Looking ahead

Looking ahead to 2021, I’m especially looking forward to starting my ERC project ‘Migration rhythms in trajectories of upward social mobility in Asia’ in mid-2021. To find out more watch a 2 mins video on the project here and listen to this PRIO peace-in-a-pod episode. The project will be hiring two post-docs (announcement in late 2021). To sign up to be informed once information is available, click here and fill out the form .

The launch of the PRIO Migration Centre is a really exciting step: find out more at our virtual home migration.prio.org and subscriber to the PRIO Migration Update  for more on our publications, educational opportunities, resources, and other news. A key aspect of PRIO’s research on migration is that it spans the entire migration chain—from the conditions that spur departures, via migration processes to settlement and integration, sustained ties with communities of origin, and possible return or onward migration. This is reflected in the diversity of projects where migration takes on a central – or more peripheral role – empirically as well as conceptually. Very happy to be co-directing the PRIO Migration Centre with Jørgen Carling.

In 2020 my research focus is (and has been) on data collection on migration and development (MIGNEX) (fieldwork in Pakistan and coordination of qualitative data collection in ten countries) and diaspora external voting (DIASPOLitic) (coordinating data collection with Polish and Romanian migrants, in Oslo and Barcelona). The former delayed but ongoing, due to the pandemic, the latter completed just as the pandemic hit Europe. We are also working on a new H2020 project which PRIO is a partner in, QuantMig (Quantifying Migration Scenarios for Better Policy). I’m wrapping up analysis and writing in ongoing projects on nurse migration (WELLMIG) and questions of immigration, housing and Islamic finance (FINEX), and preparing for work on new projects in 2021. As of 2020 I’m also the Research Director for the Social Dynamics department at PRIO (for a two-year period).

Deskilling unpacked: Comparing Filipino and Polish migrant nurses’ professional experiences in Norway

Starting the new year with the publication of an article co-authored with colleague and friend Miłka Korzeniewska in Migration Studies. We examine the issue of how human capital is put to use (or not) in the case of migrating nurses.

While ‘deskilling’ of migrants is a well-known issue and problem, we make a case for carefully unpacking what this means, especially to nurses themselves. In our comparative analysis, based on interviews with Filipino and Polish nurses in Norway, we do find ‘deskilling’ as less than productive use of nurses’ professional competence, we also find challenges related to authorization of non-EU degrees, and to race and being ‘foreign’.

However, we also find a dynamic potential for reskilling and upskilling, next to deskilling, with scope for nurses own agency. Here, seeing and acknowledging their professional identities as nurses was key.

For, whereas identity is all over the study of migration, in relation to the study of work and migration, there is scope for more analysis of the roles of the (dynamic) professional identities of those who migrate. This matters both for how labour markets can better benefit from migrants competence, and through this also for migrant well-being.

The article draws on the WELLMIG project (Migration for welfare) and has benefited from great exchanges in the project team, throughout the research process. Open access here.

Facing terror: The possibility of hope and the need to confront hatred

In the wake of the foiled terrorist attack at a mosque outside Oslo on 10 August, and the widespread solidarity seen outside mosques around Norway on the morning of Eid, together with colleagues and friends Rojan Tordhol Ezzati and Henrik Syse, we reflect on the prospects for hope and for the endurance of social fabric. Although much remains for the courts to process, we know a lot. Facing terror: there is the possibility of hope, there is the need to confront hatred, and there is a call to decency as fellow humans – in high politics, as much as in everyday life, where small things matter. This blog post draws on our research about responses to the July 22 terror in 2011, and on migration research, at PRIO.

Eid Celebrations and Muslim Generosity

 In a current research project at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), funded by the Research Council of Norway (FINEX – Financial exclusion, Islamic finance and housing in the Nordic countries), we are focusing on religion and economic priorities among Muslims in the Nordic countries. There is little existing research into these topics. In this blog post – on the occasion of Eid – we shared some insights from the ongoing research, showing the prevalence of paying the religious tax or zakat among Muslims in Norway. But also, that motivations are complex, and that the descendants of migrants engage in often transnational charity, to a greater extent than might perhaps be assumed from the starting point of the remittance decay hypothesis (that migrants’ remittance-sending reduces over time).

The Lifelong Peace Advocate: A Portrait of Marek Thee (1918–1999) by Marta Bivand Erdal

“The story of Marek Thee’s life, including his engagement with PRIO for two decades, underscores the importance of which stories we choose to tell – and, in turn, which stories we choose to forget. By choosing to tell – and to share – Marek Thee’s story, PRIO is choosing to foreground the story of a remarkable life, of an astounding character and human being. In doing so, PRIO also seeks to actively narrate a past that was not only idealist in its peace activism, but that was (or sought to be) international and welcoming to outsiders.”

I am so grateful for having been given the chance to get to know the story of Marek Thee. A Polish-Jewish boy from small-town Poland, his family’s sole survivor of the Holocaust, a Polish diplomat in Palestine-then-Israel, an academic, again a diplomat in Indochina, an academic again, and eventually, exiled from Poland and arriving in Oslo in 1968. A 20th century life story to read, to grieve with, to reflect upon, and an impressive, yet very human dedication to peace and a better future, to be inspired by.

Thank you to Halina Thee (Marek Thee’s younger daughter) for willingly, with patience and humour, sharing his story with me. Thank you Stein Tønnesson and Nils Petter Gleditsch for asking me to try to help share this important lifestory, and thanks for the support in making that happen. All the #PRIOstories are worth a read, definitely don’t miss this one!

‘Negotiation dynamics and their limits’ – article in Political Geography

Some publications are special, and this one: ‘Negotiation dynamics and their limits: Young people in Norway deal with diversity in the nation’ out in Political Geography (open access), is a case in point. For three reasons:

The power of young people’s reflections and will to engage – whether with opinions, thoughts and experiences radically different from my own, or not – blew me away. Perhaps most profoundly, because whatever their take on the boundaries of “Norwegianness” they were in everyday life dealing with diversity in the nation, among themselves, in ways there’s much to learn from: as class mates, as young people. The data set we have from working with these young people is fascinating, but more importantly for me: their will to engage with a shared future together in Norway, with no rosy lining and no shying away from conflicts that could arise from real differences, is a hope to build on. To be able to share some of the in-depth reflections and discussions from this data, in this article, is a privilege. There are quite long data extracts from focus groups in here – though there can never be enough – for some food for thought, have a look!

The concept of “negotiation” is often used in English in the sense of “muddling through” yet there’s more purchase to it, conceptually. Setting out to show how that might be the case, and how it might be analytically helpful, has been an interesting ride. But a worthwhile one: for how do nations grapple with diversity within? When does it matter more “who” nationals are? And when does it matter more “what” we want to describe as the imagined community, drawing on (always select) key descriptors? The two clearly connect, but when is which given more weight: In the case of the children of emigrants born abroad? In the case of adopted children? In the case of children or grandchildren of immigrants born in the country? Or in the case of religious converts, to one religion or another? Evidently, national communities are bound by more than birth place, but what more and in which constellations, can or cannot constitute national belonging. Here, I argue, perspectives from negotiation theory are helpful in unpacking different lines of thinking, where relational or substantive concerns are seen as primary. But, if no shared future can even be imagined, the potential for negotiation is not there. The negotiation dynamics found in discussions among class mates, therefore, cannot easily be assumed transferable to polarized media debates, where a will to engage with shared futures is questionable or lacking. The difference in tone, wording and attitude from the commentary fields online – to the exchanges during our face-to-face focus group discussions, meanwhile, is notable.

Grappling with a huge data set, and theoretical approaches from fields far beyond my own (on negotiations and negotiating primarily), unsurprisingly led to a manuscript in need of revisions. Four rounds of revision down the line, including two pretty full-on re-writing exercises, my faith in the double-blind peer review process as something which is a quality enhancing mechanism in research, is only stronger. Being pushed, challenged and pointed in directions I would not have chosen, while time-consuming and frustrating, has without doubt sharpened the analysis and robustness of the research now published. Besides the help received from three anonymous reviewers, this article gained so much from numerous discussions with the research team and advisory board of the NATION project, as well as colleagues at PRIO and various conferences, although the stumbling around in negotiation theory was a more solitary exercise. On the less idealist side, following a rejection after two rounds of revisions, and another rejection after one round of reviews in Political Geography some years back, it’s good to know it’s always possible to try again, and manage to cross those new bridges.