Decent Care Work? Transnational Home Care Arrangements

The project is a study of the transnational recruitment by home care agencies of, usually female, migrant carers for employment as live-ins in private households. On the level of the global cities of Frankfurt am Main, Vienna and Zurich it examines 24-hour care in the destination countries of Germany, Austria and Switzerland, where a trend exists towards formalisation of the commodification and transnationalisation of care and care work.

24-hour care is developing within welfare state systems into an accepted way to bridge gaps in care where demographic change poses new challenges while former arrangements for care and work, for example within the family, between the generations and between the genders, are eroding. The thesis is that under the given working and employment conditions, requirements and expectations of good care and good work are in latent or manifest contradiction to each other, and that the way in which those involved deal with these contradictions influence the organisation of transnational home care arrangements in the three welfare states.

In line with the mobile ethnography approach, the project tracks worker recruitment by home care agencies in the sending countries and follows the migrant 24-hour carers into the households. It explores by means of expert interviews, episodic interviews and participatory observation how transnational home care agencies, care receivers, their relatives, and the care-giving migrants deal with expectations of good care and good work; how care and work requirements as well as the work to be performed are negotiated between the groups of actors; which contradictions and conflicts occur; and how the care and work arrangements are justified, legitimised and critically questioned.

Here for the first time internationally established findings from Gender, Migration and Care research on nursing/care work in the private household are combined with research approaches from the Institutional Logics perspective, French Pragmatic Sociology and justice and legitimacy research from the Sociology of Work and Industry. This is also the first research investigating which negotiation processes take place between the participating groups of actors in the mobile field of transnational home care arrangements, between the country of origin and the destination country, between care agencies and private households.

The aim is to shed light on transnational home care arrangements, to understand their embedding within the welfare statehood of the three destination countries, to compare their commonalities and differences, and to analyse which requirements and expectations of good care work come to bear, are breached, or cast doubt on this arrangement altogether.

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Helma Lutz
Project duration: 2017-2020

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Escaping Freedom: The Path of Young Men into Jihadism

From 2011 to 2018, more than 950 people from Germany and almost 300 people from Austria headed to civil war areas in Syria and Iraq in order to join jihadist groups and help building up an Islamic state. Many of these so-called foreign fighters have been socialized in Germany or Austria, have been living in urban areas, attending school, professional training, or university, or have been working. For most of them their jihadist engagement has led to a breakup with former ways of life and parts of their social network. In our research project »Escaping Freedom«, we focus on the biographical careers of young men who made their way into the subculture of jihadism and decided to enter civil war areas as foreign fighters. The project asks about their specific biographical constellations and interrogates the social, cultural, political, and family contexts that affected these biographical paths.

Taking the experiences and perspectives of the actors as the starting point of analysis, the qualitative design of our research puts interviews with former jihadists from Germany and Austria at the core of the inquiry. This allows for an integrated research on their ways of life, drawing attention to the various dynamics and breaks within the biographies on one hand and the different social factors and normative structures that shaped them on the other. In order to hold the analyzed social layers together, we conceptualize jihadism as a subculture and the biographical careers of the western jihadists as subcultural careers. This theoretical framework mediates the biographical processes on the micro level with social and cultural conditions on more general social levels and furthermore takes into account collective traits of the subcultural movement of jihadism. Finally, this cultural studies framework integrates latest concepts of both the sociology of violence and gender into our research. It aims to explain the effects that an affinity for violence as well as male gender identities have on actors and their subcultural context.

The research results will not only provide new insights into jihadist careers but will also contribute to current theoretical debates on violence, gender and subculture.

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Ferdinand Sutterlüty and Felix Rossmeissl (Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg)
Project duration: 2018-2021


FAMILY FRIENDLY Firms & Careers: The influence of family-friendly measures in companies on mothers' and fathers' employment behaviour – an empirical analysis with linked employer-employee-data.

The project focuses on in-plant family friendly measures aiming to improve the compatibility of family and work. Family-friendly policies are not only a fundamental topic in labour market and family policy, but are also an inherent feature of personnel policies in companies. While there is ample research on the impact of family policies on individual careers, research on in-plant measures and their effects is lacking. The project utilizes existing linked-employer-employee-data of the Federal Employment Agency (IAB), which allow for analyzing the interdependencies between in-plant family friendly measures, family policies and regional context on individual employment decisions.  

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Daniela Grunow
Project duration: 2017-2019


Mobile Ageing: transnational pendular migration and care-networks of retirees between Turkey and Germany

The project investigates the connections between the border-crossing mobile ageing practices of retirees and their social networks in the context of care needs and services between Turkey and Germany. A growing number of elderly people from Germany – with and without prior turkish migration background – temporarily settles in tourist areas of Turkey as mobile retirement locations. Starting from the turkish coastal city of Alanya, two sub-studies will be carried out on the mobility practices and care networks of retirees from Germany both with and without prior migration backgrounds from Turkey. The project aims to understand comparatively for both groups the conditions under which border-crossing lifestyles can be maintained, to identify causes and motivations, and to understand how forms of care and support circulate in transnational networks.

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Kira Kosnick
Projekt duration: 2017-2019

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Digital alienation and appropriation of work: Experiences of alienation in digital service work

The digitization of the working world can be understood as a driver of a fundamental structural change in work. Many questions have arisen about the increase of heteronomy when using algorithms, about the loss of work time autonomy, about new forms of work fragmentation, or about changes in social relationships. In order to grasp such problematic developments, current discourse has come to employ the keyword 'alienation' to describe the changes of work in a digital age. The value of such a concept in the context of digital work lies in an exploration of problems that go beyond possible losses of autonomy and include questions such as the loss of meaning in work, changing social relationships in work contexts, as well as changing self-conceptualizations. So far, elaborations on the concept of alienation and its potentials have been mostly limited to social-philosophical works. An empirical analysis of the concept in the field of digital work remains largely absent. This project seeks to remedy this by examining digital alienation in detail, focusing on experiences of alienation and appropriation efforts of workers at various levels of qualification in digital forms of work. Because alienation was mainly investigated in low-skilled fields of industrial work in the past, little is known about the alienation potentials of digital service work. To close this gap, the project examines digital service work in the old and new, digital economy. The aim of the project is the development of an empirically founded concept of digital alienation in work. A central question is in how far digital work across a number of different occupational groups in the service sector correlates to specific experiences of alienation. This is done by using an innovative form of access to subjective alienation experiences that differs between several levels of experiences of alienation (biographical, body-emotional, practically-acting, critical-evaluative). The study aims at garnering insights into the experiences of employees at different levels of qualification in order to retrace the ways in which alienation potentials in digital work are interpreted and coped with. This will lead to the development of a new, profound definition of digital alienation directly relating to worker experiences.A qualitative research approach is used in which interviews and group discussions with employees in service work are conducted. It examines highly qualified, qualified and low-skilled employees in the field of service work. By this, the project combines theoretical, methodological and empirical questions of alienation research and aims to reconceptualize alienation as a category of sociology of work. Furthermore, the project aims at combining different approaches to alienation from sociology, psychology and philosophy. These connections allow the concept of alienation to become a useful tool for describing social problems.

Project leader: Dr. Friedericke Hardering (Goethe University)
Project duration: 2019

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German Longitudinal Election Study – GLES

The German Research Foundation has approved the German Longitudinal Election Study (GLES) as part of their "long-term funding Humanities". This project initially intensively examines the 2009 parliamentary elections and continues further with the parliamentary elections of 2013 and 2017. Three of the nine components of this study, the most extensive German election study to date, will be implemented at the University of Frankfurt under the leadership of Prof. Sigrid Roßteutscher. The German National Election Study is a cooperative project between the Universities of Frankfurt and Mannheim (Prof. Dr. Hans Rattinger, Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Schmitt-Beck), as well as the Social Science Center of Berlin, WZB (PD Dr. Bernhard Weßels). This project originally emerged from an initiative led by the German Society for Electoral Studies (DGfW). The project proposers are also the chosen board of directors of the German Society for Electoral Studies. Management of the entire project will be conducted at the University of Frankfurt by Dr. Evelyn Bytzek. The volume of financial support for the first phase of the 2009 Federal Election research amounted to around 2.4 million Euros, 750,000 Euros of which was designated for Frankfurt’s part of the study.  

Project leader: Prof. Sigrid Roßteutscher PhD
Project duration: 2009-2018

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Personalized Depression? Investigating the Preconditions, Dynamics and Implications of Psychiatric Biomarker Research 

Psychiatric research and clinical practice are currently undergoing a transformation many observers regard as a real paradigm shift. While psychiatric interventions so far were based on the experiences, narratives and behavior of patients, they increasingly rely on biological parameters, so-called biomarkers. According to the vision of a “personalized psychiatry”, biomarkers provide for a better diagnosis, prognosis and therapy of psychiatric diseases as they indicate disease severity or susceptibility to treatment thereby allowing to “tailor” interventions to the specific bodily features and biological characteristics of individuals. Today, a few biomarker-tests are already available while others will enter clinical practice in the foreseeable future.

The proposed research project is the first to sociologically investigate this essential transformation. It starts from the thesis that the new focus on biomarkers not only changes professional practices and the disciplinary boundaries of psychiatry, but will also modify institutional structures and practices and result in new concepts of mental illness and health, psychic and corporal processes. Informed by the research design of situational analysis, the project examines the conditions, dynamics and implications of psychiatric biomarker-research using the example of depression. For this purpose, document and media analysis, expert interviews and ethnographies of psychiatric conferences will provide insights into both the practical contexts and the technical preconditions of biomarker research and the expectations, hopes and fears within the psychiatric arena that go along with the introduction and proliferation of biomarkers for depression. The project contributes to the sociology of psychiatric knowledge by combining an analytics of government following the work of Michel Foucault with insights from Science and Technology Studies. It investigates the historical ontology of depression as a fluid and contested medical classification and seeks to conceptually sharpen the notion of biomarkerization. Beyond the scientific objectives, the research project also provides empirical insights and theoretical reflections highly relevant for the public debate on the societal implications of the vision of a personalized psychiatry.

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Thomas Lemke; Research Associates: Jonas Rüppel and Laura Schnieder
Project duration: 2017-2019

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Firms and gender differences in job mobility: A study of the role of personnel practices and organizational context with German linked employer-employee data

The proposed project examines how firms shape men and women’s career pathways in Germany. We specifically focus on the role of personnel policies, notably their degree of formalization and the extent of companies’ commitment to support women’s careers, and on the role of the broader organizational context, notably in terms of its occupational structure, the extent of establishment-level gender pay gaps and women’s representation in management positions. We seek to evaluate the effects of these organizational features on various aspects of men and women’s careers, including gender gaps in starting pay, gender gaps in rates of firm-internal promotions, gender gaps in access to management positions, and gender gaps in turnover. In our empirical analyses, we utilize the IAB’s linked employer-employee data (LIAB) to estimate the effects of firm context on job mobility behavior and job mobility outcomes, and then rely on representative household data from German Socio-Economic Panel (GSOEP) to estimate the net contribution of gender differentials in job mobility events to the overall gender pay gap in Germany. In our statistical analyses, we will employ a mix of econometric approaches, including hierarchical linear models for panel data, hierarchical event history models, and Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition techniques.

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Markus Gangl and Anne Kronberg, PhD (University of North Carolina)
Project duration: 2018-2021


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