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Virtual Conference 2021: Mixing methods in Migration Research

21 and 22 October 2021

RUNOMI, DAMR, and RSCR collectively organised a virtual conference on mixing methods in migration research. Mixed methods research is an excellent way to capture complex phenomena such as migration due to its possibilities to collect rich, comprehensive data. However, the blending of methods in migration studies remains difficult. In this virtual conference, we brought academic researchers from all over the world together to exchange experiences, interests and ambitions in bringing mixed methods to the next level in the field of migration research.

On both days of the event, the conference started with a keynote by an internationally known expert on practicalities of mixed methods research, followed by an aftertalk with two discussants. Consequently, participants could exchange and develop ideas on several issues, such as publishing and representation, in two workshops. Challenges were discussed and participants together moved towards a true blending of methodologies.

Thursday, 21 October 2021

Keynote 1: Beyond mixing: How migration research can thrive on methodological divides
Jørgen Carling

Migration studies is well-established as a multidisciplinary and methodologically diverse field. But the ways of engaging with this diversity are, in their own right, diverse. In this keynote Jørgen laid out a sequence of approaches to methodological diversity that represent pitfalls and opportunities for the future of migration research. Making the most of methodological diversity requires a sense of community that spans methodological divides. Such communality, in turn, depends on enabling institutions in teaching, research and publishing. In exploring these themes, he drew upon his experience as a reviewer for migration journals as well as for migration-related submissions to journals across the social sciences — from anthropology to economics and geography — which has made him reflect on the nature of disciplinary and methodological specialization in migration studies. Turning to the practicalities of mixing methods, he used examples from his own research, both individual and collaborative. Methodological mixing has been an area of continuous learning and was a major impetus to his ongoing ERC CoG project Future Migration as Present Fact (FUMI). Working across methodologies is often neither feasible nor appropriate, but he contended that, as migration researchers, getting our hands dirty on both sides of such divides generates a friction that can be harnessed for uniquely rewarding insights. This personal enthusiasm raised questions about the normative aspects of methodology: should mixed methods be enabled, encouraged or expected? And on what grounds do we answer that question, as individuals and as a research community?
This keynote was attended by 68 participants, and followed by an aftertalk with two discussants: Joris Schapendonk and Nella Geurts.

Workshop 1: Plans and Practicalities
Nella Geurts

This workshop was designed for early career researchers (PhDs and postdocs) specifically. In a safe space, participants were encouraged to discuss and brainstorm about specific practicalities we have and/or may run into when working with a mixed methods research design. Instead of discussing whether or not their mixed methods research design is necessary or what their project will add (a lot, for sure), they dived into specific practicalities everyone have ran into whilst setting up and realizing such a design. Together they brainstormed about solutions to their obstacles, and learned from each other’s experiences to enable more mixed methods endeavors in the future.

Workshop 2: Mixed Methods, Mixed Success
Niels Spierings

“Don’t write mixed methods papers, you’ll never get them published.” This is advice you might have given or received. Is it incorrect? There probably is a kernel of truth to it. Is it constructive? Well, not for those who believe mixed methods research has considerable merit. It needs to be conducted and it needs to reach its audience. Therefore this session was about finding the key, or rather: keys, to publishing mixed methods research. What barriers did participants run in to? How did they circumvent barriers successfully? What would have helped them? What can individual scholars do? How to please ‘both sides’? What should journals do? How do they approach a mixed methods manuscript when they review it? What about monographs or other outlets? What do they expect of reviewers? Based on all collective experiences, hearsay and imagination, participants set out to form a battle plan and wish list to make sure proper mixed methods research gets published too.

Friday, 22 October 2021

Keynote 2: Can mixed methods approaches help overcome the intricate relation between migration research and the dominant political discourses about migration?
Rossalina Latcheva

Present migration realities and the issues at stake linked to the entanglements between (migration) research and (migration) politics call for novel research strategies that do not only peacefully co-exist. They should also effectively address the complexity and multidimensionality of migration processes by integrating different research perspectives and epistemological traditions.
Migration practices crystallize at the intersection of individual biographies, family structures, political dynamics, and legal frameworks, as well as economic developments and processes that boost and shape migration and the societies and institutions at both ends of the migration chain. Mixed methods allow to look at migration processes as ‘life projects’ of individuals who make their own choices across the life span but which are constrained by individual characteristics and prior events in the life cycle as well as embedded in migration regimes, institutional contexts and administrative practices at local, national or international level.
By using selected examples from existing research practice, Rossalina addressed on the one hand the added value of a fruitful and very much needed integration of different perspectives and methods. On the other hand she provided insights about persisting challenges and concerns about mixing methods in migration research.
This keynote was attended by 49 participants, and followed by an aftertalk with two discussants: Marcel Lubbers and Roos Hoekstra-Pijpers.

Workshop 3: Ultimate Dreams
Nella Geurts

In this session, participants discussed those one of a kind, seemingly unrealistic mixed methods research designs. The one that keeps coming back in your dreams. Can this dream somehow become a reality? What research design do we come up with if there are no limitations in terms of budget, size or duration of a project? And what do these dreams tell us about where the value and aims of mixed methods research lies, and where not? Together with an expert who is making one’s dream design a reality at the moment, they discussed the endless opportunities of their mixed methods dreams to gain new perspectives and get inspired for the future.

Workshop 4: Voice and Representation
Tine Davids

Does using mixed methods imply doing science differently? In this session we took a closer look at how applying mixed methods confronts us with particular issues of knowledge production. Participants discussed what kind of knowledge they aimed to produce, which questions they wanted to pose, and whether they posed questions differently as a consequence of applying mixed methods. Does mixed methods open up different avenues for decolonizing science for example? Tine wanted to connect these more epistemological and ethical questions to the practices of how to go about our relation with the ones under research. How do we relate and represent others (and ourselves) in our research? What kind of possibilities and challenges does applying mixed methods confront us with in facing these issues? Through exchange of experiences, viewpoints and ideas participants inspired each other and explored the possibilities of mixed methods.

Networking session

The conference ended with a networking session via wonder.me. This website facilitates rooms where you can ‘bump into each other’ and get to know each other.

RUNOMI would like to thank all organizers and participants for making this a fruitful and insightful online event!

This event was a collaboration of

DAMR RSCR Runomi temp. logo