Who we are
OPPORTUNITIES brings together scholars specialized in the fields of cross-disciplinary narrative research, intercultural studies, (social) media studies, statistics, as well as migration law and policies; NGOs experienced in migration action work; and a leading theatre company, which will help to increase the impact and visibility of the project by reaching out to wider national audiences.
The main objective of our cross-disciplinary collaboration is to initiate changes in attitudes and perspectives on prevalent discourses on migration in the European public sphere.
An International Consortium
The consortium of OPPORTUNITIES brings together eight European partners from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Romania, as well as three African partners from Ghana, Senegal, and Mauritania.
Thanks to the transnational collaboration between European and African partners, the project not only offers a broad geographical and transcultural perspective on migration, emigration, and immigration, but it also gives insights into different migration policies in terms of countries of origin (Ghana, Senegal), countries of transit (Italy, Mauritania, Romania), countries of arrival (France, Portugal), and main destinations of migration (Belgium, Germany, Austria).
Mission / Goals
OPPORTUNITIES starts from the assumption that the narrative framing of the humanitarian catastrophe as a security threat and crisis to be overcome through migration control and management has – against its original intentions and unpredicted by most stakeholders – accelerated European disintegration. Our ambition is to put a more inclusive narrative on migration on the political and societal agenda by acknowledging that every crisis is also an opportunity. We thus reconceptualize the narrative of crisis which has dominated European discourses since the refugee wave of 2015/2016 as a chance to revisit foundational principles of migration debates, to create new knowledge on the impact of narratives, and to initiate forward-looking narrative strategies which allow us to come to terms with a world in flux. Rethinking crisis as an opportunity for change, progress, and improvement, we believe, will serve the project of building a more inclusive, diverse, and gender-equal Europe.
Following the European Agenda for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals (2011), OPPORTUNITIES proposes a new narrative of migration and immigration which moves towards a more successful integration of migrants as it redirects attention from the disadvantages to the benefits of migration. To achieve this aim, our project introduces what we call “Cross Talks” – a new, experimental methodology which seeks to combine the competences of migrants, citizens, and other stakeholders to form collaborative stories of migrant experiences that reflect the various perspectives of their diverse storytellers.
In order to reach a broader public, OPPORTUNITIES will translate its innovative critical interventions and engagement with dominant discourses of migration into art-based formats (e.g. short film productions or small art exhibitions) that will be promoted on regional and local levels. The overall results of the project will be adapted into a touring theatre production that will be transnationally performed by KVS Brussels, a leading European theatre company.
OPPORTUNITIES features a multi-method approach which integrates three research traditions. The project (1) introduces a complex, concept-based theory design inspired by narrative research, (2) combines qualitative and quantitative research methods typically practiced in the social sciences (e.g. data mining and statistics as well as narrative analysis), and (3) conducts practical fieldwork which is grounded in an applied research framework. The aim of this diverse, cross-disciplinary approach is twofold: it seeks to provide a comprehensive overview of the narrative dynamics of migration discourses while at the same time making a timely and innovative attempt to re-frame the current European debate on immigration and integration.
In its practical fieldwork, OPPORTUNITIES will conduct a series of cross-talks which are aimed at creating fair dialogue zones for migrants, citizens, and stakeholders in both European member states (Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, Romania) and African countries (Ghana, Mauritania, Senegal). In order to establish a more inclusive discourse on migration in local communities, we will implement the rules and conditions of what the project envisages as level telling fields in a wide range of contexts and scenarios.
Finally, OPPORTUNITIES will upscale the idea of a new narrative of opportunities which is based on a fair dialogue on migration from local to national and European levels by three means: (1) by using smaller art-based formats on local and regional levels; (2) by creating, in cooperation with KVS Brussels, a theatre production that puts the notions of a Level Telling Field on stage; and (3) by specifying and promoting conditions for a fair conversation on migration through policy recommendations.
The Level Telling Field
At the core of the OPPORTUNITIES project lies a programmatic metaphor: ‘the Level Telling Field.’ The concept takes its cue from an economic metaphor – the level playing field. In the context of the European single market, the level playing field stands for a set of common rules and standards that prevent businesses in one country from undercutting their rivals and gaining a competitive advantage over those operating in other countries. This is done in order to promote the free movement of people, goods, services, and money: the key idea is fair play.
The concept of the Level Telling Field allows us to turn our backs on crisis narratives and open our minds towards a structural understanding of migration. OPPORTUNITIES regards contemporary European societies as migration societies. As a consequence, we place strong emphasis on testimonials and life stories of migrants in both media representations and Cross-Talk events, allowing migrant voices to function as ‘windows and mirrors’ which help us to reflect upon European societies and enable us to develop further innovative visions of a post-migrant society – that is a new social order and habitus which builds on successful integration of migrants as an integral part of a democratic society.