EUMAGINE is a collaborative European research project aimed at investigating the impact of perceptions of human rights and democracy on migration aspirations and decisions.
The EUMAGINE project aims to study how Europe is perceived from outside the EU, and how these perceptions affect migration aspirations and decisions. The project focuses on how people’s perceptions on democracy and human rights – in relation to their regions and countries of origin as well as places abroad – affect their perceptions on and attitudes to migration. We are also interested in investigating how perceptions on human rights and democracy interact with other determinants of migration aspirations, to what extent migration is perceived as a valuable life project, and how potential migrants compare Europe to other migration destinations. EUMAGINE studies migration-related perceptions among people aged 18-39 in four countries of origin and transit: Morocco, Senegal, Turkey and Ukraine.
The theoretical starting point for the project is two-fold: First, we assume that different types of discourses on human rights and democracy influence how individuals in countries of origin and transit perceive issues of human rights and democracy. Secondly, we expect that individuals’ perceptions in turn influence their migratory aspirations and decisions.
The EUMAGINE project explores two types of imaginations: “migratory imaginations” and “geographical imaginations.” The term “migratory imaginations” refers to people’s attitude to migration as a valuable life project. Migration-related perceptions and aspirations develop within a specific cultural, political-juridical and economic setting, known as the “emigration environment.” Migration aspirations are linked with socially and culturally constructed perceptions. These include ideas and meanings attached to the migration project, subjective images of one’s current environment, and thoughts about potential destinations. We assume that perceptions on human rights and democracy have an impact on what Massey (1998) has termed “cultures of emigration,” where migration becomes deeply rooted into people’s behavioral repertoires. By “geographical imaginations” we refer to the meanings and images that make up people’s subjective conception of particular places, including Europe.
We assume that migratory and geographical imaginations are influenced by different types of discourses: macro-level discourses (e.g. from policy and media sources) and meso-level discourses, (e.g. disseminated through popular culture and social networks). We also expect migratory and geographical imaginations to be shaped by individual-level factors, such as gender or age.
The project is informed by five overarching research questions: 1) How are human rights and democracy related to imaginations in migrant sending countries constructed? 2) How are perceptions on human rights, democracy, migration and possible destination countries affected by various factors? 3) How do perceptions on human rights and democracy and ‘geographical imaginations’ relate to migration aspirations and migration? 4) How to develop a better informed migration policy, taking into account human rights and democracy as important migration determinants? 5) How to contribute to local capacity building in source countries, in order to prepare the ground for locally based research initiatives in the future?
The project systematically analyzes migration aspirations and decisions, following a case-study approach: it compares and contrasts a diversity of important international emigration countries; various types of regions within these countries; several modes of migration; various types of influential discourses; and different profiles of potential migrants. This allows the project to make analytical generalizations about how migration-related perceptions, aspirations and decisions are formed. EUMAGINE has a multidisciplinary approach and combines the varied disciplinary background of its researchers: sociology, law, anthropology, economics, human geography and political science.
The field research follows a mixed-method approach with three main methodological components: 1) ethnographic fieldwork in the community, 2) a large-scale quantitative survey, and 3) semi-structured qualitative interviews with selected survey respondents, directed by an interview guide. The research uses between- as well as within-method triangulation. Between-method triangulation is reached through combining qualitative as well as quantitative research methodologies. For within-method triangulation, we use two types of qualitative research, namely in-depth interviews and observation in communities.
In each country, fieldwork is undertaken in four diverse regions, selected on the basis of the following model: 1) An area characterized by high emigration rates; 2) A second, comparable socio-economic area with low emigration; 3) A comparable area with a strong immigration history; and 4) A location with a specific human rights situation.