Trinity 2021

The Politics of Emigration: Representations and contestations

Thursdays 4:00pm - 5:15pm

Convened by: COMPAS & SEESOX

International immigrants, by their mere act of crossing national borders, challenge ideologies which make claims for the territorial and ethnic boundedness of the national entity. They constitute ‘problematic exceptions’ to the nationalist image of normal life which prescribes that people should stay in the places where they belong, that is, in ‘their’ nation-states. There is abundant literature in migration studies that problematizes such ideologies for their detrimental impact on (prospective) immigrants in destination countries. However, there is much less attention on their role in informing emigration representations in countries of origin. Diaspora literature suggests that a shift has taken place in recent years with governments changing their narratives from denouncing emigrants as deserters, to celebrating them as an extension of the nation outside the state. To what extent can this be said to be true? What are the different actors shaping discourses on emigration in origin countries and how do these feed in on policies that aim to regulate exit and govern citizens abroad? How do emigrants respond to such representations?

In this series, COMPAS in cooperation with SEESOX, will be exploring these issues by looking at Central and East European cases and beyond

Co-convenors of this series are Manolis Pratsinakis, University of Oxford and Othon Anastasakis, University of Oxford. This is a joint series with South East European Studies at Oxford (SEESOX)


06 May

Emigration states, existential sovereignty, and migrant responses

Dace Dzenovska, University of Oxford
Elena Genova, University of Nottingham

Chair: Manolis Pratsinakis, University of Oxford

Watch the seminar here:

In her talk, Dace Dzenovska will elaborate the phenomenon of existential sovereignty on the basis of an analysis of how government and non-government actors handle the problem that post-Soviet freedom of movement introduces for the Latvian nation and the state. She argues that existential sovereignty is a re-territorialized claim to the coherence and continuity of a collective self through which individuals can pursue a variety of life projects. On the one hand, claims of existential sovereignty remain articulated with a territorial state, even if many of the individuals who constitute the sovereign subject do not live in it. On the other hand, existential sovereignty allows for the distribution of collective selfhood across territories of several historically existing states. In that sense, existential sovereignty entails a transfer of political sovereignty from a territorially defined state to a re-territorialized collective self that operates transnationally alongside corporations, international organizations, God, and other actors that compete for the status of the sovereign.

Elena Genova will focus on the politics of emigration in Bulgaria. Emigration has a strong discursive presence in the Bulgarian public space enveloped in nationalist discourses that often question migrants’ national identity and belonging. Her presentation has two key objectives. Firstly, it aims to explain how emigration is politicised in the Bulgarian public discourse and how this has informed state approaches to the Bulgarian diaspora. Secondly, it provides an insight into migrant responses to ‘othering’ discourses by drawing on empirical work conducted on a) Bulgarian highly skilled migrants and b) Bulgarian migrant workers’ experiences in Brexit Britain. In exploring the range of counterbalancing strategies that Bulgarian migrants in the UK use to reclaim their sense of national identity and belonging, the presentation raises a number of questions around the ways in which the rift between ‘stayers’ (non-migrants) and ‘leavers’ (migrants) can be reconciled.

About the speakers

Dace Dzenovska is Associate Professor in the Anthropology of Migration at the University of Oxford and the Principal Investigator of the EMPTINESS project. She holds doctoral and master’s degrees in Social Cultural Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley, as well as an interdisciplinary master’s degree in Humanities and Social Thought from New York University. Her research interests pertain to the changing relationships between people, territory, political authority, and capital in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Currently, she is researching the emptying towns and villages in Eastern Europe and Russia in order to understand what it means to live in and govern emptying places, as well as what such places can tell about how flows of capital and shifts in political authority are reconfiguring the world we live in.

Elena Genova is an Assistant Professor in Sociology at the School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Nottingham. Her research interests lie in intra-EU mobility, EU citizenship, identities and belonging, othering, integration and settlement. More specifically, she has extensively researched the Bulgarian (highly skilled) migration to the UK, focusing on migrant responses to othering discourses in both host and home societies. Her most recent (together with Dr Elisabetta Zontini) has looked at the integration and settlement of EU migrant workers in Brexit Britain.


27 May

Is emigration a blow to liberal democracy?

Speaker: Ivan Krastev, Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia

Othon Anastasakis, University of Oxford
Maria Koinova, University of Warwick

Chair: Jessie Barton Hronešová, University of Oxford

Watch the seminar here:

Since the collapse of communism most states in Central and South Eastern Europe experienced high numbers of emigration, especially among younger populations. The freedom of movement within the EU and the post-2008 financial crisis exacerbated these trends. This demographic decline and the fear of inward migration from third countries have given rise to illiberal populist and anti-immigration discourses as well as rhetoric against the West for draining the region of its most productive citizens. The seminar will be looking at emigration as a potential cause for the rise of illiberalism.

About the speaker & discussants

Ivan Krastev is the chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies and permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences, IWM Vienna. He is a founding board member of the European Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the Board of Trustees of The International Crisis Group and is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times. He is the author of Is it Tomorrow, Yet? How the Pandemic Changes Europe (Allen Lane, 2020); The Light that Failed: A Reckoning (Allen Lane, 2019), co-authored with Stephen Holmes – won the 30th Annual Lionel Gelber Prize; After Europe (UPenn Press, 2017); Democracy Disrupted. The Global Politics on Protest (UPenn Press, 2014) and In Mistrust We Trust: Can Democracy Survive When We Don’t Trust Our Leaders? (TED Books, 2013). Ivan Krastev is the winner of the Jean Améry Prize for European Essay Writing 2020.

Othon Anastasakis is the Director of  SEESOX; Senior Research Fellow at St Antony’s College; Associate at the Department of Politics and International Relations; Affiliate of the Centre for International Studies; Affiliate of the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies; former Director of the European Studies Centre, St Antony’s College, Oxford (July 2012-October 2015). He teaches “South East European politics and European integration” for the OSGA and “EU politics” for the Department of Continuing Education, Oxford. He is currently the Principal Investigator of two research projects: “Greek Diaspora Project at SEESOX”; and the OX/BER funded “Migration Diplomacy and Turkey-EU relations”. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada; Region Head of Europe in Oxford Analytica. He received his BA in Economics from the University of Athens, his MA in Comparative Politics and International Relations from Columbia University, New York and his PhD in Comparative Government from the London School of Economics. He holds additional degrees in French literature and politics from Paris IV and in Spanish literature, history and history of art from the Universidad Internacional Menendez Pelayo.

Prof. Maria Koinova is Professor in International Relations at the University of Warwick in the UK, and Associate Senior Fellow at the Centre for Global Cooperation Research in Germany. She is the author of the recently published book “Diaspora Entrepreneurs and Contested States” (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021) and of “Ethnonationalist Conflict in Postcommunist Word” (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013). Prof. Koinova is the author of numerous articles on diasporas, migration and conflict dynamics published in the European Journal of International Relations, International Studies Review, Review of International Studies, International Political Sociology, Foreign Policy Analysis, and other journals. As a result of the European Research Council grant “Diasporas and Contested Sovereignty” she directed as a Principal Investigator (2012-2017), she has edited or co-edited three special issues in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (2018), International Political Science Review (2018) and Ethnic and Racial Studies (2019). Prof. Koinova holds a Ph.D. degree from the European University Institute, and has had research fellowships at Harvard, Cornell, Dartmouth, Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars in Washington D.C, Kroc Institute on International Peace Studies, Dutch Institute for Advanced Studies and Uppsala University, among others. She was the co-founder and chair of the British International Studies Association’s working group on the “International Politics of Migration, Refugees and Diasporas” (2016-2020) and is currently directing a work package from the EU Jean Monnet network “Between the EU and Russia.”


03 June

Emigrants and emigration states: a contested relationship?

Speaker: Alexandra Délano Alonso, The New School, New York City

Discussant: Robin Cohen, University of Oxford

Chair: Manolis Pratsinakis, University of Oxford

Watch the seminar here:

In her presentation, Alexandra Délano Alonso will discuss diaspora policies focused on integration and the protection of social rights across borders. The evidence, based mainly on Mexico’s diaspora policies in the United States, engages a larger debate about transnational solidarity focused on equal access to rights from a perspective of shared responsibility and accountability. It considers examples of extension of rights and the expansion of concepts such as integration and citizenship in the context of diaspora policies, as innovative practices and discourses around migration that are being articulated, challenged, and imagined through interactions at multiple scales and across borders between migrants, states, and nonstate actors. The presentation juxtaposes these policies and practices against anti-immigrant discourse and xenophobia that have developed in parallel and examines alternative discourses and practices in response to it.

About the speakers

Alexandra Délano Alonso is Associate Professor and Chair of Global Studies at The New School and the current holder of the Eugene M. Lang Professorship for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring. She received her doctorate in International Relations from the University of Oxford. Her research focuses on diaspora policies, the transnational relationships between states and migrants, migration in the Central America-Mexico-US corridor, sanctuary, and the politics of memory in relation to borders and violence. She is the author of Mexico and its Diaspora in the United States (2011), From Here and There: Diaspora Policies, Integration and Social Rights beyond Borders (2018) and Brotes (2021). She is co-founder and former co-director of the Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility.

Robin Cohen is Emeritus Professor and Former Director of the International Migration Institute, University of Oxford. He is Senior Research Fellow at Kellogg College. He has held full professorships at the Universities of the West Indies and Warwick and taught also at the Universities of Ibadan, Birmingham, Stanford, Toronto and Berkeley. He served as Dean of Humanities at the University of Cape Town (2001/3) and directed the nationally designated UK Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations at Warwick (1985/9). His books include Refugia: Radical Solutions to Mass Displacement with Nicholas Van Hear, Migration: The Movement of Humankind from Prehistory to the Present, and Routledge Handbook of Diaspora Studies with Carolin Fischer. He has edited or co-edited 21 further volumes, particularly on the sociology and politics of developing areas, ethnicity, international migration, transnationalism and globalisation. His major works have been translated into Danish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese and Spanish.

Please note: Due to unavoidable circumstances, Roger Waldinger will not be able to join this seminar as advertised, however Robin Cohen will now be taking part.


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