14/12/2022 – UNU-MERIT/MACIMIDE Migration Seminar on “Daring to aspire: Violence, life aspirations and displacement trajectories in civil war contexts”

In our next UNU-MERIT & MACIMIDE Migration Seminar, we will welcome Dr. Lea Müller-Funk (Department of Migration and Globalisation at Danube University Krems, Austria) to our online seminar series. Dr. Müller-Funk will present us with a seminar, entitled Daring to aspire: Violence, life aspirations and displacement trajectories in civil war contexts on (im)mobility decisions in civil war settings.


While it is widely acknowledged that conflict is one of the main determinants of forced migration, existing studies fail to explain why not all people exposed to violence flee. It remains rather unclear (i) how displacement journeys are undertaken across internal and external borders, (ii) how the subjective experience of violence influences migration-decision making in displacement contexts, and (iii) how these experiences interact with other factors, including life aspirations. Drawing on empirical data from the civil wars in Syria and Libya since 2011 the talk seeks to build a better understanding of (im)mobilities in civil war settings. I will first reflect conceptually on aspirations in contexts of displacement by asking what they do to aspirations and capabilities. Binary distinctions between refugees and economic migrants keep prevailing in humanitarian discourse, with recent international agreements and much literature on refugees’ experiences heavily focusing on their vulnerabilities and reduced choices. As a result, aspirations – arguably one of the most evident manifestations of agency – of displaced people are often under investigated. The talk then demonstrates that different types of violent experiences—personal threats, generalized violence, an increasing hopelessness relating to the absence of violence in the future—trigger different exit movements across internal and external borders. Second, the analysis shows that migration decisions in civil war contexts are complex processes with people balancing between strategies of how to avoid violence with strategies of how to realize broader life aspirations related to love, work, and political change. Life aspirations often play a more important role once people move out of a situation of immediate danger and in later phases of flight trajectories. Life aspirations also outweigh perceptions of violence in some cases. The analysis is based on 91 qualitative interviews with Syrians and Libyans living in different parts of Syria, Lebanon, Libya, and Tunisia conducted between 2018 and 2021.


When? Wednesday, 14 December between 14.00-15.00 CET

Where? It can be attended here.

Event page: For more information, click here.