When the European Union had it's biggest expansion to the East in 2004, many young people took the chance to seek opportunities in the West ― made possible through a common market and free movement of people. For many, open borders inside the European Union are one of the bloc’s most important principles, and one which influences a lot of people’s life choices.
I Will Call It Home looks at personal stories of individuals who migrated from Eastern Europe - for love, education, work, or completely different reasons.
1 Cf. Ludger Pries (2010): "Soziologie der Migration," ("Sociology of Migration") In: Kneer, Georg und Schroer, Markus (Hg.): Handbuch spezielle Soziologien ("Handbook of specialized Sociologies"). Wiesbaden. p. 475.
2 Alexander Th. Carey (2018) „Migration in einer turbulenten Weltordnung" ("Migration in a Turbulent World Order"). In: Blank, Beate et. al. (Hg): Soziale Arbeit in der Migrationsgesellschaft ("Social Work in a Migration Society"). Wiesbaden. p.9 ff.
3 Pries (2010), p.475. a.a.O.
4 Doug Saunders has been foremost in pointing out this form of mass migration: Doug Saunders (2013): Arrival City. Die neue Völkerwanderung. München.
5 Cf. ibid.
6 For a survey cf. Alison Blunt (2007): "Cultural geographies of migration: mobility, transnationality and diaspora." In: Progress in Human Geography (2007) 31(5), pp. 684–694.
7 As is made clear by the title of the study by Stephen Castles and Mark J. Miller (1993-2014), first published in the 90s and continually updated: The Age of Migration International Population Movements in the Modern World. New York. Castles et. al. describe various waves of global migration, beginning with colonization and a mass exodus from Europe to America, Asia, and Africa, through to labor migration during the economic boom from 1945 until today.
8 Carey 2018, ibid., p. 13 ff.
9 Carey (2018 ibid.) sees in "existential migration" (ibid. p. 26) a new type of global migration, just as the European Political Strategy Center believes that migration caused by climate change will develop into a mega-trend. One feature of this form of migration could be that it will not necessarily follow the well-worn East-West paths, but will – analogous to the modernization risks described by Ulrich Beck – redistribute inequality around the world.
10 Cf. the white paper by the European Political Strategy Center "10 Trends Shaping Migration" (2017). Online at: https://ec.europa.eu/epsc/sites/epsc/files/epsc_-_10_trends_shaping_migration_-_web.pdf
"The home is me"Migration as MobilityDr. Sebastian Pranz
The idea that we understand our world order as a structure of nation-states in which people can either claim or lose a firm place must be considered a historical exception.¹ Because the cultural history of humanity is a history of migration: beginning in the cradle of human culture in East Africa, the first migration movements in the Neolithic Age went east, before developing into a wave of global settlement in the centuries that followed. The last 10,000 years of our species' history have been shaped by nomadic migration and conquest, or escape from the war.² There is some evidence to suggest that the short phase of sedentary settlement, which began with industrialization and the rise of the nation states, is already drawing to a close at the beginning of the 21st century: in 2005, three percent of the world population lived outside their country of birth, more than ever before,³ and the UN counted 68.5 million refugees in 2017, more than at any time since World War II. And on top of that, we are seeing internal migration on an unprecedented scale, as almost a third of humanity moves from the village to the city.⁴ This global wave of migration determines world politics, leads to new economies and infrastructures,⁵ changes our cultures and our stores of knowledge,⁶ and its scale has long since led to a new era – the era of migration.⁷
Anyone seeking the causes of this migration on a global level will perhaps find them in a post-modern structural transformation that goes along with specific dilemmas.⁸ For instance, the conflicts of superpowers lead to security dilemmas, in "hot" or "frozen" conflicts, that cannot easily be controlled by international communities. Other examples are the risks of modernization, such as water shortages, over-population, species extinctions, soil erosion, or the destruction of regional eco-systems, which could all still have predictable consequences for worldwide migration.⁹ Apart from these Push Factors forcing people from settlement to migration, there are also Pull Factors, such as global economies that lead to transnational labor migration. And finally, there is much evidence to support the idea that internet-driven communication between geographically distant places has contributed to migration: those that leave their home country usually stay in contact with their families, and so become a bridgehead for chain migration.¹⁰
11 An example of this is the election campaign of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who consistently knew how to make political capital from what he declared to be a "refugee crisis": "For Kurz, the ‘migration and refugee crisis’ was not just an objective state of affairs: it was also a political tactic to present himself to a global Anglophone readership as a firm but measured state leader." Nick Dines, Nicola Montagna, Elena Vacchelli (2018): "Beyond Crisis Talk: Interrogating Migration and Crises in Europe." In: Sociology 2018, Vol. 52(3), p. 439.
12 As Christoph Rass and Melanie Ulz put it in the introduction to their collection "Migration ein Bild geben." ("Give Migration an Image") Wiesbaden 2018, p.2.
This project is dedicated to the question of what drives people to leave their homelands and try their luck in the West. Fabian Weiss profiled 35 migrants and recorded his conversations with them, foregrounding these one-on-one talks in place of a macro-sociological bird's-eye view. That is more than welcome because even though compelling factors can be found at a global level, the macro-perspective has not always helped the migration debate move forward in the past few years. From a birds-eye perspective, migration may easily be presented as a "refugee wave" or a "refugee tide", moving from a (safe or unsafe) country of origin towards a society where it can be used politically as a "refugee crisis."¹¹ The corresponding media images, of faceless trains of refugees and nameless protagonists, help to cement the hegemonic systems and interpretive patterns as "visual constructions".¹² By recording the stories of these migrants, and giving the phenomenon a face and a voice, Fabian Weiss returns some part of the interpretative power to those he has profiled.
13 The following observations are based on the 35 interviews by Fabian Weiss and Liisi Mölder. The interviewees were asked to describe their situations in the countries they had settled in and their image of themselves as new arrivals. They were also asked why they had left their home countries. For this text, I identified a total of 61 passages in which the interviewees mentioned reasons for their migration, and which I used as material for an explorative analysis. The categories developed here are to be considered a first step towards potential further research.
14 On the significance of cultural capital for migration see Umut Erel (2010): "Migrating Cultural Capital: Bourdieu in Migration Studies." In: Sociology 2010, Vol. 44, Issue 4.
How diverse the motives mentioned by the migrants are can be seen from a brief glance at the material.¹³ Apart from the biographical ruptures mentioned in two cases, four main causes among the protagonists of Dreamland can be identified:Educational opportunities represent the most common reason for migration (31.1%). Statements like, "I thought that the education abroad would be better and I was curious how it will be to live abroad." (DD) or, "I really wanted to improve my language, because I wanted to get a better job" (DK) show that relocation to the West as a career move is often reflected against the background of one's own education. This is not just about school or university education in the narrower sense, but investment in one's own cultural capital:¹⁴ "So how I see it, it's more like going out, getting experience." (TL) "I like the feeling that when I come back to Poland, nothing changes. Everything is the same. And at the same time, I lived through so many different situations. I have changed, I have matured." (SN) "It has changed me into a more tolerant person, into a friendlier and happier person." (IL) Even if the education, and above all a foreign language, might be crucial for a key qualification for a career in the West, educational factors are not necessarily tied to permanent relocation. That is made especially clear by this statement: "I believe I want to contribute to Estonia because I have gotten so much knowledge from there. All the lecturers and my parents, everybody, my relatives, friends are mainly in Estonia. And if I don’t do my thing, for example, my entrepreneurship, there, to contribute to society and the environment, then why should I do it here for some strangers, right?" (EA).
Unlike better educational opportunities, in most cases better economic factors lead to a desire for permanent relocation (19.7%): "I didn’t see any opportunities in the future for me in Poland. This is why I’m here and I think I have much bigger chances to do something with my life here than I would in Poland." (AD); "It is very hard to find a job right now in Poland. I was a nurse, I studied really hard and couldn’t find a job after that." (MM). Also, the move to the West often came in spite of obstacles like familial tradition ("I wanted to prove to my father that I could do it in London" – JS), and in some cases was described as an uprooting. "I love the place I grew up in. I think I will always call it home. I don’t know at what point – I think I’m waiting for a boom in Warsaw – and then I will come back." (SN); "It has taken me so much to settle here and make a life here, so if I did go back to Lithuania, I would have to find a job and it’s so hard to find a job there." (MF)
15 The connection between migration and political dissatisfaction is also addressed in the international comparative study by Susanne Bygnes and Aurore Flipo: "Political motivations for intra-European migration", Acta Sociologica 2017, Vol. 60 (3) pp. 199–212.
As well as the above-mentioned arguments, some of the reasons mentioned can be traced to a critical attitude to one's homeland (16%).¹⁵ The move to the West is justified by a sense of alienation towards one's own compatriots: "I just think what bothers me the most in Hungary is the way a whole people approach problems and each other. (...) I cannot really spend more than two weeks at home." (RS); "People here are more open-minded and more tolerant about things like religion or race or sexual preferences and so on. Here it doesn’t matter so much where you’re from, who you like, what you believe in."
16 Mobility turn – 2006: Sheller, M. and Urry, J. (2004) (Hg.): The new mobilities paradigm. Environment and Planning A 38, pp. 207–26.
One last category of reasons deserves special attention because it can't be traced to the push and pull factors of labor migration and goes beyond the negative perception of the home country. Statements like, "Home’s always the place I happen to be living. Even if I’m traveling, my hotel room sort of becomes my home for the time being," (KM) "There are always planes flying, so it doesn’t really matter where exactly we live in our world," (KM) "To me it seems almost silly to spend your entire life in one country when you have the opportunity to live all over the world, which is very exciting," (IL) show that people see their own migration much more as a form or transnational mobility. Altogether, 18 of the 61 arguments could be categorized as a "mobility paradigm"¹⁶, which was named as the second most frequent reason after the desire for education (29.5%). The quotes suggest that with the recognition of one's own need for mobility comes a sense of oneself that can no longer be contained in the term "migrant": "I finally feel, after living here almost nine years, that this is my home and I am sure that home is everywhere I go. The home is me." (MM). Those who accept mobility as a personal desire, subordinate questions of home, nationality, and cultural identity to that desire. And so the ascription of the migrant is thus superseded by the new self-conception of modern nomadism: "I don’t feel like an immigrant, because I do something that I like. I don’t feel alone here. I feel that I am accepted by others," (RB) "I feel like nowadays a person is not so attached to one location." (IL)
17 Some 42.8% of the asylum applications made in Europe in the first five months of 2018 were filed by people from the first three countries mentioned (according to Germany's federal migration office BAMF). Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia account for 68% of refugees worldwide.
18 These are the main results of the EU summit in Brussels at the end of June 2018.
19 Cf. EPSC strategy papier (ibid.), p. 3.
20 In which case EU citizens living in GB could suddenly become third-country nationals (as could British citizens in the EU).
21 This is indicated in a study by the PEW Research Center for Global Attitudes and Trends, which compared the immigration waves of different countries using searches on Google. The peaks of searches for arrival countries like Greece correlated with the peaks of influxes into these countries. The study is available online at: http://www.pewglobal.org/2017/06/08/digital-footprint-of-europes-refugees/
22 Instead of making a clear distinction between "societies of origin and arrival", the latest migration research is based on cultural contexts that are open and dynamic. Cf. Yvonne Albrecht: Gefühle im Prozess der Migration ("Feelings in the Process of Migration"). Wiesbaden 2016, p. 23 ff.
The issue of migration will continue to preoccupy Europe in the coming years. While people from Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, or Afghanistan will continue to try and seek asylum, especially in Europe,¹⁷ the EU will probably continue to seal itself off with stricter border controls or transit centers in neighboring non-EU countries.¹⁸ Apart from this, domestic migration will continue to keep Europe in motion and create the greatest proportion of migrants,¹⁹ something that might be further stimulated by the exit of Britain from the EU in 2020.²⁰
How do we want to talk about migration? Which questions should determine the European discourse, and which issues belong on the media agenda? The conversations with the protagonists of this book show that migration in Europe is bound up with new narratives and self-images. In a digitally-networked world, migration will not only be better coordinated and planned,²¹ it will also define the self-conception of an expedited and highly mobile generation in which communicative closeness will be more important than regional origin. Against this background, the life stories collected in Dreamland say more about the societies that people arrive in that might be apparent at first glance.²² If one wants to do journalistic justice to Europe in the 21st century, one must tell transnational stories.
Dr. Sebastian Pranz is a professor of journalism and corporate communication at the Macromedia University of Applied Sciences in Stuttgart. As a journalist, he focuses mainly on societies in transformation. www.sebastianpranz.de
This project was generously funded by the Collecting Society for Visual Arts VG Bild-Kunst. Webpage made with Lay Theme.