Bosnian Austrians: Accidental Migrants in Trans-Local and Cyber Spaces

This paper explores the realities of three groups of Bosnian immigrants in Austria whose migration, at least initially, started as a forced displacement during the 1990s. It describes how their social networks, level of education, professional skills, life experiences and embodied bi-culturalism are utilised in strengthening social cohesion and intergenerational solidarity in relation to Austria and to Bosnia-Herzegovina. The paper attempts to challenge the established methodological and theoretical orthodoxies in migration studies and to deconstruct the myth about refugees as a ‘societal burden’ subject to charity and lacking human and social capital. It argues that any strict division between different migration categories (like economic migration, skilled migration, family reunion, temporary and forced migration) and paradigms (like trans-nationalism or the brain-drain versus brain-gain concept) will miss addressing the multiplicity of ever-changing relationships, meanings and opportunities likely created by any migration.

It is reductionist to refer to some standardised ‘refugee pattern’; people who experience forced displacement, like any other migrant groups, do not remain in a stage of permanent liminality. Their ‘migration’ into new identities, even if these identities are only transitory – from refugees to migrants to citizens of new countries or to returnees – is often founded on the remnants of their earlier place-based identities and locally embedded social networks. Such communities are not only socially (re-)constructed at the points of migration, but also increasingly (re)imagined and (re)imaged beyond real space, in the realm of cyber space.

Hariz Halilovich

Senior Lecturer and Research Fellow, Department of General Practice, Monash University, Melbourne

  • Topic of the paper:Bosnian Austrians: Accidental Migrants in Trans-Local and Cyber Spaces
  • Research interests:forced migration, Diasporas, social memory, human rights and education, and reconciliation