Theorizing the Evolution of European Migration Systems (THEMIS)

Theorizing the Evolution of European Migration Systems (THEMIS)


THEMISTHEMIS takes a fresh look at how patterns of migration to Europe develop, focusing on the conditions that encourage initial moves by pioneer migrants to become established migration systems (or not). Based on field research, it aims to bridge the theories on the initiation and continuation of migration, and to integrate the concept of agency in a systems theory approach.

Book now for ‘Examining Migration Dynamics – Networks and Beyond’ – a major THEMIS international conference, Oxford, 24 – 26 September 2013. Reduced fees for early registration end 31 May. 


It is sometimes suggested that migration patterns evolve following a trajectory where individuals start to move from one country to another, and over time, more people join them: once a critical mass is reached, that migration flow expands rapidly. However, there is not enough evidence to back up this theory of migration dynamics partly because studies to date have tended to focus either on the ‘root causes’ of migration or on the reasons why migration processes gain momentum and become established migration systems. A related issue is lack of theory to explain why many initial pioneer migration movements do notset in motion self-reinforcing migration dynamics. Current theories also fail to explain adequately the stagnation and weakening of established migration systems.

The THEMIS international project team are carrying out a thorough investigation into what makes people decide to migrate, why some of those initial moves to Europe result in the formation of significant migration systems, and why some migration processes simply tail off or stagnate. This involves a comparative study of the evolution of migrant groups following different migration trajectories from several regions of 3 origin countries (Brazil, Morocco and Ukraine ) to selected cities in 4 destination countries (UK, Norway, the Netherlands and Portugal).

Research Partners and Team

The THEMIS project is co-ordinated by the International Migration Institute at the University of Oxford, and conducted with three main collaborating project partners:

The Principal Investigator is Dr Oliver Bakewell, IMI.

See our THEMIS project team page for a full listing of team members, including details of lead researchers in Brazil, Morocco, and Ukraine.

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