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...)



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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[CG / SG]


Migrant narrative

Migrant narratives, or migrant stories, are life stories of migrants or refugees which focus on experiences of migration and transit. They come in various shapes (e.g., conversational storytelling, life writing, or narrative fiction) and can be told either by migrants and refugees themselves (see also the entry “stories of migration”) or by vicarious storytellers who speak on behalf of migrants or refugees. Carolin Gebauer and Roy Sommer (2023) have identified four types of vicarious storytelling: case stories, documentary storytelling, ambassadorial storytelling, and allied storytelling (see also the entry on “vicarious storytelling”). While instances of the first three types tend to silence migrants’ own voice in the act of storytelling and hence diminish their narrative authority, cases of allied storytelling seek to actively engage migrants by constructing narratives which are shared by vicarious storyteller and migrant alike. Dominant themes of migrant narratives include displacement, diaspora, victimhood, resilience, integration, liberation, and opportunity.

⇢ see also Experience, Experiential storytelling, Life story, Narrative, Positioning, Vicarious storytelling

References and further reading:

Gebauer, Carolin, and Roy Sommer. 2023. “Beyond Vicarious Storytelling: How Level Telling Fields Help Create a Fair Narrative on Migration.” Open Research Europe 3.10: 3–14. URL: Accessed July 30, 2023.

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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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[CG / RS]


Migration and identity

Migration research distinguishes between labor migrants, economic migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and expatriates – to name but a few categories. While the distinction between refugees and asylum seekers is established in European or national law, the differentiation between refugees and migrants is less clear-cut, as migrant serves as an umbrella term for persons leaving their home country to reside or take refuge in another country. “To gain official status as a refugee,” Meike Watzlawik and Ignacio Brescó de Luna (2017, 247) argue, “one must […] bridge the gap between one’s specific individual life experiences resulting from an oppressing regime, conflict, or war zone, and the legal and abstract category of ‘a refugee,’ as well as the set of expectations, predefined ideas, and conventions associated with such a category.” Recognition as a refugee consequently requires a specific performative act: “The way refugees have to present themselves so as to meet the cultural expectations of the hosting society […] heavily depends on the representations whereby the very notion of refugee is socially constructed and imagined. Such representations in turn mediate the way in which societies come to perceive, understand, and behave vis-à-vis a phenomenon only experienced directly by very few people.” (Watzlawik and de Luna 2017, 248) Media and the digital public sphere play a central role in producing, multiplying, and perpetuating diverging notions of and attitudes towards refugees, expatriates, and other migrants.

⇢ see also Asylum; Asylum seeker, Narrative identity, Migrant, Migration, RefugeeRepresentation of migration

References and further reading:

Watzlawik, Meike, and Ignacio Brescó de Luna. 2017. “The Self in Movement: Being Identified and Identifying Oneself in the Process of Migration and Asylum Seeking.” Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science 51.2: 244–260. URL:

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Migration culture

The term migration culture is used to refer to proverbs, songs and sayings that shape social representations and collective consciousness of local populations while contributing, in part, to the desire to travel, the desire to be elsewhere.

In Senegal, research carried out by the Gender, Environment, Religion and Migration Studies and Research Laboratory (GERM) has enabled us to understand that through proverbs, songs and sayings, people praise migration or travel. To this end, it can be said that the language system values migration, which symbolizes an act of bravery or courage. This explains why in certain areas, former migration basins, those who have not attempted the journey are seen as cowards.

⇢ see also Circular migrationMobility

References and further reading:

Tandian, Aly, and Serigne Mansour Tall. 2010. “Regards sur la migration irrégulière des Sénégalais: vouloir faire fortune en Europe avec des pirogues de fortune [Technical Report, Migration Policy Centre].” CARIM Analytic and Synthetic Notes 2010/50. URL: 1&isAllowed=y

Tandian, Aly, and Serigne Mansour Tall. 2011. “Cadre général de la migration internationale sénégalaise: historicité, actualité et prospective [Technical Report, Migration Policy Centre].” CARIM Analytic and Synthetic Notes 2011/54. URL:

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Mixed movement

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Mixed Migration Centre apply the term mixed migration or mixed movement to refer to cross-border movement – usually in irregular manner – of individuals and groups with different motives for migration who travel alongside each other, using similar routes and means of transport or facilitators. Such ‘mixed movements’ may include asylum seekers, refugees, victims of trafficking, unaccompanied or separated children, stateless persons, and other migrants. The UN and other support agencies and countries hosting migrants have to pay attention to the different needs and profiles of migrants in any form of ‘mixed movement.’

⇢ see also Asylum; Asylum seeker, Human trafficking, Labor migration, Migrant, MigrationRefugee

References and further reading:

Mixed Migration Centre and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, eds. 2021. A Roadmap for Advocacy, Policy Development, and Programming: Protection in Mixed Movements along the Central and Western Mediterranean Routes 2021. URL:

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). 2021. “Asylum and Migration.” UNHCR: The UN Refugee Agency. URL:

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Mobility is an umbrella term for a wide range of phenomena (e.g., migration, globalization, tourism, and transport), as well as other processes more remotely related to movement and fluctuation such as social mobility or social resistance. Mobility requires motility, “the capacity of a person to be mobile” (Kaufmann 2016, 37). Yet the potential to be mobile depends on an individual’s personal circumstances (see the distinction between migrants and expats) and “the way in which [one] appropriates what is possible in the domain of mobility and puts this potential to use for his or her activities” (Kaufmann 2016, 37).

Public discourses tend to use the terms mobility and migration as synonyms, to refer to the movement of groups of people from one country to another. However, the concept of mobility usually has positive connotations such as chance, opportunity, aspiration, and ambition, whereas that of migration correlates with notions of insecurity, danger, risk, or crisis.

⇢ see also Expatriate, Migration, Mobility studies

References and further reading:

Adey, Peter. 2017. Mobility. 2nd ed. London and New York, NY: Routledge.

Kaufmann, Vincent. 2016. Re-Thinking Mobility: Contemporary Sociology. London and New York, NY: Routledge.

Urry, John. 2007. Mobilities. Cambridge and Malden, MA: Polity.

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Mobility studies

The recent “‘humanities turn’ in mobility studies” (Aguiar et al. 2019, 4; see also Merriman and Pearce 2018) has inspired many literary scholars and cultural theorists to engage with the “new mobilities paradigm” (Sheller and Urry 2006) in the social sciences. New mobilities studies put the notion of mobility at the center of their research agenda, as they set out to investigate different forms and practices of mobility, such as migration, travel, tourism, and transportation (Urry 2007, 6–8), different “figures of mobility” (Salazar 2017), such as the migrant, the refugee, the nomad, or the vagabond, as well as the nexus between mobilities and immobilities (Hannam et al. 2006) from an interdisciplinary perspective. Within this vibrant cross-disciplinary research field, “mobility humanities” seek to contribute to the “discussions on the phenomena, technologies, and infrastructures of mobility and its ramifications from a humanities perspective, specifically focusing on their cultural-political, ethical, and spiritual and emotional meanings” (Shin and Lee 2022, 3).

⇢ see also Mobility, Politics of mobility

References and further reading:

Aguiar, Marian, Charlotte Mathieson, and Lynne Pearce. 2019. “Introduction: Mobilities, Literature, Culture.” In Mobilities, Literature, Culture, edited by Marian Aguiar, Charlotte Mathieson, and Lynne Pearce, 1–31. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hannam, Kevin, Mimi Sheller, and John Urry. 2006. “Editorial: Mobilities, Immobilities and Moorings.” Mobilities 1.1: 1–22.

Merriman, Peter, and Lynne Pearce, eds. 2018. Mobility and the Humanities. London and New York, NY: Routledge.

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

Sheller, Mimi, and John Urry. 2006. “The New Mobilities Paradigm.” Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space 38.2: 2017–226.

Shin, Inseop, and Jinhyoung Lee. 2022. “Introduction: The Humanities in the Age of High Mobility.” Mobility Humanities 1.1: 1–5.

Urry, John. 2007. Mobilities. Cambridge: Polity Press.

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Moral imagination

Moral imagination is the ability to conceive of alternatives to the status quo with regard to the moral standards of the persons involved. According to John Paul Lederach (2005, 5), “the moral imagination requires the capacity to imagine ourselves in a web of relationships that includes our enemies; the ability to sustain a paradoxical curiosity that embraces complexity without reliance on dualistic polarity; the fundamental belief in and pursuit of the creative act.”

⇢ see also Cross Talk, Perspective taking

References and further reading:

Lederach, John Paul. The Moral Imagination. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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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:

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