BRIDGES releases its first academic publications on the concept of narratives and the historic evolution of narratives on migration


  • The first BRIDGES Working Paper carries out a historical analysis of the evolution of migration and integration narratives in Europe, focusing on the cases of France and the UK in the period ranging from the 1960s to the mid-1980s.
  • This historical analysis is complemented with a State of the Art that traces the emergence of the concept of narratives in different social sciences, including Sociology, Anthropology, Political Science, Psychology and Media Studies.


The H2020 BRIDGES project has just launched its first academic publications, which offer an overview of the emergence, uses and impact of the concept of migration narratives from an interdisciplinary perspective, and analyse their historical evolution. Together with the ‘Guidelines on how to include the gender perspective in the analysis of migration narratives’, authored by Berta Güell and Sònia Parella, these Working Papers set the conceptual and methodological basis that will guide the research activities of the project.

How have narratives on migration evolved over time?

Emmanuel Comte, Senior Research Fellow at the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB), tries to answer this question in his ‘Historical analysis of the migration and integration narratives’, which focuses on the evolution of migration narratives in France and the UK in the period ranging from the 1960s to the mid-1980s. In this Working Paper, he identifies five prominent transnational narratives that were used to justified restrictions against immigrants from the Global South during this period. 

These are: the invasion narrative, the difference narrative, the humanitarian narrative, the oil-shock narrative, and the crisis narrative. He concludes that the humanitarian narrative – presenting migrants as victims to protect – and the crisis narrative – putting forward insurmountable economic difficulties to curb immigration – became the most successful to justify state intervention to restrict immigration as they matched native workers’ concerns while minimising disturbances within destination countries.


And what do we mean by ‘narrative’?

From its initial emergence in social science and humanities literature in the 1960s and 1970s, literature on narratives has now burgeoned, becoming one of the most influential approaches to studying communication and behaviour in contemporary societies. Migration has indeed become a key site for the study of narratives, given its salience in media and political debate, and the social tendencies and political incentives to construct migration in particular ways.

This Working Paper on ‘The emergence, uses and impacts of narratives on migration’ traces the emergence of the concept; analyses their psychological, social and political functions; and the factors influencing their spread and prevalence; as well as how they are applied to the study of migration. This is done from an interdisciplinary perspective, including insights from Sociology, Anthropology, Political Science, Social Psychology and Media Studies.

This is a joint publication coordinated by Professor Christina Boswell and Research Fellow Saskia Smellie, from the University of Edinburgh (UEDIN); with contributions by Marcello Maneri and Andre Pogliano, Research Affiliates at the Forum Internazionale ed Europeo di Ricerche sull’Immigrazione (FIERI); Verónica Benet-Martínez, ICREA Researcher Professor at Pompeu Fabra University (UPF); and Blanca Garcés-Mascareñas and Berta Güell, BRIDGES coordinators at the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB).


BRIDGES: Assessing the production and impact of migration narratives” is a project funded by the Horizon 2020 EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation and implemented by a diverse consortium of 12 universities, think tanks, research centres, cultural associations, and civil society organisations from all over Europe under the coordination of CIDOB.

Visit the project’s website to check out all publications and outputs. Subscribe to the  newsletter to get the latest updates inbox, and follow the BRIDGES TwitterInstagram and YouTube channels to learn more about the project’s activities.


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