Card image cap
Card image cap

Families between Mozambique and Germany: biographical trajectories of Mozambican migrants who arrived as contract workers in the German Democratic Republic (GDA)

Ines Grau

Research Framework: The article focuses on the pathways of former contract workers who came to the German Democratic Republic (GDR) from Mozambique under bilateral agreements between 1979 and 1990. These young adults were not allowed to start a family during their stay, which was by definition dedicated solely to work and training. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, only a minority of them remained in Germany. For some, family constellations played a decisive role in obtaining a residence permit.

Objectives: This article aims to highlight the impact of these Cold War-specific arrangements on individual life paths, and in particular on strategies for “making a family”.

Methodology: This on ongoing qualitative research is based on life stories collected during narrative interviews with former workers living in Germany today. Three case studies were chosen to examine, as examples, the ways of “making family” in this specific arrangement of contract work.

Results: This comparison shows that the prohibition to start a family was not a long-term obstacle for any of the three interviewees. Several strategies were observed, such as starting their family in Mozambique during their contractual work or postponing having a family in Germany until after the termination of their contracts in 1990 and onwards.

Conclusions: The family structures thus constructed are part of new transnational social spaces co-constructed by the interviewees. They are interwoven between Mozambique and Germany, which foster a multicultural belonging in their children and generate new forms of North-South mobility.

Contribution: This approach allows us to highlight the biographies of former Mozambican workers, in the context of their stay in the GDR, but also in a broader perspective covering their entire life path, from their childhood to the present day.