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Reproducing Europe: Migrant Parenting and Questions of Citizenship

Periodic Reporting for period 4 - MigrantParents (Reproducing Europe: Migrant Parenting and Questions of Citizenship)

Reporting period: 2019-06-01 to 2020-10-31

Reproducing Europe is an anthropological study of citizenship in a Europe where the presence of migrants is often perceived as a burden or threat. This project asks how migrant families presence and membership in European societies is negotiated in everyday life. In order to answer this question, we examined encounters between Egyptian migrant parents and 'the welfare state' in Amsterdam, Paris and Milan. The Reproducing Europe research team consisted of six researchers, who worked in these three cities. In each city, one PhD researcher worked to cover the perspectives of Egyptian migrant parents, while a more senior researcher charted the perspectives of parenting support professionals. By bringing these perspectives together, Reproducing Europe shows how everyday citizenship is negotiated in Europe today.

The Reproducing Europe team zoomed in on the domain of parenthood and child rearing by studying ‘parenting encounters’. Three researchers focused on the experiences of Egyptian migrant parents in Paris, Milan and Amsterdam. Which ideas do they encounter about child rearing and parenthood and how do they deal with these expectations? What do they themselves expect from the state and other local institutions? In turn, three more senior researchers examined how professionals in the field of parenting deal with their socio-culturally diverse clientele. How do they envision their clientele and its needs and problems, and how do they deal with what they perceive as the main challenges in their work? By combining these perspectives, we learn how Europe’s diverse societies take shape and we gain a better understanding of the role of social professionals and migrant parents in that process. Ultimately, Reproducing Europe aimed to shed light on the complex genesis of a new, diverse Europe.

Welfare landscapes proved to be key sites for the negotiation of everyday forms of citizenship among migrant parents. These welfare landscapes introduced their specific logic, ethics and concerns into such negotiations of everyday citizenship. Egyptian migrant parents in turn elaborated their citizenship in dialogue with the (Italian, Dutch or French) state, while constantly weighing and doubting perennially uncertain potential futures in Europe and in Egypt.
After a year of collaborative development of the overall project and the individual sub-projects, all team members conducted approximately one year of field research in their sites on their part of the comparative question. They produced a collaborative, bilingual open access book 'Reproducing Europe: Migrant Parents, Professionals and the Welfare State', which conveys some of the main comparative findings in an accessible and attractive format for the research participants and a wider audience in the project's five languages. Each team member then proceeded to further analyse their material and publish their findings in the form of individual or co-authored articles, books and PhD-theses.
The project's most important, innovative findings concern the role of the welfare state in the negotiation of everyday citizenship in Europe today. Reproducing Europe demonstrates the need to go beyond the citizenship agendas spelled out in the media or policies to understand everyday citizenship. It shows the importance of (site-specific) welfare landscapes as a setting for the formation and negotiation of such lived forms of citizenship (De Koning et al. 2020; Marchesi 2020; Vollebergh 2020; De Koning and Ruijtenberg 2019). It thereby highlights the necessity of considering two major changes in the configuration of citizenship in Europe together: the heated debates and anxious politics concerning the ethnoracial diversification of the population (De Koning and Modest 2017; De Koning and Vollebergh 2019), and the reconfiguration of state-citizenship relations in the context of welfare reforms (Vollebergh et al. fc 2021). While the former foregrounds difference and racialized belonging, latter is conceptualized in terms of generic citizens. They, however, articulate in significant, but often implicit ways in the shaping of everyday citizenship. It is only through in-depth study of actual welfare encounters and practices that we can trace how they together shape everyday citizenship in various European settings.

These findings are published in a range of (forthcoming) articles, books and PhD-theses (see a selection of the references below). Our early findings have also been published in accessible form in the bi-lingual book Reproducing Europe: Migrant Families, Professionals and the Welfare State (in English/French/Italian/Dutch and Arabic), freely available at

References cited
Chakkour, Soukaina. 2020. “Mothering in the space of hesitation: the case of Egyptian Mothers in Paris.” Presented at the ‘Mothering practices in times of legal precarity’ workshop organised by the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity (30 Nov-1 Dec 2020).
Koning, Anouk de, Milena Marchesi, Anick Vollebergh, Wiebe Ruijtenberg, Lucrezia Botton and Soukaina Chakkour (2018). Reproducing Europe: Migrant Families, Professionals and the Welfare State. Open Access public book available in English/Arabic, Dutch/Arabic, French/Arabic and Italian/Arabic (
de Koning, Anouk. n.d. “The Will to Care: States and Subjects of Welfare in the Netherlands.” Under review with American Ethnologist.
de Koning, Anouk, and Anick Vollebergh. 2019. “Ordinary Icons: Public Discourses and Everyday Lives in an Anxious Europe.” American Anthropologist 121(2): 390–402.
de Koning, Anouk, Mette-Louise Johansen, and Milena Marchesi. 2020. “Introduction Special Issue ‘Paradoxical Orders: Parenting Encounters, the Welfare State, and Difference in Europe.’” Ethnography [Online First].
De Koning, Anouk, and Wayne Modest. 2017. “Anxious Politics in Postcolonial Europe.” American Anthropologist 119(3): 524–26.
de Koning, Anouk and Wiebe Ruijtenberg. 2019. “Welfare, Social Citizenship, and the Spectre of Inequality in Amsterdam.” Ethnography [Online First].
Marchesi, Milena. 2020. “The Intimate Public of Relational Welfare in Milan.” Ethnography [Online First].
Pettit, Harry and Wiebe Ruijtenberg. 2019. “Migration as Hope and Depression: Existential Im/Mobilities in and beyond Egypt.” Mobilities 14(5): 730–44.
Vollebergh, Anick. 2020. Circuiting parents’ voice: Parenting discussion groups and institutional healing in northeast Paris. Ethnography [Online First].
Vollebergh, Anick, Anouk de Koning and Milena Marchesi. fc 2021. “Intimate States: Techniques and Entanglements of Governing through Community in Europe.” Current Anthropology.