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Migration, Identity, and Belonging

Kenneth D. Madsen, Ton van Naerssen


In this contribution we focus on cross-border migration and how it is related to processes of identity formation. We conceive cross-border migration as a movement across the borders of (nation-)states, regardless whether it occurs long-distance or nearby. It differs from commuting in the sense that the people concerned settle in a place, an environment that differs from the region where they originated. In a stable border context where cross-border flows of people are effectively regulated the impact is quite different from where cross-border flows are transient and being actively discouraged. In the former case (at least in contemporary times) the population that gets through is generally quite well-educated and skilled, a carefully orchestrated brain gain composed of individuals that in all probability are somewhat culturally familiar with their destination. In the latter case, migration remains partly or completely hidden from certain sectors of society and consists of lower-wage earners. Such individuals are often less prone to integrate and intend to stay only a short time. But in either context, people are trying to make a living and a home, even if temporary, and in due course their identities change as they will undoubtedly adjust their lives to some degree to accommodate their new residence and/or reinforce aspects of their heritage in counterreaction to what is going on around them.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229