Theorizing the Evolution of European Migration Systems (THEMIS)
THEMIS takes a fresh look at how patterns of migration to Europe develop, focusing on the conditions that encourage initial moves by pioneer migrants to become established migration systems (or not). Based on field research, it aims to bridge the theories on the initiation and continuation of migration, and to integrate the concept of agency in a systems theory approach.
It is sometimes suggested that migration patterns evolve following a trajectory where individuals start to move from one country to another, and over time, more people join them: once a critical mass is reached, that migration flow expands rapidly. However, there is not enough evidence to back up this theory of migration dynamics partly because studies to date have tended to focus either on the ‘root causes’ of migration or on the reasons why migration processes gain momentum and become established migration systems. A related issue is lack of theory to explain why many initial pioneer migration movements do not set in motion self-reinforcing migration dynamics. Current theories also fail to explain adequately the stagnation and weakening of established migration systems.
The THEMIS international project team are investigating what makes people decide to migrate, why some of those initial moves to Europe result in the formation of significant migration systems, and why some migration processes simply tail off or stagnate. This involves a comparative study of the evolution of migrant groups following different migration trajectories from several regions of three origin countries (Brazil, Morocco and Ukraine ) to selected cities in four destination countries (UK, Norway, the Netherlands and Portugal).
Research Partners and Team
The THEMIS project is co-ordinated by the International Migration Institute at the University of Oxford, and conducted with three main collaborating project partners:
- Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR), Research Group on Citizenship, Migration and the City, The Netherlands
- Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), Norway
- , Institute of Geography and Spatial Planning (IGOT-UL), Portugal
The Principal Investigator is Dr Oliver Bakewell, IMI.
See our THEMIS project team page for a full listing of team members, including details of lead researchers in Brazil, Morocco, and Ukraine.
A Scientific Advisory Committee of six migration research experts provides informal support and advice to our research team.
- Phase 1 involved the development of our conceptual theory and producing scoping studies in all 4 destinations countries for our 6 shortlisted countries of origin: Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, India, Morocco and Ukraine.
- During Phase 2 semi-structured qualitative interviews were carried out in 1 or 2 localities within all 4 THEMIS destination countries, with migrants arrived from each of Brazil, Morocco and Ukraine. Relationships were established with relevant local migrant organizations and communities to locate interviewees and to increase our understanding of heterogeneity of migration patterns by these groups.
- Phase 3 - with semi-structured qualitative interviews in Brazil, Morocco and Ukraine. In each country, working with local research partners, interviews were carried out with return migrants, and with family members of migrants with links to the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal or the UK. [Several sampling localities per origin country were chosen based on migration histories mapped from Phase 2 data]
- Quantitative data was collected in Phase 4 with surveys in both destination and then origin countries. Data and knowledge gained from earlier THEMIS phases was used to develop detailed hypotheses about how migration systems evolve and to develop appropriate survey instruments for testing these.
- The final phase of our research involves analysis our qualitative and quantitative data and testing hypotheses derived from our initial theoretical synthesis. At our THEMIS international migration conference "Examining Migration Dynamics: Networks an Beyond" in Oxford, 24-26 September 2013, we reflected on findings and discussed widely with visiting researchers. This will all feed back into our theoretical framework and hopefully lead to the formulation of an improved migration systems theory.
THEMIS is funded by ‘New Opportunities for Research Funding Agency Co-operation in Europe’ (NORFACE) through their Research Programme on Migration. IMI is a member of the Oxford Martin School which provided additional funding to match the THEMIS grant from NORFACE.
Contact us for further information about THEMIS. Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone +44 (0)1865 281745.