Reflections and lessons learned from the Pufendof IAS Migration Initiative and the Migration symposium


Lund University and its Pufendorf Institute for Advanced Studies’ have launched a special initiative on migration aims to identify and stimulate interdisciplinary approaches to migration research in Sweden. Migration scholars are and should be political scientists, medical doctors, geographers, archeologists, ecologists and physical scientists, and sociologists, peace and conflict scientists, sociologists and human rights experts. The aim is to expand the scope of migration research and go beyond the polarised discussions about refugees and migrants. Here, several scholars discuss migration in a broader sense - where migration is treated as a process which encompasses a variety of phenomena across different disciplines, departments and faculties. New conceptual, theoretical approaches as well as methodological innovations in migration research are at the focus of this initiative. In this vein, the initiative has organized series of seminars on the following themes: ‘Ecologies of Migration’; ‘Institutions and Economics of Migration’; ‘Postcolonial Perspectives in Human Mobility’; ‘The role of archeology and DNA Research in Migration’. 

The final symposium of this initiative hosted renowned scholars in the field, namely Stephen Castles, Thomas Nail, Betsy Hartmann, Vanessa Barker and Gabriela Sanchez. Their contributions underline that migration should not be seen as ‘a problem’ to be solved, but as a normal part of social transformation. People have migrated throughout human history, but the volume and the characteristics of migration change in accordance with major social transformations that reshape the economy, social relationships and political cultures. 

Series of events organized by the The Pufendorf Institute for Advanced Studies’ special initiative on migration showed us four ways of improving research and the impact of academic work in the field of migration: 

  • Migration is not to be approached as a set of problems to be solved. Universities need to offer qualified input both on the challenges of migration, and the benefits and solidarity that migration creates.
  • Migration as a political issue is increasingly polarized through assumptions about gender and race. By critically displaying such assumptions, scholars can serve society with solid knowledge albeit highly politicized contexts. 
  • Scholars have a responsibility to help inform policy and the public about the implications of current politics. This will provide a base for images of the future. Researchers need to move out from their disciplinary environments and engage across disciplines, with stakeholders, NGOs, policy makers and migrant communities. 
  • Challenges such as migration make it even more evident that universities must strive to create and protect, critical and reflective thinking and interdisciplinary spaces that foster open and reflective academic dialogues.


See all the presentations form the Migration symposium here


Text by: Sune Sunesson and Mine Islar