptual thoughts we refer to empirical examples from migration research from various Asian countries. Bourdieu’s theory highlights the social construction of gendered vulnerability. It goes beyond that by identifying the investment in symbolic capital of female honour as an indirect investment in social and, ultimately, economic capital. This gender-differentiated unequal investment and these capitals’ incomplete fungibility, though, makes women not just indirect members of social networks but mere objects contributing as ‘symbolic currency’ within them, often without being able to capitalise on the very relations. Based on Bourdieu’s theory, we suggest a shift from the investigation of women’s exclusion from and gender inequality within social networks to an analysis of masculine domination. It appears to be directly associated with the degree of vulnerability that women experience.

Bourdieu, Social capital, gender, migration, social networks, vulnerability
ISS Staff Group 3: Human Resources and Local Development
Research paper for the conference "International migration, multi-local livelihoods and human security: Perspectives from Europe, Asia and Africa" 30 and 31 August 2007, Institute of Social Studies, The Netherlands
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Thieme, S, & Siegmann, K.A. (2007). Coping on Women’s Back. Social capital-vulnerability links through a gender lens. ISS Staff Group 3: Human Resources and Local Development. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/32608