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In this session we will introduce the topic of the series by providing a critical lens on the beliefs, frameworks, discourses and language we use to make sense of migration. We will set current migration trends and challenges in historical perspective to debunk some myths on global migration realities.

Migration is still very much framed from the nation state perspective, as a one-off linear move and as a strategy to restore (global) disequilibrium. The proliferation of ‘border thinking’, stemming from the historical conceptualisation of the nation state and a disregard for the political economy of migration, provides a potentially dangerous breeding ground for racism and populism. The discourses and language we use to categorize migrants not only strip migrants of their agency, but also deflects from the reality that people have been and are constantly physically mobile, which is an integral part of the human condition and social change. 

Our keynote speaker Nando Sigona will set the scene by talking about who counts as a migrant or refugee by discussing labels and the politics surrounding them. Secondly, he will reflect on ‘crisis’ as a recurrent frame for narratives on migration and how migration and the politics of migration are linked to broader geopolitical phenomena. In turn, he will argue, migration ‘crises’ can also become drivers of wider social change.

Professor Nando Sigona is Chair of International Migration and Forced Displacement and Director of the Institute for Research into Superdiversity at the University of Birmingham, UK. Nando is a founding editor of the peer reviewed journal Migration Studies (Oxford University Press) and lead editor for Global Migration and Social Change book series by Bristol University Press.

His research interests include: the migration and citizenship nexus; undocumented migration; naturalisation, denaturalisation and statelessness; Romani politics and anti-Gypsyism; asylum and EU; Brexit and intra-European mobility; and child and youth migration.

His work has appeared in a range of international academic journals, including Sociology, Social Anthropology, Antipode, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Identities, Citizenship Studies, International Migration Review and Ethnic and Racial Studies. He is author or editor of books and journal’s special issues including The Oxford Handbook of Superdiversity (with Meisnner and Vertovec, 2022) Undocumented Migration (with Gonzales, Franco and Papoutsi, 2019); Unravelling Europe’s ‘migration crisis’ (with Crawley, Duvell, Jones, and McMahon, 2017), Within and beyond citizenship (with Roberto G. Gonzales, 2017), The Oxford Handbook on Refugee and Forced Migration Studies (with Fiddian Qasmiyeh, Loescher and Long, 2014), and Sans Papiers. The social and economic lives of undocumented migrants (with Bloch and Zetter, 2014).

He is Senior Research Associate at ODI and held visiting research and teaching positions at the University of Oxford, University of Bergen and the European University Institute.

Thomas Willekens is a policy worker for Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen, specialised in asylum and reception. He started his professional career at the Belgian Immigration Office, as a caseworker of the Dublin Unit. Since October 2021, Thomas is mainly focussed on the reception crisis in Belgium and it’s consequences on the applicants for international protection.

Amal Miri holds a PhD in Gender & Diversity from Ghent University. In this ethnographic research at the intersection of marriage migration, motherhood and integration among Moroccan women in Flanders, she conducted feminist and postcolonial migration research with expertise in affective citizenship. As part of this research, she has published in several international peer-reviewed journals such as JEMS. In the past she worked as a project researcher at ella vzw. Today she works as a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Migration and Intercultural Studies (CeMIS - department of Sociology).