Family Change in the Context of Migration and Globalisation

The University of Lucerne has established a new University Research Priority: Under the direction of Prof. Dr. Bettina Beer, Prof. Dr. Martina Caroni and Prof. Dr. Stephanie Klein changes to forms of the family will be at the centre of research from 1st of August 2016 onwards.


Migration and globalization often reconfigure lives and relationships in ways that present challenges to established conceptions of the family and to legislative, policy and church discourses. The research focus shared by the Theology, Law and Social Science faculties of the University of Luzern aims to forge a transdisciplinary perspective on the pluralisation of understandings of “family” associated with processes of migration and globalisation.

Several different strands of the increased movement of people, practices, and ideas that constitute contemporary migration and globalisation affect local family orthodoxies, in direct and indirect ways.  Often, different traditions of family life are brought into physical proximity just as, in some countries receiving migrants and refugees, local discourses of multi-culturalism, international law and human rights de-legitimize earlier mechanisms for stigmatising difference; the regularisation, in some states and jurisdictions, of non-heterosexual orientations and the drive to acknowledge the legitimacy of desires for family of all couples, also challenge more traditional understandings of familial norms; new reproductive technologies not only make parenthood available to a wider range of couples, but also place in question just what roles in the genesis of children are to be counted as parental. In short, migration and globalization tend to deterritorialize differences in norms and traditions of family life, while new reproductive technologies, in conjunction with the recognition of different sexual orientations of couples, make possible novel kinds of family. At the same time, the migration and globalization of information, possible through extended and ultra-fast media and communications chains, stimulates the discussion and contestation of these heterodox possibilities for families. Such discussion and contestation impact customary, legal and religious conceptions of family life and the values that permeate them. Other basic issues, such as gender and the nature of social justice, are also implicated in these national and international debates about how we should understand kinship and the family.

Accordingly, the organising questions of the research focus revolve around the way family relations (within and between families) and family discourses associated with local, national and international institutions change under conditions that stimulate the circulation of ideas and values as well as the movement of human beings. Further, the project will examine the significance of such changes for general sociocultural, legal and religious institutions. These questions are addressed through case studies in several quite different research projects.

The aim of the University's Research Priority is to facilitate interdisciplinary exchange between the faculties, to promote young academics, to interest students in central research questions and integrate them into research projects. Furthermore, the research priority provides a basis for national and international networks and the visibility of the University of Lucerne.