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Each year the international network of University-based Institutes for Advanced Study (UBIAS) selects a ‘Topic of the Year’; a topic of global importance that is explored through different activities and formats. In 2019 the Topic of the Year is: Migration.


About the topic: Migration

The question of migration is not only timely politically and culturally, it also challenges received methods of social research. Migration is at once a historical constant, a social predicament, a political gambit, a human rights emergency, a geo-political trend, an economic calculus, a literary trope, a highly mediatized phenomenon, and more. If the terrain of various “migration/refugee crises” is constituted by statistics, law, testimonies, reportage, and a flood of media coverage all at once, it also demands research methods and outputs that are equally interdisciplinary. In particular—given that the face of various “migrant/refugee crises” is profoundly shaped by data (on the one hand) and iconic images (on the other)—the fields of “digital humanities” and “research-creation’ (or art/science research) are particularly well equipped to turn their attention to the questions raised by the movement of populations across the globe. Research on this topic could then not only substantively address a major predicament of the 21st century, but methodologically develop and elaborate new methods for interdisciplinary advanced study more generally.

Another increasingly crucial topic to explore is the nexus between human migration and climate change. Are two of the most daunting challenges of our time indelibly intertwined? Increasingly, evidence points to a causal linkage with climate change and natural disasters driving to some degree the flow of migrants and refugees on the world stage. How have desertification, droughts, flooding and rising sea levels impacted the movement of human populations, and what can we expect in the near future? What evidence is there that climate change works as a “threat multiplier” for additional risks on the global stage? A less explored angle on this environment/migration connection concerns contrasting dispositions held towards the environment by immigrants versus non-immigrants. How might the perception of environmental risk lessen with time spent in a country with both great wealth and high levels of social inequality? How does awareness of the threat to the world’s ecosystems posed by climate change vary with acculturation to dominant consumer expectations, including diet, residential patterns, and transportation?

Finally, the involved large-scale population movements and the subsequent expected rising density in urban areas also raise obvious public health questions, the migrant populations being generally the most vulnerable components of societies. Rigorous theoretical and empirical studies of the health, demography and behavioral ecology of migrants are therefore eagerly needed not only for academic purposes but also to guide health policies towards these populations. Needless to say, this concerns not only human biology but also mental health issues, especially given the new patterns of migration. (Source: UBIAS)

About the UBIAS network

UBIAS stands for “University-Based Institutes for Advanced Study”. The UBIAS network was initiated in 2010. The network, that now comprises 44 members, was established to enable structured forms of exchange between UBIAS institutes worldwide, including biennial conferences and joint programmes.