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About this event

This workshop was convened by Jørgen Carling (PRIO), Mathias Czaika, and Hein de Haas. It aimed to explore how conceptualising and researching migration as a function of migration aspirations and migration capabilities can advance our understanding of migration processes at the micro-level.

This is based on the idea that migration aspirations and migration capabilities should be conceptualized as subsets of general (social, economic, political or cultural) aspirations and capabilities, with migration constituting one of the imagined or perceived avenues to achieve certain life aspirations.

Migration aspirations refer to individuals' view of migration as a desirable life project – be it as a glamorous dream, the lesser of two evils, or as an instrumental means to an end. Migration capabilities refer to people’s power to realize their migration aspirations. While capabilities are constrained by (migration and other) regulations and people’s access to social, cultural and human resources (or “capitals”), aspirations are typically not equal within or across societies and constant over time, and are strongly dependent on information, perceptions and value systems.

These notions fundamentally question the usefulness of push-pull, neoclassical, structuralist (neo-Marxist) and other convenient migration theories, which view migration decisions as a more or less passive response to external factors. This highlights the need to reconceptualise migration, and particularly the need to systematically incorporate notions of agency into migration theories.

The conceptualisation of migration as a function of aspirations and capabilities seems a fruitful way of achieving such theoretical progress, and the aim of the workshop is to discuss how this can be achieved. This specialist workshop will bring together researchers who have explored these issues theoretically and/or empirically.