Both international migration and democratic development are important contemporary public and policy concerns. Recent studies of transnational migrant practices have uncovered how migrants influence democratic participation in their homelands through the remittance of money and newfound ideas about democracy from afar or through return. Yet, there is still little comparative knowledge of how these processes intersect with broader economic, social and political transformations in countries of origin. Moreover, complex migration experiences and nonlinear processes of democratization in countries of origin point to the need for a more nuanced conceptualization of what kind of political ideas circulate and are negotiated or even contested among migrants, return migrants and non-migrants in countries of origin.
These research objectives are timely and relevant for broader debates on the political impact of migration. The MIGRADEMO research shifts the attention from the focus on what happens when migrants arrive in countries of settlement to the impact on countries of origin. Comparing the content, scope and processes of democratic diffusion will contribute to our knowledge of the conditions under which migration can influence democratic practices. Both the empirical and theoretical contributions are relevant to researchers, policy makers and activists concerned with the broader implications of international migration and processes of democratization in migrant countries of origin.
In a first instance we analyse aggregate data on remittances and political behaviour, including the setting up of an original dataset on emigrant partisan support in their countries of origin per country of residence. In terms of field-research, the research strategy of the project engages with both qualitative and quantitative research methods to analyse migration-led diffusion across three levels of democratic participation and processes:
- The electoral and non-electoral political engagement and attitudes of individual citizens. This includes analysis of electoral turnout, partisan support, engagement in protest or other civic actions. At the level of attitudes we will explore a range of issues including perceptions of political efficacy and corruption as well as broader themes related to social and political change including attitudes towards immigration/immigrants.
- The proliferation, agendas and activities of civil society associations and social movements. We will analyse how these organizations and movements are initiated, inspired and supported by migration led networks with migrants abroad, non-migrants with relatives or friends abroad or return migrants.
- The democratic outlook and activities of members of the national and local political elite with a migration experience. This includes analysis of the extent to which they propose or sponsor initiatives related to democratization and to what extent they draw on their network and links to organizations and institutions related to their migration experience.
In the fieldwork based part of the project we will explore these dynamics at both the local and national level in the cases of Romania, Turkey and Morocco.
The project will analyse already existing aggregate data on remittances and political behavior, and, importantly, generate new comprehensive datasets based on, among others, household surveys and in‐depth qualitative research among non‐migrants and returnees in countries of origin.
The former is essential for a systematic evaluation of the influence of migration on the levels and scope of individual democratic participation. The latter is crucial for a more nuanced and less binary understanding of which political ideas circulate and how they are negotiated among migrants, returnees and non-migrants. The combination of the different methodologies and approaches will create synergies between the more systematic evaluation of democratic diffusion across different local and national contexts and the more interpretative analysis of how this diffusion is negotiated. This research strategy will aid us in contributing to the theoretical understanding of the micro-foundations of democratic diffusion and the conditions under which migration can influence democratic processes.