Beyond here and there: (re)conceptualising migrant journeys and the ‘in-between’
Heaven Crawley and Katharine Jones
Journeys of refugees and other migrants are typically represented as linear movements between two places with the academic and policy gaze directed primarily towards the places people leave and what is assumed to be their final destination. This linear representation presupposes that people have a specific country in mind when they depart and that everything ‘in-between’ is simply a ‘stepping stone’. This article explores the journeys of Syrians, Nigerians and Afghans drawing on empirical data gathered in Turkey, Greece and Italy during 2015. Our evidence suggests that, even for those who eventually arrived in Europe, the places to which people initially travelled were often destination rather than ‘transit countries’. It was only when life became untenable and a decision was made to move that these places took on a state of ‘in-betweenness’, most commonly as part of a personal narrative mobilised by respondents to make sense of the broader arc of their life experiences. Failure to understand, or even ask questions about, the multiple meanings which places have for people at different points in both their phsycial and metaphorical (life) journeys, undermines conceptual and empirical analysis of migrant journeys and plays into anti-immigrant discourses prevalent across much of the Global North.
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