Recent political and economic crises have destabilised various regions across the globe. When institutional politics fail, people can choose to ‘vote with their feet’, either by protesting and/or migrating. We have seen both mass protest and out-migration among post-communist countries in Eastern Europe, post-authoritarian countries in Latin America and post-colonial countries in the Middle East and North Africa (CNTS 2016; IOM 2016). The interrelationship of migration and protest has real world impact; changes in EU foreign policy (Ukrainian protests in 2013-14 resulted in confrontation between the EU and Russia), the content of national electoral campaigns (MENA migration influencing German/French electoral rhetoric), the dynamics of EU integration (views of immigration shaping Brexit), and US politics (the border wall with Mexico).
While the relationship between protest and migration has been theorised at the macro-level (De Haas and Sigona 2012) it is rarely studied at the individual level (Hirschman 1993). This is remarkable given that the theoretical and empirical expectations as to what drives both migration and protest overlap significantly. Coordinated research on protest and migration is urgently needed. We will explore the individual-level choices that citizens face in the contemporary political economy. Our central research question asks: when the state fails to respond to the economic or political needs of citizens, why do some people mobilise by protesting in the streets while others ‘mobilise’ by crossing borders? And how do the choices of protest and out-migration relate to each other? The choice between migration and protest may not be dichotomous. Protest may beget migration and vice versa. Although most people are unlikely to engage in either, among those who do mobilise, protesters feeling disappointed by, or fearful of, repression may decide to migrate abroad. Once abroad, migrants may participate in origin country focused protests, and returned migrants may join protests at home. Regular contact with migrants abroad might also encourage protest activity among family members and friends left behind.While there is a large body of research on the micro-foundations of protest mobilization at home (Beissinger 2013; Gould 1993; Muller and Opp 1986; Onuch 2014a; Opp 1990; Snow et al.. 1980; J. A. Tucker 2007), the drivers of international migration (Castles, Haas, and Miller 2013; Cooray and Schneider 2016; Garip 2016; Massey et al. 1993, 1999; Toma and Vause 2014), and the political engagement of migrants on homeland issues (Ahmadov and Sasse 2016; Bloemraad and Trost 2008; Burgess 2012; Chaudhary 2017; Klandermans, van der Toorn, and van Stekelenburg 2008; Lafleur and Sanchez- Dominguez 2015), there is none on the initial choice between protest or migration. We do not know how the decision to protest might be influenced by migration, or vice versa, or whether individuals make some well-defined cognitive trade-off between protest and migration (and non-action), or whether the process is more complicated and endogenous. We will study protest and migration concurrently and comparatively across space and time, in origin and destination countries, the first major inter-disciplinary and cross- national comparative study to do so. We build on two theoretical foundations: contentious politics with its emphasis on the determinants of protest behaviour, and migration research on the drivers of out-migration as well as migrant transnational engagement. This combined theoretical framework allows a focus on three levels of analysis; a) the individual-level – investigating whether similar factors drive the choice to migrate and/or protest; b) the macro-level – assessing how context affects this mobilisation; c) and the meso-level – analysing whether these two phenomena are independent of each other, mutually reinforcing or undermining. By confronting theories on migration with those on protest, the project will make a major contribution to theory development in both fields of study.MOBILISE employs a multi-method (nationally representative face-to-face panel surveys, online migrant surveys, protest participant surveys, focus groups, life-history interviews, social media analysis) and multi-sited research design. It covers Ukraine, Poland, Morocco, Argentina and Belarus, which have all recently witnessed both large-scale emigration and protest mobilization. It follows migrants from these countries to Germany, the UK and Spain. This novel and comprehensive approach will provide us with a holistic perspective on the micro-foundations of both migration and protest, allowing us to understand empirically what leads people to engage in these two types of mobilization (or not to engage in them). The project offers four key innovations: 1) it conceptually and empirically combines protest and migration; 2) it captures the relevant groups for the comparison (protesters, migrants, migrant protesters and people who have neither engaged in migration nor protest); 3) it tracks individuals over time employing a panel survey method (re-interviewing the same individuals); 4) its mixed-method design includes the use of social media data providing information on the role of networks and political remittances in real time.