UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


Is it ‘Devils’ or ‘Angels’ that influence our paths?

18 November 2019, 4:00 pm–6:00 pm

Graphic - varied Relational and Referential impacts within social networks

Is it ‘devils’ or ‘angels’ that influence our paths? Interlocking relational and referential ties in the networks and trajectories of young migrants: a Polish and UK Case Study. Speakers: Dr Paula Pustułka (SWPS University, Warsaw) and Prof Louise Ryan (University of Sheffield)

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







16 Taviton Street

This workshop seeks to challenge our understandings of social networks in young lives. The overall aim is to contribute to sociological understandings of the roles of social networks in the experiences of young individuals with experiences of mobility/migration. In particular, we consider the role of specific ties and broader networks, seeing them as relational and referential triggers for employment and educational pathways. By connecting two research projects, both conducted with qualitative longitudinal methods, yet diverging in terms of the interviewed young people’s backgrounds, we propose a nuanced and granular approach to the role of social networks.

In broad terms, we see networks as structures of relations embedded in particular structural contexts, yet we argue that a commonly simplified view of migrant networks downplays the effects of relationality and referentiality at a micro and meso levels. Therefore, we argue that both schooling and labor market choices can be unexpectedly hindered or surprisingly ameliorated by how relationality (collectivity of influential ties) and referentiality (relations as points of comparison/navigation) affect individual trajectories. We see referentiality and relationality as temporal and operating in a multidirectional way, in that ‘devils’ and ‘angels’ continuously appear and disappear from young individuals’ timelines, having negative or positive impact on how our educational or employment pathways unfold. During the workshop, we will propose and test a continuum of relational impacts of networks ranging from falling in with the wrong crowd to following a path forged by the metaphorical ‘perfect cousin’.