Publication details

Boundaries and Boundary Work as Conceptual Tools in Studying Attitudes towards Migrants

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Year of publication 2021
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Social Studies

Description While there is a flourishing body of research that examines attitudes towards migrants using quantitative methodologies, considerably less work has been conducted to explore such attitudes from a qualitative perspective. We argue that a more situated qualitative approach can help to move beyond mere categorization of people as those either in favor of migration or opposed to it and help to elucidate the meaning-making processes that stand behind the formation of migration attitudes. Individuals as well as social groups use available cultural repertoires of meanings to make sense of the world around them and draw symbolic boundaries between “us” and “them.” Paying attention to the cultural processes underlying this boundary work can thus uncover a full range of attitudes together with their possible nuances. In response to this deficiency, we introduce a novel research framework for studying migration attitudes that conjoins the theoretical perspective of symbolic boundaries and boundary work with mixed-methods qualitative methodologies, particularly individual interviews, focus groups, and content analysis of media coverage. We test the utility of this framework in our research on migration attitudes in the Czech Republic, which is a country with rather low levels of migration but a high presence of the topic on the political agenda and extremely heated public debates, especially since the “refugee crisis” of 2015. The aim of our contribution is twofold: 1. to introduce our framework and critically discuss its utility in doing research on migration attitudes, reflecting particularly on our experience from fieldwork; 2. to open a broader methodological discussion on the utility of qualitative research methods in studies on migration attitudes and the challenges of using such methods during pandemic and post-pandemic times.
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