How Affinities Matter

Studying EU mobility and transnational families through the lens of potent connections

This research project applies and further develops a novel orientation for the study of mobility and the lives of transnational families, an orientation that focuses on affinities that Jennifer Mason (2018) defines as potent connection in personal life. Affinities, according to Mason, are positive and negative charges and forces that are lived and made potent in and through multi-dimensional and multi-sensorial encounters, not only with specific others, but also with places, environments, landscapes, material objects and other indefinable sources that should be studied as animate and lively, rather than a static background of human life. The research project is essentially about accepting Mason’s invitation to think differently by getting attuned to affinities, and in this way, to apprehend how such connective forces matter in the lives of people living their lives transnationally. The project departs from the hypothesis that affinities are of key importance in generating physical, geographical mobility, and that they influence enormously on the ways in which members of transnational families experience living and moving in the world. This way, it seeks to contribute both theoretically and empirically to the emerging field of affinities studies.

The research is situated in the context of EU free mobility, and empirically it builds primarily on narratively oriented interviews with Finnish and Spanish EU migrants of different ages and social backgrounds living in Belgium. All the participants have ageing family members living in the country of origin. The interviews offer insight into affinities in relation to those socio-cultural and historical transformations that have been significant in the lives of the study’s participants. These include changes in gender and intergenerational relations, as well as the expansion of opportunities related to education, mobility and internationalization. The research also covers experiences of the most recent years, defined by major, global crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the climate crisis. The research is expected advance the research on mobility and transnational families in significant ways.


Anna Simola