Migration scholars are increasingly attentive to human agency in global mobility processes, leading to a growing interest in ‘migratory imaginations’. There is an unfortunate tendency in the discipline, however, to emphasise the perceptual dimension of the imagination at the expense of its action-oriented one. This hinders the imagination's conceptual and empirical potentials, not least where the particularly ‘active’ imaginations of immigrants are concerned. We know, for instance, that migrants are likely to develop multiple place affiliations and cultural identifications by virtue of their exposure to several environments. Yet little is known about the sociocognitive frameworks that foster these multipolar orientations. Im.magine addresses this gap by treating international migration experience as an ‘extreme life event’ that expands the imagination through combined material and symbolic processes. On a theoretical level, Im.magine underscores the crucial elements of relational and reflexive thinking, which are visible in foundational sociological and geographical conceptions of the imagination, yet frequently overlooked in research on migration-related imaginations. It offers an empirical application of reflexive imaginations by means of comparative case studies of North Africans living in Montréal, Canada, and Marseille, France. Through a triangulated use of official and literary discourse as well as first-person oral, visual, sensory, and digital migration narratives, it will help open up the ‘black box’ of immigrant imaginations. Specifically, by casting migrant biographies onto multiscalar and inter-connected spatio-temporal frames, the project will advance our understanding of complex place affiliations and identifications, thus illuminating the very real impacts of the imagination on mobility processes.
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