The Limits of Trading Cultural Capital: Returning Migrant Children and Their Educational Trajectory in Hungary

Árendás Zsuzsanna, Durst Judit, Katona Noémi, Messing Vera: The Limits of Trading Cultural Capital: Returning Migrant Children and Their Educational Trajectory in Hungary. In: Bass, Loretta E.; Lutz, Amy; Tu, Siqi; McCallum, Derrace Garfield; Atterberry, Adrienne Lee (szerk.) Children and Youths' Migration in a Global Landscape. Emerald Publishing Limited (2022) pp. 115-139. , 25 p.


Purpose: This chapter analyses the effects of social stratification and inequalities on the outcomes of transnational mobilities, especially on the educational trajectory of returning migrant children.

Study approach: It places the Bourdieusian capital concepts (Bourdieu, 1977, 1984) centre stage, and analyses the convertibility or transferability of the cultural and social capital across different transnational locations. It examines the serious limitations of this process, using the concept of non-dominant cultural capital as a heuristic analytical tool and the education system (school) as a way of approaching the field. As we examine ‘successful mobilities’ of high-status families with children and racialised low-status families experiencing mobility failures, our intention is to draw attention on the effect of the starting position of the migrating families on the outcomes of their cross-border mobilities through a closer reading of insightful cases. We look at the interrelations of social position or class race and mobility experiences through several empirical case studies from different regions of Hungary by examining the narratives of people belonging to very different social strata with a focus on the ‘top’ and the ‘bottom’ of the socio-economic hierarchy. We examine the transnational mobility trajectories, strategies and the reintegration of school age children from transnationally mobile families upon their return to Hungary.

Findings: Our qualitative research indicates that for returning migrants not only their available capitals in a Bourdieasian sense but also their (de)valuation by the different Hungarian schools has direct consequences on mobility-affected educational trajectories, on the individual outcomes of mobilities, and the circumstances of return and chances for reintegration.

Originality: There is little qualitative research on the effects of emigration from Hungary in recent decades. A more recent edited volume (Váradi, 2018) discusses various intersectionalities of migration such as gender, ethnicity and age. This chapter intends to advance this line of research, analysing the intersectionality of class, ethnicity and race in the context of spatial mobilities through operationalising a critical reading of the Bourdieusian capitals.