iMigMob2022: Reflections from the conference

This year we awarded two bursaries to support postgraduate and early career researchers’ attendance at the third International Conference on Migration and Mobilities (iMigMob2022).  The awardees were invited to write for this blog providing their own insights and commentary on the conference and reflecting on the over-arching themes. Our second bursary awardee was Filip Nemecek, a DPhil student in Sociology at Green Templeton College, University of Oxford. His blog provides reflections on the vibrancy and  breadth of scholarly contribution and methodological approaches found at the conference.

Filip enjoying the Conference dinner with fellow attendees of iMIgMob2022, University of St Andrews

In the beginning of July, I attended and presented a paper at the 3rd International Conference on Migration and Mobilities in St Andrews. The conference was originally planned to take place in 2020, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I was excited that, after two years of restrictions, the epidemiological situation finally allowed an in-person gathering, which offers a more efficient way of presenting and discussing each other’s research than online platforms. Visiting St Andrews was a particularly special experience for me, as I graduated from the University of St Andrews a few years ago and this was my first visit since graduation. Furthermore, my undergraduate dissertation supervisor, David McCollum, was one of the Conference’s organisers. University of St Andrews is one of UK’s most important centres of migration research, so St Andrews was a well-chosen location to host a migration conference.

The conference was organised around four main themes: internal migration and urban change, forced migration and bordering, big data and visualising mobilities and European migration in turbulent politic. However, the presentations covered an even broader range of topics, reflecting the diversity of approaches and disciplines that study migration. As noted by Darren Smith in his keynote speech, deepening migration knowledge requires collaboration across social science disciplines. This acknowledges that migration studies are an interdisciplinary field that calls for a range of research perspectives to be properly analysed and understood. The conference provided such approach, its participants coming from a range of disciplines, studying different aspects of migration and using various methodological approaches. Throughout the conference, I was able to appreciate how this diversity of backgrounds led to interesting debates and the opening of new perspectives.

The presentations covered a broad range of topics. A number of presentations investigated the impact of immigration on local population, such as Fayez Elessawy’s study of urban growth in Abu Dhabi City or Tony Champion’s investigation of impact of student migration on population of British cities. Others instead analysed the impacts on immigrants themselves, such as Nick Gill’s keynote speech on asylum appeals or some of the papers in the session on immigrant experience. Whereas most papers discussed international mobility, some, such as Slawomir Kurek’s talk about suburbanisation and reurbanisation in Poland, concentrated on internal mobility. Sefania Rimoldi even investigated intra-urban mobility, using Rome as a case study. There was also an acknowledgment of forced migration on one hand and immobility and immigration restrictions on the other. The example of the latter was Katja Hrzic’s talk of the impacts of Brexit immigration restrictions of migrant fishers. Even Kate Botterill’s keynote about securitisation was related to attempts to regulate mobility. The COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on migration was also something many presenters touched upon.

The papers presented at the conference used a very wide range of methodological approaches. Several papers employed qualitative methodologies such as interviews and ethnographies, as was the case in Nick Gill’s study about asylum seekers. In contrast, works such as Nissa Finney’s examination of inequalities in social and spatial mobility in England and Wales used longitudinal data. I contributed to this breadth by presenting findings of my own large-scale survey, whose results I analysed using regressions. The conference also explored opportunities offered by migration modelling, particularly in presentations by Caroline Kienast-von Einem and Nik Lomax.

A presentation that I found particularly interesting was Alex Singleton’s keynote speech about the use of consumer data in population and migration studies. I believe that this data source opens many new ways of examining migration that will complement traditional data sources such as ONS surveys. Given my own specialisation, I was very interested in research on international student mobility. Alice Dias Lopes talked of how rising tuition fees in England affect international students’ university enrolment. My presentation instead explored international student mobility outcomes, looking at how international students’ staying likelihood differs across individual-level characteristics such as their socioeconomic affluence. International students were also the focus of the aforementioned Tony Champion’s study, which explored how student migration influences the population of British cities.

In conclusion, attending the 3rd International Conference on Migration and Mobilities was a very enriching experience that fully revealed the breadth of migration research, as well as the many questions that still need to be explored. A particular thank goes to Nissa Finney, David McCollum and everyone else who made the Conference possible. The atmosphere was very friendly and supportive. I personally received valuable feedback on my work and greatly enjoyed the debates in which we all engaged. The Conference schedule also offered many opportunities to network and talk with other participants in an informal setting, such as during the conference dinner or on a walking tour of St Andrews led by local students. All in all, the Conference was a great success and I look forward to the fourth instalment of this event in two years.

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