Event Host/Institute: CERC in Migration and Integration, Toronto Metropolitan University
Event date and time: May 10-11, 2023
Event location/venue: Hybrid: virtual and in at Toronto Metropolitan University
Event type: Conference
Early bird tickets are available from February 6 to March 6, 2023. Register early to secure the best ticket price! Rates are the same for both online and in person attendance. Participants will only need to register once to attend any panel.
Narratives are an important part of migration policy, as they are used to convey a position, create legitimacy or justify a means to an end. All migration narratives are essentially political. Some concentrate more on who we are as a society and who we want to be − or who belongs and who does not. Others focus on policy choices that both directly and indirectly construct insider and outsider criteria for who is considered an integrated migrant.
Narratives do not emerge naturally, nor are they fully the products of political engineering ex nihilo. They are usually forged through a long process that incorporates existing dominant discourses about a nation and its immigration and emigration history, privileging certain explanations and prescriptions for action. Narratives are also influenced by transnational discourses and broader hegemonic views on migration and its governance.
Deconstructing narratives offers a means of uncovering power relations, showing how migration is an inherently political process and demonstrating that a national interest on migration does not exist. Rather, there are competing visions and interests, and beyond any demonstration of what works and what does not, it is important to understand how and who promotes specific explanations and legitimizes in specific ways dominant and alternative views on migration and integration.
Such critical inquiry is particularly important today because of the potential of advanced communication technologies (and their pitfalls too, of course). All narratives, particularly those related to migration, travel much faster today on the Internet and via social media. The latter offers new methods of engagement and can democratize dominant narratives, as it gives average citizens a platform from which to speak up and raise their voices. At the same time, as we all know, social media is particularly dangerous, as it easily forms echo chambers in which people only listen to those who agree with them. While media studies have long shown that people tend to read or listen to views they agree with, the Internet has brought this insularity to new levels both because of how easy it is for people to remain isolated and how simple it is to go online and forge transnational social or political communities.
We are also particularly aware that narratives of migration have been dominated by those constructed in the destination countries of Europe, North America and, to an extent, Oceania. Much less attention has been paid to the emigration, immigration or transit-migrant narratives of other countries and world regions. There is a need, therefore, to decentre our understanding of migration narratives in terms of the above geographies and in terms of actors as well: Whose voices are heard most? Who shapes the narratives?