In order to enable a systematic approach to the topic of study, MOVES will examine migration through five conceptual perspectives, each of which is explored in a single research work package (WP). Each ESR project will work on different elements of the overall project, with some focusing primarily on aspects of historical migration, and others on more recent and contemporary migration.

The principal methodology of all projects in these five research WPs is discourse analysis, an approach shared between the Humanities and Social Sciences, and capable of sustaining different theoretical underpinnings. Broadly defined, we understand discourse analysis as an umbrella term for the examination of the relations between various forms of textual, visual or material expression (statements, assertions, images, speech acts, memories, etc.) and the social and institutional structures which these discursive forms create and uphold. An 18th-century policy document, for example, can be seen as one particular discursive form, to be studied in combination with other statements – whether official or non-official; textual, visual or material – such as literary representations, news reports, or functional buildings, in order to examine the epistemological structures that governed the (often contradictory) forms of historical thinking on migration.

The main sources for the research will be archival and printed evidence in the form of historical documents, literary writings, official policies and statistics, news reports, private diaries, etc.; visual records, including art and sculpture, maps, caricature, graffiti, etc.; and documents of the built environment relevant to migration, such as urban layouts, purpose-built infrastructure, or transport facilities.

Work package 1, Contexts, deals with an individual’s initial reflections on potential mobility during the stage best described retrospectively as ‘pre-migration’. It will examine the motivations for mobility (fleeing inequality or persecution, seeking opportunity or freedom, escaping gender restrictions, departing voluntarily or involuntarily, etc.); the conditions in which these emerge; the factors which affect decisions to migrate, such as social class, gender, the intersections between the two; rural and urban distinctions; etc. Data such as population statistics, economic analyses, and personal accounts retrieved through diaries, letters and possibly court records will be brought into dialogue with fictional treatments of impending emigration.

Work package 2, Movements, deals with the physical migration of people, the passing from a ‘here’ to a ‘there’ in historical and contemporary contexts. It will analyse the means and forms of passing such as travel and voyaging (by sea or land, from rural to urban, etc.); the vehicles of travel (ships, horses, caravans, etc.); the actual experience of movement; historical forms of slavery, dislocation and displacement; etc. The recently identified trend of the ‘feminisation of migration’ (see Overview of the research programme) is especially emphasized. It is now clear that this trend results not only from a shift in women’s migration patterns, but represents a recognition among migration scholars that women are, and have long been, independent migrants. Sources such as passenger lists, local histories and private accounts will therefore be analysed specifically for evidence of female migration, identifying women’s migratory pathways during the period under study in specific projects.

Work package 3, Encounters, the first of two WPs dealing with integration, focuses on the first stage of settlement, the actual meeting between cultures. It will investigate the concept of the ‘contact zone’; friendly vs unfriendly encounters; gendered aspects of encounters; protocols and rituals of cross-cultural contact; cultural exchanges beyond trade; the figure of the go-between or cultural intermediary; cultural translation; etc. Projects will prioritize in particular the mutual interactions, and representations, of host and migrant communities, through studying historical and fact-based sources alongside fictional treatments and visual media.

Work package 4, Transformations, enquires into the transition to a more settled stage of integration by focusing on the consequences (both positive and negative) of the encounters between cultures. It will consider various historical forms of appropriation, assimilation, accommodation, innovation, interaction, hybridisation, miscegenation – in short, demonstrable forms of social, economic and cultural change resulting from migration, and how such change and transformations affects particular socio-economic classes and gender identities. Archival evidence of ‘outsiders’ living in societies that think of themselves as ethnically uniform will be analysed alongside the imaginative perspective on social change in literary works.

Work package 5, Narratives, deals with the ways in which migration and migrants are represented culturally in the enduring tales and images emerging from transnational mobility. The term ‘narrative’ is understood broadly to apply to verbal and visual depictions of what happened prior to, during, or after migration. The focus is on topics such as mythmaking, stereotypes, propaganda, literary fictions, etc, asking how such narratives differ on the basis of class and gender, and how they are absorbed by (or excluded from) national memory. Sources will include historiographical as well as fictional accounts, visual records in manuscript and print, and evidence of the continuation of specific narratives across different media.

Each ESR will be affiliated to the research WP in which their thesis is based, and all ESRs will be exposed to all five research WPs through participation in the project’s various training and research events.