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18-12-2017

Could migration lead to more respect for ethnic and cultural diversity not only in receiving communities but also in sending countries? By observing the effects of Polish migration to the UK and Germany, as a result of the country’s entry in the EU in 2004, Prof. Magdalena Nowicka explores possible answers to this question.

Migration undoubtedly changes how people relate to each other and how they understand the world. Over time, migrants acquire skills, competences and values that allow them to fit into a new society. Migration also has an effect on the migrants’ communities of origin, exposing them to different cultures and habits through their contacts with the migrants themselves.

Led by Prof. Nowicka, the ERC project TRANSFORmIG analyses whether and to what extent migration can trigger a shift towards acceptance of those perceived as ‘others’.

Prof. Nowicka used a mixed methods approach – a set of multi-disciplinary qualitative instruments, spanning sociology, anthropology, history and cultural studies – to focus on the situation of Polish migrants in the cities in which they settle. By comparing the UK and Germany - two traditionally multi-cultural countries - and Poland, considered one of the most ethnically homogeneous societies in the world, she enquired into the different transnational workings of acceptance and of racism.

The analysis of the data collected in the cities of Berlin, Munich, London and Birmingham allowed her team to discover remarkable differences in terms of integration and rejection. Both depend on social contexts, which vary across said cities, and, in turn, impact the knowledge that is passed on to the communities of origin in Poland.

The team’s preliminary findings highlight the relevance of the project’s approach, studying migration at urban and transnational scales rather than at a national level.

Prof. Nowicka and her team, based at Humboldt University in Berlin, have opened a new line of investigation on migration across Europe and has led to various workshops and conferences exploring the transnational and urban approaches to migration.

Prof. Nowicka has also strived to reach audiences other than academics hoping to use her empirical research to contribute to the debate around current topical themes such as the rise of islamophobia and the refugee crisis in Europe.

Find more examples of projects in the brochure: Migration and asylum: The contribution of frontier research to the understanding of human mobility across frontiers