Narratives of Not Belonging: The Symbolic and Functional Meaning of Language Use in the Relation of Russian Au Pair Migrants to the Russian-Speaking Community in German

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Caterina Rohde-Abuba


On the basis of theoretical approaches to ethnic group formation and belonging, this article examines how Russian au pairs in Germany relate to the Russian-speaking migrant community in the context of their migration processes. It shows how au pairs use their bilingual skills as an emblem of identity but also as a tool to establish social relationships. At the beginning of their stay au pairs use their native language to draw on the Russian-speaking community, explore their host city, and get social support during their au pair year. In later stages of settlement au pairs, who may enroll in university or enter highly skilled work, emphasize social relationships with German citizens and migrants of the same socioeconomic background. In biographical narratives they seek to distance themselves from the Russian-speaking community by creating intra group boundaries and rejecting interest in speaking Russian or socializingwith Russian speakers. They use their German-language skills as markers of education and upward mobility in order to position themselves as members of society without any of the negative attributes commonly ascribed to members of the Russian-speaking community. In English, extended summary in Russian.


Migrant community, Bilingualism, Au Pairs, Russian Migrants in Germany, Belonging, Boundary Making

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