Poles in Iceland (2): Anthropological Contribution, the Method and the Data

The project on Poles in Iceland includes: contributing to migration scholarship; employing the multi-sited ethnography; ensuring rich empirical findings; and providing analytic insights to a wider scientific discussion.

Anthropological contribution to migration scholarship. Research on migration continues to be dominated by economics, demography and sociology, which usually focus on macro levels of analysis and calculable factors of mobility, neglecting at the same time, the importance of individual life stories and diverse forms of belonging that go beyond traditional conceptualizations and the boundaries of nation-states. Obviously, such approaches have their own merits and contribute to migration studies by mapping particular flows, presenting historical and contemporary migratory trends, and projecting their trajectories. However, I argue that it is also important to employ a more local, emplaced, and collaborative approach to migrants and migration phenomena in order to recognize, explore, and ultimately scrutinize the significant, but often concealed, issues that are relevant for individuals living mobile lives. Anthropology gives a unique perspective and the apparatus to interpret and analyze the nuanced details that are always attached to each migration story.

The method. The research idea is to move beyond the binary thinking about migration and stasis by introducing both of these concepts as interconnected and interdependent. In other words, it neither normalizes the relationship between people and places nor naturalizes the very movement of people (Glick Schiller & Salazar 2013). The movement and the stasis are relational and define each other resulting in a different reflections and incorporations of migratory experiences into particular senses of stability, fixity of place and the concepts of ‘being home’ and ‘being away’. The increasing interconnections between and among people ‘on the move’ and people ‘in place’ require therefore a different approach. I plan to use multi-sited ethnography, a method of data collection that allows researchers to follow a topic or social problem through different field sites and analytically explore transnational processes, groups of people in motion, and ideas that extend over multiple locations (Marcus 1995). In the context of the proposed study, the multi-sited ethnographic approach will allow me to explore migrants labour market participation and the use of mobility in their livelihoods. The proposed project will consider the different trajectories of Polish migration and their effects on both destination and origin communities.

Rich empirical data. Most research on contemporary post-accession migration from Poland focuses on the UK, Holland or Germany to the detriment of studying new destinations such as Iceland. Importantly, there are not enough studies available on Polish migrants’ strategies of response and adaptation to the aftermath of economic crisis as well as its effects on migration projects in both sending and receiving communities. There is also lack of ethnographic data on migration from Poland, which would be based on long term fieldwork and participant observation.

Case study. The research will have a form of case study and will be an important contribution to contemporary analysis on the interdependencies between migration patterns and economic crisis. The rich empirical data may be used to compare the findings with other migratory flows, showing the mechanisms of adaptation to the aftermath of economic collapse, strategies of response and labour market participation. Project’s outcomes will contribute to a wider scientific debates on the proposed subject matter.



Glick Schiller N., Salazar N.B. (2013) ‘Regimes of Mobility Across the Globe’, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 39(2), pp. 183-200.

Marcus, G. (1995) ‘Ethnography in/of the World System: The Emergence of Multi-Sited Ethnography’, Annual Review of Anthropology, No 24, pp. 95-117.


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