Chapter four asks how in their narratives, informants make sense of the social exclusion they encounter both in the Netherlands and in the country of their (grand)parents. The case study that forms the heart of this chapter traces the topic of the social embeddedness of home in general, and the subject of social exclusion in particular, in the story line of a woman named Jamila. These topics are crucial in the various ways she narrates her past, present and future in the course of several interviews. The period over which I met with Jamila was marked by intensive repositionings regarding her relationships to both countries, and her interpretation of her past and her future orientation. This chapter traces the evolving dialogical relationships between various I-positions from which Jamila tells her story, and demonstrate the intrinsic entanglement of ‘personal’ and ‘social’ factors on the level on the individual. With the help of Hermans’s Dialogical Self Theory, the case study enables a more fundamental, dynamic treatment of the resonance of social exclusion on the level of the individual.
This study falsifies the common idea that ties which are perceived as foreign – with a country of origin or with Islam (see the case study epilogue specifically on the latter) – are stumbling stones that hinder migrants’ integration and prevent them from making the Netherlands their home. What does, however, constitute such a stumbling stone is precisely this problematisation of my informants’ multiple attachments. Making oneself at home in Dutch society requires hard work. This being said, Jamila’s case also warns us against drawing fast conclusions about causality. Moreover, this chapter
portrays interviewees as active agents, facing complex circumstances, and navigating within the parameters of asymmetrical power structures in highly personal ways.
The Dutch multicultural backlash, the growing climate of Islamophobia and its impact on Muslim migrants have been documented widely. This chapter’s case study furthers our insights into how agentic individuals respond to external voices of exclusion and integrate them into their multivoiced identity narratives. It places a critical footnote to social scientists’ endeavour to explain migrants’ attitudes in terms of general trends or patterns: although the role of social factors in individuals’ meaning-making is formidable, Jamila’s case points out the significance of personal experiences and psychological factors such as life stage, key memories and ‘personality’. This chapter not only shows that such factors matter, but also in what ways they matter, and how on the individual level factors which we often treat separately as ‘social’ or ‘personal’ are irretrievably intertwined in the narrative texture of the polyphonous self-space.