Successful collaboration begins with a shared language, hence the need for a glossary. This joint effort of contributors from several teams ensures, on the one hand, terminological and conceptual coherence across not only our theoretical approaches, but also the qualitative case studies and quantitative research conducted in OPPORTUNITIES. On the other hand, our glossary facilitates communication between the academic side of the project and the fieldwork conducted by NGOs, uniting our teams working from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ghana, Italy, Mauritania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania and Senegal.

For more information about the Structure and Objectives of the Glossary, click here...)

Reconceptualizations of existing scholarly terms and concepts that will be developed or redefined in the OPPORTUNITIES concept.


Term Definition


According to Amartya Sen (1999, 19), an agent is “someone who acts and brings about change, and whose achievements can be judged in terms of their own values and objectives, whether or not we asses them in terms of some external criteria as well.”

Following Sen’s definition, Cross Talks aim at promoting agency, bringing migrants, NGOs, citizens, and other stakeholders together to speak, perform, listen and act on an equal footing.

In re-enactments, migrants and refugees are recognized as agents by the public; thus they can enter a "fair dialogue" to bring about change.

⇢ see also: Cross Talk, Fair dialogue, Re-enactmentRecognition, Victimization

References and further reading:

Sen, Amartya. 1999. Development as Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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Ethics of listening

An ethics of listening is a prerequisite for any form of fair dialogue. Cross Talk events create storytelling scenarios which allow migrants and refugees to share their experiences, and encourage citizens and other stakeholders to listen by involving them in readings. The goal is a fair conversation on migration and integration. Cross Talk events ensure that a variety of voices will be heard and appreciated in the conversation, also and especially those of more vulnerable groups. In this respect, an ethics of listening implies an ‘imagine-other’ (rather than the ‘imagine-self’) perspective in participants.

⇢ see also: MultiperspectivityPerspective takingPolitical listeningRecognitionPolyphony

References and further reading:

Beard, David, ed. 2009. “A Broader Understanding of the Ethics of Listening: Philosophy, Cultural Studies, Media Studies and the Ethical Listening Subject.” In International Journal of Listening. 23.1: 7–20.

Parks, Elizabeth S. 2018. The Ethics of Listening: Creating Space for Sustainable Dialogue. Lexington Books: Lexington.

Shotter, John. 2009. "Listening in a Way that Recognizes/Realizes the World of ‘the Other." In International Journal of Listening. 23.1: 21–43.

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Fair dialogue

A fair dialogue is a conversation or discourse in which the perspectives of all participants affected by the subject matter are equally respected and valued. In John Dewey’s (1988) sense, fair dialogue exists within communities if all members jointly explore social and democratic conditions of coexistence and develop from there a shared vision of what political aims and objectives deserve to be desired and pursued. In order to achieve this, participants have to agree, either explicitly (if controversies are to be expected) or implicitly (if all participants share the same basic assumptions) on a set of premises, principles, and procedures to establish common ground, or, in a wider context, a Level Telling Field.

⇢ see also: Cross TalkLevel Telling FieldRecognition

References and further reading:

Dewey, John. 1988. "Creative Democracy: The Task Before Us." The Later Works of John Dewey. Volume 14: 1939–1941. 225-227.  Carbondale: Southern Illinois Press.

Zimmermann, Bénédicte. 2006. “Pragmatism and the Capability Approach.” In European Journal of Social Theory 9.4: 467–484.

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Fictions of migration

In The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (2021 [1989/1962]), arguably – in the second half of the twentieth century – the most influential sociological account of the “bourgeois” public sphere, Jürgen Habermas emphasizes the literary character of his liberal model of civil society. The relevance of the writer as a public intellectual in Noam Chomsky’s (2017) sense is particularly obvious in conversations on racism, diversity, and migration. As Roy Sommer (2001) has argued, fictions of migration therefore occupy a special place among stories of migration, exploiting, and relying on what British-Turkish novelist Elif Shafak (2020) has recently called “the transformative power of stories to bring people together, expand our cognitive horizons, and gently unlock our true potential for empathy and wisdom” (88). Fictions of migration can take many forms, including autobiographical novels, coming-of-age stories, the classical bildungsroman, revisionist historical fiction, and transcultural novels which challenge essentialist notions of race, culture, and gender.

⇢ see also:  Figure of the migrantMigrantRepresentation of migration

References and further reading:

Chomsky, Noam. 2017. Who Rules the World? London: Penguin.

Habermas, Jürgen. 2021. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Shafak, Elif. 2020. How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division. London: Profile Books.

Sommer, Roy. 2001. Fictions of Migration: Ein Beitrag zur Theorie und Gattungstypologie des zeitgenössischen interkulturellen Romans in Großbritannien. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier.

Category: B

Work Package: 2, 5




According to the legal definition provided in the European Migration Network (EMN) Glossary, a migrant is a person who establishes their residence “outside the territory of the State of which they are nationals or citizens and who has resided in a foreign country for more than one year irrespective of the causes, voluntary or involuntary, and the means, regular or irregular, used to migrate.” As such, the legal term migrant may thus refer to various types of individuals who exert various forms of mobility such as family reunification, economic migration, studying abroad, etc. (Goubin et al. 2022, 9).

Legal definitions leave no room for personal experience or individual attitudes, beliefs, and values. For this reason, they often stand in stark contrast to humanitarian explications. Amnesty International, for instance, explicitly refrains from giving a clear-cut definition of the term migrant, to account for the fact that it covers a very heterogeneous group of people, all of whom may have left their home country for different reasons. This variety is reflected in research in the humanities, where broad concepts like “figures of mobility” (Salazar 2017) include the homeless and stateless, as well as nomads, vagrants, immigrants, emigrants, refugees, and undocumented people (Nail 2015, 11).

⇢ see also Asylum; Asylum seeker, Expatriate, Migration, Migration and identity, Mobility, RefugeeRural-urban migrant

References and further reading:

Amnesty International. 2021. “Refugees, Asylum-Seekers and Migrants.” Amnesty International. URL:

European Commission. 2020. European Migration Network (EMN) Glossary. URL:

Goubin, Silke, Anna Ruelens, and Ides Nicaise. 2022. “Trends in Attitudes towards Migration in Europe: A Comparative Analysis.” KU Leuven, HIVA – Research Institute for Work and Society. [Working paper of the OPPORTUNITIES project 101004945 – H2020].

Nail, Thomas. 2015. The Figure of the Migrant. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Salazar, Noel B. 2017. “Key Figures of Mobility: An Introduction.” Social Anthropology 25.1: 5–12.

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For a legal definition of the term “migration,” see the respective entry in the European Migration Network (EMN) Glossary provided by the European Commission. The OPPORTUNITIES project approaches migration from a cross-cultural perspective that seeks to establish a dialogue between African and European takes on migration, acknowledging the wide variety of reasons and motivations behind it, and highlighting the fact that both African and European cultures view mobility, on principle, in a positive light, encouraging labor migration and mobility in the labor market, education, science, and other sectors.

The rhetoric of crisis dominating current policy narratives in the EU, however, focuses on the perceived negative effects of “irregular” migration (see “Irregular migration”). OPPORTUNITIES holds that a different approach to migration is both possible and desirable; Uganda is one example of a country which has adopted positive migration policies (see Dryden-Petersen and Hovel 2004, United Nations Development Programme 2018).

⇢ see also Asylum; Asylum seeker, CrisisDemographics of migrationExpatriate, Integration, Labor migration, Migrant, Migration and identity, MobilityRefugee

References and further reading:

Dryden-Petersen, Sarah, and Lucy Hovel. 2004. “A Remaining Hope for Durable Solutions: Local Integration of Refugees and Their Hosts in the Case of Uganda.” Refuge: Canada’s Journal on Refugees 22.1: 26–38.

European Commission. 2020. European Migration Network (EMN) Glossary. URL:

United Nations Development Programme. 2018. Uganda’s Contribution to Refugee Protection and Management. URL:

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Generally, multiperspectivity means looking at an issue such as migration and integration from various angles, for example by approaching it with different methods or by encouraging an open and fair dialogue between migrants, citizens, politicians, and other stakeholders in Cross Talk events. In stories, multiperspectivity means that several viewpoints are presented to offer the audience a more diverse or nuanced picture.

Level Telling Fields promote multiperspectivity in public conversations, such as migration discourses. Two forms can be distinguished: Horizontal multiperspectivity occurs when an issue is represented from different angles, allowing for debate – e.g., in policy narratives, scientific research, or media reports – or when a wide range of migrant experiences (countries of origin, age, gender, status) are represented in migration discourses. Vertical multiperspectivity occurs when different kinds of perspective (e.g., life stories and official narratives) are represented together. While horizontal multiperspectivity is the norm in democratic, open societies, vertical multiperspectivity is often difficult to achieve. The Level Telling Field promotes both types of multiperspectivity to create conditions for a fair dialogue on migration and integration.

⇢ see Cross Talk, Level Telling Field, PolyphonyScale

References and further reading:

Hartner, Marcus. 2014. “Multiperspectivity.” In The Living Handbook of Narratology, edited by Peter Hühn, Jan Christoph Meister, John Pier, and Wolf Schmid. URL:

Category: B

Work Package: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7



Narrative common good

 In a political context the common good is provided by members of a community to all members to satisfy interests everyone shares (Hussain 2018, n. p.). In philosophy, the common good serves as a reference for political reasoning that aims at the common interest – that is, a “shared standpoint for political deliberation” (Hussain 2018, n. p.).

Narratives can become such a common good, turning to a “narrative common good”: The “narrative common good” is the narrative good produced by all and for all. It is more than a collection of narratives; narratives are put into dialogue with one another recognizing that people have the right to their own story. In this sense, the narrative common good can be understood as the peaceful coming together of narratives, building on mutual recognition.

⇢ see also Life storyStories of migration

References and further reading:

Hussain, Waheed. 2018. “The Common Good.” In The Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Eward N. Zalta. URL:

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Narrative dynamics

The term narrative dynamics has its origins in literary theory (Richardson 2002, 2019), where it serves as a synonym for dramaturgy and is thus restricted to text-internal phenomena. The OPPORTUNITIES project has redefined the concept to analyze not the dynamics in narratives, but between narratives. Sommer (2023, 499) describes this extended notion of narrative dynamics, the systematic study of functions, roles, and effects of narratives, as “an emerging field of research that focuses on the connections and interdependencies between different kinds of stories, as well as old and new forms and practices of storytelling and storysharing.” Vital parameters include the relationships between emic and etic narratives, accumulative effects of repetition and resonance, and the role of digital technologies in amplifying and distributing narrative content. More specifically, analytical categories include narrative event modeling and management, narrative purpose and chaff, narrative aggregation and normalization, as well as narrative (re-)alignment and redirection (Sommer 2022, 499–503).

Narrative dynamics can unfold centripetal and centrifugal forces. This metaphorical distinction, which has found its way from physics into many fields of research, including political science and migration studies, allows us to gauge the effects of narrative dynamics, whether intended or unintended (Sommer 2023). This is best demonstrated by using the ethnographic concept of social drama (Turner 1980) which divides crises into four “acts”: a “breach” interrupts the status quo, to be followed by a “crisis,” “redress,” and a form of closure, which can either be “reintegration” (i.e., a return to the status quo ante) or the recognition of “schism” (149). Though originally focused on small-scale conflicts, the notion of social drama can be developed into a scalable model to account for crises involving multiple agents or interests on national and transnational levels. The metaphors of centripetal or centrifugal forces indicate opposing forces that move toward a center, or away from it. With respect to national conversations or international relations, these terms signify unification or disintegration: centripetal narratives seek to manage and contain a crisis; centrifugal narratives, in contrast, seek escalation and disruption. Brexit is an example of how social drama, fueled by toxic narratives, can lead to schism.

Narrative dynamics research is an umbrella term for an emerging interdisciplinary field which includes framing theory and linguistics (Lueg and Lundholt 2021), narrative studies and psychology (Meretoja and Freeman 2023), international relations and communication studies (Miskimmon et al. 2018), and theories of deliberative democracy and the public sphere (Habermas 2022). Important impulses also come from research on conspiracy theories (Butter and Knight 2020) and social media studies (Page 2018) as well as political economy (Fernandes 2017). Analyses focus on the roles and changing functions of narratives in specific historical and cultural contexts, political scenarios and media environments (see, e.g., Gebauer 2023; Sommer and Fábián 2023).

⇢ see also Counter-(master-)narrative dynamics, Crisis narration, Event modeling, Narrative, Narrative ecology, Narratives on migration, Stories of migration, Toxic narrative

References and further reading:

Butter, Michael, and Peter Knight, eds. 2020. Routledge Handbook of Conspiracy Theories. London and New York, NY: Routledge.

Fernandes, Sujatha. 2017. Curated Stories. The Uses and Misuses of Storytelling. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gebauer, Carolin. 2023. “German Welcome Culture Then and Now: How Crisis Narration Can Foster (Contested) Solidarity with Refugees.” University of Wuppertal. [Working paper of the OPPORTUNITIES project 101004945 – H2020.]

Habermas, Jürgen. 2022. Ein neuer Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit und die deliberative Politik. Berlin: Suhrkamp.

Lueg, Klarissa, and Marianne Wolff Lundholt, eds. 2021. Routledge Handbook of Counter-Narratives. London and New York, NY: Routledge.

Meretoja, Hanna, and Mark Freeman. 2023. The Use and Abuse of Stories: New Directions in Narrative Hermeneutics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Miskimmon, Alister, Ben O’Loughlin, and Laura Roselle, eds. 2018. Forging the World: Strategic Narratives and International Relations. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Page, Ruth. 2018. Narratives Online: Shared Stories in Social Media. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Richardson, Brian, ed. 2002. Narrative Dynamics: Essays on Time, Plot, Closure, and Frame. Columbus, OH: The Ohio State University Press.

Sommer, Roy. 2023. “Migration and Narrative Dynamics.” In The Routledge Companion to Narrative Theory, edited by Paul Dawson and Maria Mäkelä, 498–511. New York, NY and London: Routledge.

Sommer, Roy, and Ida Fábián. 2023. “Hungary’s ‘Rebalanced’ Media Ecology: Toxic Narratives on Migration, Gender, and Europe.” University of Wuppertal. [Working paper of the OPPORTUNITIES project 101004945 – H2020.]

Turner, Victor. 1980. “Social Dramas and Stories About Them.” Critical Inquiry 7 (1): 141–168.

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Narrative ecology

Narrative ecology is the study of narrative environments or ecosystems, i.e., the complex relationships between narratives, media, and audiences. It is inspired by Neil Postman’s (1970) notion of a media ecology and more recent work on strategic narratives (Miskimmon et al. 2013), counter-narratives (Lueg and Lundholt 2021), and narrative dynamics (Sommer 2023), as well as the role of narrative in educational research (Turvey 2013), psychology (McLean 2016, McLean and Breen 2015), and the social sciences (Gabriel 2017). The OPPORTUNITIES project conceptualizes the narrative ecology of migration as a complex discursive system with different levels that interact with each other in bidirectional ways (Caracciolo et al. 2023).

The most abstract level of the narrative ecology of migration is made up of what mobility scholar Tim Cresswell (2006, 55) would refer to as “metanarratives of mobility” – that is, ideas about migration that, while not stories in themselves, function as attractors or catalysts for storytelling (e.g., the notion of economic growth through transnational mobility). We then have cultural narratives on migration, which circulate widely and reach most members of a society or group. These are full-fledged stories with individuated protagonists and a clear progression, but they typically build on more schematic story “templates” such as the ‘rags-to-riches’ theme or notions of the ‘good migrant.’ Some of these cultural narratives express mainstream or dominant ideologies, others – known as counter-narratives (see the entry on “counter-(master-)narrative dynamics”) – challenge such views. Finally, we have stories told by individuals “on the ground.” Such narratives qualify as what researchers in qualitative psychology call “small stories” (Bamberg 2004; Georgakopoulou 2006): they are stories of migration that reflect personal experiences but also typically speak to metanarratives or culturally circulating narratives on migration.

The narrative ecology of migration is influenced by a number of agents, which include people but also political, legal, or cultural institutions. It is, moreover, structured in a relatively hierarchical way, reflecting the popularity and social or political prestige of meta- and cultural narratives on migration. These represent the top level of the ecology, while stories of the individual experience of migration are at the bottom; narratives in media or artistic practices occupy an intermediate position. Interactions are possible both within each level and across levels: If widespread narratives on migration influence a more local instance of storytelling, for example, they produce a top-down effect. In other cases, the influence goes in the opposite direction, with a bottom-up effect: individual stories leave a mark on the cultural level, shifting or complicating the understanding of a metanarrative. This is certainly less common than the top-down scenario, but far from impossible, for the narrative ecology is constantly evolving in response to both external events and interactions within the system.

⇢ see also Attitudes, beliefs, and values, Counter-(master-)narrative dynamics, Crisis narration, Narrative dynamics, Narratives on migration, Scale, Stories of migration

References and further reading:

Bamberg, Michael. 2004. “Talk, Small Stories, and Adolescent Identities.” Human Development 47: 366–69.

Caracciolo, Marco, Carolin Gebauer, and Roy Sommer. 2023. “Migration and Narrative Ecologies: Public and Media Discourse in the EU.” Ghent University and University of Wuppertal. [Working paper of the OPPORTUNITIES project 101004945 – H2020].

Cresswell, Tim. 2006. On the Move: Mobility in the Modern Western World. New York: Routledge.

Gabriel, Yannis. 2017. “Narrative Ecologies and the Role of Counter-Narratives: The Case of Nostalgic Stories and Conspiracy Theories.” In Counter-Narratives and Organization, edited by Sanne Frandsen, Timothy Kuhn, and Marianne Wolff Lundholt, 208–229. New York, NY and London: Routledge.

Georgakopoulou, Alexandra. 2006. Small Stories, Interaction and Identities. Amsterdam and Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.

McLean, Kate C. 2016. The Co-Authored Self: Family Stories and the Construction of Personal Identity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

McLean, Kate C., and Andrea V. Breen. 2015. “Selves in a World of Stories During Emerging Adulthood.” In The Oxford Handbook of Emerging Adulthood, edited by Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, 385–400. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Miskimmon, Alister, Ben O’Loughlin, and Laura Roselle. 2013. Strategic Narratives: Communication Power and the New World Order. New York, NY and London: Routledge.

Postman, Neil. 1970. “The Reformed English Curriculum.” In High School 1980: The Shape of the Future in American Secondary Education, edited by Alvin C. Eurich, 160-168. New York, NY et al.: Pitman Publishing Corporation.

Sommer, Roy. 2023. “Migration and Narrative Dynamics.” In The Routledge Companion to Narrative Theory, edited by Paul Dawson and Maria Mäkelä, 498–511. New York, NY and London: Routledge. DOI:

Turvey, Keith. 2013. Narrative Ecologies: Teachers as Pedagogical Toolmakers. London and New York, NY: Routledge.

Category: B, C

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