Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Reproducing Europe

Cities in Europe house an increasingly diverse population with roots in many different parts of the world. They have also seen the growth of anti-immigrant sentiments and new forms of nationalism. Who belongs to Europe and what such belonging entails is heavily debated. What comes out of this paradoxical situation? To explore the concrete negotiation of such belonging, the Reproducing Europe project (2015-2020) focused on parenting encounters.

2015 - 2020
Anouk de Koning
European Research Council Starting Grant European Research Council Starting Grant

This project was financed with a European Research Council Starting Grant (grant number 640074).

Monitoring families

When people become parents, they are drawn into a range of interactions on account of their children: public health, education and family services assist in the upbringing of children; these services also monitor families. Everyday encounters—a parent-teacher meeting, a visit at a social centre, a group for mothers—take us well beyond the media headlines that speak of failed integration, negligent parents and unruly youths, giving us a sense of what Europe is now and of what it may become.

Six ethnographic projects in Amsterdam, Milan and Paris

Reproducing Europe consisted of six ethnographic projects in Amsterdam, Milan and Paris that focused either on the perspectives of professionals and volunteers who provide various forms of parenting support or on the experiences of Egyptian migrant parents. In each city, a PhD researcher explored how Egyptian migrant parents navigated institutional landscapes and negotiated both their own claims on the state and the institutional claims made on them and their children.

Wiebe Ruijtenberg researched parenting encounters of Egyptian families in Amsterdam’s extensive welfare landscape, Lucrezia Botton followed Egyptian women in Milan as they carved out a space for and negotiated their relationship with the Italian welfare state, while Soukaina Chakkour explored how Egyptian families in Paris raised their children in what she calls a ‘space of hesitation’, unsure about where there future would lie.

In each of these cities, a more senior researcher explored the work experiences and perspectives of the professionals and volunteers who provide various forms of parenting support to these parents. Anouk de Koning worked with professionals of two Amsterdam Parent and Child Teams (Ouder- en Kindteams), who had to balance providing parenting support and safeguard children’s well-being. Milena Marchesi examined how professionals and volunteers in Milan tried to ameliorate a fragmented and inadequate social state through “relational welfare”, while Anick Vollebergh explored how parenting support programs in community centres in Paris sought to bring together marginalised parents to bring about a more just and inclusive society.


Rather than top-down citizenship agendas, we found a deep investment in social citizenship - the obligations of the state to care for its citizens - on the part of parents and professionals. Parents expected to receive such social rights, even if they often found that welfare actors were often unable to provide them, or welfare provisions came with demands and prejudices. Parenting professionals, on their end, viewed themselves as working toward various public goods: a more just and cohesive society, and more secure, wholesome and happy families, hoping to do so through more horizontal, collaborative relations. These desires often clashed with realities of institutional power relations or with parents’ concrete material needs that could not be met.

We have published about our findings in various forms, from an accessibly written public book in four language versions to an Ethnography special issue on the paradoxical nature of welfare encounters, a co-authored article on new forms of intimate welfare programs that crop up across Europe, and individual articles that highlight, for instance, how people parent when it is unsure where their futures lie, or the gendered and raced nature of new welfare programs. More publications, including three PhD theses, and a book on the Dutch welfare state, are in the works. 


You can read up on the findings in our accessibly written public book Reproducing Europe: Migrant Families, Professionals and the Welfare State.

The book is available in four language versions: English/Arabic; Dutch/Arabic; French/Arabic and Italian/Arabic.
You can download the e-book on the right side of this page. 

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