Migrant strategies, informal economies and ontological security: Ukrainians in Naples, Italy

Nicholas DeMaria Harney (Cassamarca Foundation, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Publication date: 24 February 2012



Naples, Italy in the last decade has become a destination for Ukrainian migrants escaping the economic uncertainty of their homeland. A sign of the city's importance in the diaspora is that the Ukrainian government in 2008 opened a local consulate. Estimates are that nearly a million Ukrainians have used Italy as a point of labour transit, even if only a fifth of those are formally registered. The purpose of this paper is to examine the strategies with which Ukrainian migrants in Naples, Italy attempt to create ontological security in the context of informal economies and the uncertainties of the migratory process.


The research is based on 18 months of ethnographic close observation and participation in migrant networks in Naples between 2004 and 2008.


The research reveals the strategies used by Ukrainian migrants to arrange and maintain transnational connections, seek work, and develop a sense of belonging through place‐making and institutional development in the face of the significant barriers to inclusion and socio‐economic stability in Neapolitan society.

Practical implications

The evidence suggests that policymakers concerned with social cohesion and integration might wish to consider informal economic activities not simply as a “problem” to resolve but a key feature of contemporary capitalism that may create the conditions to address their concerns. Therefore, a more nuanced understanding of how migrants create their lives through these activities would be useful.


This ethnographic material suggests that greater attention should be paid to the creative capacities of migrants to create a sense of security through informal activities. Migrants make extensive use of social networks and knowledge distribution to form the basis of decisions about economic behaviour, emplacement and ontological security.



DeMaria Harney, N. (2012), "Migrant strategies, informal economies and ontological security: Ukrainians in Naples, Italy", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 32 No. 1/2, pp. 4-16. https://doi.org/10.1108/01443331211201725

Download as .RIS



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Please note you might not have access to this content

You may be able to access this content by login via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
If you would like to contact us about accessing this content, click the button and fill out the form.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.