A chat with

Thais França and João Miguel de Carvalho

About the 2024 IMISCOE Annual Conference in Lisbon
22 June 2024

We sat with with Thais França and João Miguel de Carvalho to discuss about the forthcoming Annual Conference in Lisbon and online

 Thais Françan and  João Miguel de Carvalho

Could you tell us a few words about the institutions and colleagues involved in the organization of the 2024 IMISCOE Annual Conference?

The 2024 IMISCOE Annual Conference is organized by a host committee formed by members of the research group on Migration, Mobility and Ethnicity of CIES-ISCTE – Centro de Investigação e Estudos em Sociologia. ISCTE-Instituto Universitário de Lisboa became a full member of the IMISCOE Network in 2019. 

This interdisciplinary research group brings together researchers working on migration, mobility, and racial and ethnical inequalities, especially on processes of geographical mobilities to and from Portugal, as well as on the dynamics of race and ethnicity in the Portuguese society.

The host committee is formed by researchers only: Sofia Silva, Simone Castellani, Liliana Azevedo, Daniel Malet, Raquel Matias and us two. As the Portuguese research system is still on an embryonic stage, we believe this international conference will help to highlight its contribution to scientific research at the European and global level.

The conference topic is “Migration as a Social Construction: A Reflexive Turn”. What can you tell us about this theme?

The topic of this conference explores migration as a social construction, as we seek to promote a reflexive turn in migration studies. This critical approach focuses on the social processes that determine the classification of mobile individuals and even their descendants as “migrants”. Thereby, we seek to tackle the framing of immigration as a deviant behavior that automatically engenders a perception of threat amongst citizens in the host societies. 

In our view, international borders and their management are the outcome of social processes driven by humans, which become institutionalized and thereby constrain subsequent action. This wave of ontological and conceptual reflection has been labeled as the reflexive turn in current migration research. Thus, this event will promote stimulating debates on the interplay between migrants in law and policy, the public debate on this topic, and the migrants’ experiences and actions in the host societies.

In short, this conference seeks to contribute to the theoretical understanding and empirical study of the processes of social construction of migration and their impact on social reality at the global level.

What about the conference program?

The conference program seeks to explore the social construction of migration in the different spheres of the world and to have a global reach. We are very glad for inviting keynote speakers from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe, ensuring not only geographical but also scientific diversity in the debates we aim to foster during our event. Furthermore, the themes of the plenary and semi-plenary sessions are closely interlinked with the topic of the conference. 

The opening plenary session, “Migration as Social Construction: A Reflexive Turn” will establish the context for the conference featuring three distinguished scholars from different geographies, who will delineate the core aspects of the reflexive turn in migration studies. Our first semi-plenary session, “Reflexivity and Intersectionality: Complexifying the Migration Debate”, will explore how the social construction of migration intersects with other topics of social research such as gender, class, race and ethnicity, identity, and ideology. The second semi-plenary, “Reflexivity, Discourses and Practices: Old Challenges and New Perspectives in the Migration Field”, aims to discuss how a number of categories, distinctions and hierarchies between citizens and foreigners, nationals and non-nationals, “we” and “others” has been constructed within the migration field. Finally, the closing plenary, “Reflexivity and Migration Policies: Building Categories, Borders and Subjects” aims to explore the dynamic relationship between migrants, migration policies, the public discourse surrounding this topic, and the experiences and actions of migrants within host societies.

In addition, our program proudly includes 312 inspiring sessions, including panels and workshops. These sessions provide invaluable opportunities for knowledge exchange, critical discourse, and meaningful networking. 

Our plenary and semi-plenary sessions will be broadcasted online, ensuring accessibility to a wider audience. Additionally, our panel discussions will adopt the same flexible modality, enabling seamless engagement regardless of location. Embracing the digital space as part of our conference, we strive to foster inclusive dialogue and participation in our program.

Complementing these are vibrant side events, offering unique perspectives and experiential insights into migration dynamics. Join us for a thought-provoking journey beyond convention.

We also want to get to know you as migration scholars and your involvement in IMISCOE.

João Miguel de Carvalho: My first contact with IMISCOE is related to the development of my MA thesis on Portuguese immigration policy in the mid-2000s, when the annual reports of the network were amongst the few bibliographic sources available about this social phenomenon. Maria Baganha, who was a founder of IMISCOE and the President of the Board of Directors was my role model at the time. Moreover, I met her personally as the external examiner of my MA thesis. When I finished my PhD thesis, I applied for the Baganha Prize to honour her contribution to my academic development. I became an personal member of IMISCOE since then and I participated in both annual and spring conferences. 

As a migration scholar, I have been interested in developing comparative approaches to the study of migration policy and its intersection with party politics. My latest publication, alongside Mariana Carmo Duarte and Didier Ruedin, explores the relation between media coverage of immigration and public concern with this social phenomenon. We found that the media is not a neutral actor in immigration debates. They shape how much we think about immigration, but not our positions towards it. 

Thais França: My involvement with IMISCOE began during my post-doctoral years, starting with my attendance at the conference in 2014 to present my first paper on international student mobility. Since then, I have actively participated in the annual conferences, engaging in various activities organized by the SC GenSem and EduSocial, and in 2021, I assumed the role of coordinator for the latter. Additionally, in the same year, I joined the Training Committee and the Anti-Racism Working Group (now known as the SC Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion), roles which I still hold. The following year, CIES-ISCTE appointed me as its representative on the Board of Directors. Lastly, over the past two years, I have also had the privilege of being a member of the Maria Baganha Award Committee. Through these diverse activities and roles, I have not only experienced academic growth, but have also the intellectually inspiring and welcoming environment fostered by IMISCOE.

As a migration scholar, I am dedicated to shed light on nuanced gendered and racialized inequality within migration dynamics. Moreover, I critically engage with decolonial studies to challenge the historically Eurocentric approach of the field. I believe that embracing decolonial approach in migration studies is crucial because it encourages me to critically examine the persistence of historical power dynamics within migration dynamics and the migration field, unveiling often-overlooked complexities and connections. Additionally, it enables me to acknowledge the profound enduring and commonly neglected influence of colonialism on migration dynamics. Furthermore, my specialization in the Lusophone space equips me to contribute valuable insights into migration dynamics within regions such as Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, and Sao Tome and Prince, traditionally understudied in the migration field. 

Coming back to the Annual Conference that you are organizing this year, what do you hope that colleagues will mostly appreciate during the event?

We hope that our colleagues will have the opportunity to build their social networks and share their experiences regarding the research on the topic of international migration. We think that encouraging the interaction between scholars of different geographic backgrounds can foster critical awareness of the complexity of international migration. To attain this objective, we hope to create a very friendly environment that enhances new opportunities to cooperate and exchanges of useful feedback, while inspiring new venues for future research. In short, we hope everyone enjoys their participation in the 21st IMISCOE Annual Conference as well as their stay in Lisbon. 

Do you have any tips for conference participants to enjoy their stay in Lisbon? Anything unmissable?

We asked the advice of our colleague, Liliana Azevedo regarding this question. She suggests:

Lisbon is a city full of surprises and charms, both for first-time visitors and for those who already know it. For a panoramic view of the city of Lisbon, climb up to the castle São Jorge and the Miradouro da Graça. You might feel like exploring the other hills that can be seen from there, but don’t forget to put on your walking shoes. At the end of the day, go for a drink at the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, the Jardim do Alto de Santa Catarina or choose one of the many rooftops in the city centre, all of which are very attractive. We also suggest taking the boat from Cais do Sodré or Terreiro do Paço to really see the city. Crossing the river is a worthwhile experience, especially for people studying migration and mobility. Moreover, the south bank of the Tagus offers a wide variety of fish and seafood restaurants, among other specialties. For a full Lisbon experience, try a ginginha at Rossio and, if you can, a draught beer with lupins on a terrace far from the tourists. Move away from the historic centre and monuments, full of tourists and queues, and venture into the neighbourhoods of Campo de Ourique, Alcântara, Alvalade, Anjos, Beato or Marvila. Don't hesitate to get lost and let yourself be enchanted by the unexpected”. 


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