CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

1Stéphane Beaud, professor of sociology at the University of Poitiers and member of the Group for Sociological Research on Contemporary Societies (Groupe de Recherches Sociologiques sur les Sociétés Contemporaines, or GRESCO), has written a detailed ethnographic study of outcomes in an Algerian family, the Belhoumis, who settled in France in 1977, moving into a social-housing estate in a small provincial city. Beaud looks at the experiences of the individuals who make up the Belhoumi sibling group to understand how integration works “in action”.

2This long-running study (2012–2107) analyses the trajectories of eight siblings (five girls and three boys) and the different socialization spaces they moved through. In direct contrast to misérabiliste analyses of working-class or disadvantaged groups (the composite classes populaires), Beaud emphasizes the various resources that the group drew on to gain footholds in the labour market and acquire respectability. His approach brings to light a process of upward social mobility together with divergent social outcomes within the sibling group by gender and age.

3To validate that approach, the author begins by studying the sisters’ outcomes. Using micro-sociological analysis, he underlines the importance of acquiring formal education, this in turn leading to geographical mobility for the sisters and taking them far away from the parental home. The fact that the norm of early marriage was called into question catalysed strong investment in education, particularly in the case of the elder sisters.

4In the second section, which offers a kind of mirror image of the female trajectories, Beaud explains the three boys’ trajectories from academic failure to occupational integration. He accounts for the “mystery” of unequal performance – that is, the sharp academic performance inequality by gender in the Belhoumi sibling group – in terms of family and residential socialization. He then shows how, despite not having any formal education qualifications, the three boys were able to find stable jobs, two of them as salesmen and the third as a bus driver for the Paris region public transport system. Finally, to understand how the brothers’ trajectories managed to catch up with their sisters’, Beaud shows how the different types of capital the elder sisters had acquired proved transferable to their younger brothers.

5He is also attentive to the Belhoumi siblings’ attitudes towards politics and religion. That question was included in a research survey conducted after the Paris attacks of January 2015. While the sibling group as a whole identified on the left of the political spectrum, the particulars varied by individual sibling’s schooling trajectory and educational attainment. With regard to religion, the differences between siblings concerned divergent uses of Islam.

6Beaud’s monograph shows the major influence of socialization conditions on trajectories. The author concludes with a powerful demonstration of how the Belhoumi siblings’ trajectories fit into the social history of immigrants’ male and female descendants – the second generation – in France and of their constant quest for respectability.

Uploaded on on 16/05/2019
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