Superdiversity and pathways to health care in four European countries

Pilot Study: Superdiversity and pathways to health care in four European countries

Co-ordinator: Kristine Krause
Country Study UK Charlie Davison, Gill Green
Country Study Sweden: Hannah Bradby
Country study Germany: Susann Huschke, Gabi Alex, Kristine Krause
Country Study Spain: Charlie Davison, Felipe Morente Mejías, Inmaculada Barroso Benítez

The healthcare systems of European countries share the challenge to care for an increasingly diverse population. Processes of socio-cultural diversification thereby include not only the influx of newcomers who carry with them different languages and variegated understandings of health care and healing, but also the heterogenisation of values and norms within the settled population. The advantage of a diversity perspective lies in viewing both developments together. The recently developed concept of ‘superdiversity’ presents a new opportunity for understanding the politics of belonging in contemporary Europe. It presents an innovative perspective on social stratification and a new lens to look at migration-related ethnic diversity. Transcending previous theories of multiculturalism, it recognizes a level of socio-cultural-economic-legal complexity distinguished by a dynamic interplay of overlapping variables including country of origin ( ethnicity, language, religious tradition, regional and local identities etc.), migration experience (often strongly related to gender, age, education, social networks, economic niches) and legal status (implying a wide variety of entitlements and restrictions) .
The aim of the project is to develop ways how to account better for this complexity in research about pathways to healthcare. The research results will inform an international, comparative research proposal.

State of project

The different teams have completed 8 interviews in their respective country, applying the same interview guide with people from various backgrounds, including the majority populations with full access to health care. The sample ranged from a 18 year old, Somalian refugee who had recently arrived in Sweden to a wealthy Swiss businessman who had chosen to retire to the South of Spain, and a white German middle class woman who converted to Islam. The team met at two intensive workshops in order to discuss and compare the findings.

Preliminary results

Preliminary analysis suggests that existing categories do not adequately describe the cultural encounters involved in the wellbeing of ‘superdiverse’ populations. Notions related to a sense of ‘belonging’ and entitlement emerged as key concepts. In most of the narratives a figure of a ‘navigator’ was present, which helped people accessing the right services. Another result which needs further analysis was the finding of ‘shared fields of experience’ in the narratives of people who had full access to services but were severely sick, and people with limited access to services such as illegalised migrants.


  • Presentation at conferences (Health inequalities over the life course, ESHMS/DGMS Hannover, 30 August – 01 Sept, 2012 and BSA Medical Sociology Conference 5-7 Sept 2012 in Lancaster).
  • Working paper for the MPI Series (in progress)
  • Articles to be submitted to peer reviewed journals (in progress)
  • Preparation of application for international grant