The springboard for this project is a striking statistic: half of all young adults in West Africa wish to leave their own country and settle elsewhere. Yet, the vast majority never depart. This discrep-ancy raises a fundamental question: if migration is desired, but never materializes, what are the consequences? The project breaks with traditional approaches by shifting the object of study from observed migration in the present to imagined migration in the future. Although such future migration might never occur, it materializes in thoughts, feelings, communication, and behaviour at present. Young people’s priorities are informed by the futures they imagine, and their lives can thus be formed by migration that is imagined but never achieved. Framing the issue in this way renews research on the precursors of migration and opens up a new chapter about the links be-tween migration and development. The project is guided by a bold central hypothesis: Migration that is imagined, yet never takes place, decisively shapes the lives of individuals and the devel-opment of societies. This hypothesis is addressed through a research design that weaves together three streams: theory development, ethnographic fieldwork, and sample surveys. Drawing upon the PI’s proven qualifications in all three fields, the project aims for deep mixed-methods integra-tion. The project’s empirical focus is West Africa. Migration desires are particularly widespread in this region, and internal socio-economic variation can be exploited for theoretical purposes. By investing in theoretical and methodological development, attuned to a poorly understood aspect of global migration challenges, the project holds the promise of sustained impacts on migration research. The project is set within interdisciplinary migration studies, anchored in human geogra-phy and supported by related disciplines including anthropology, economics, and sociology.
Funding SchemeERC-COG - Consolidator Grant