Future Migration as Present Fact (FUMI)

Future Migration as Present Fact (FUMI)
Led by Jørgen Carling
Dec 2018 - Dec 2023

Project summary

The springboard for this project is a striking statistic: half of all young adults in West Africa wish to leave their own country and settle elsewhere. Yet, the vast majority never depart. This discrepancy raises a fundamental question: if migration is desired, but never materializes, what are the consequences? The project breaks with traditional approaches by shifting the object of study from observed migration in the present to imagined migration in the future. Although such future migration might never occur, it materializes in thoughts, feelings, communication, and behaviour at present. Young people's priorities are informed by the futures they imagine, and their lives can thus be formed by migration that is imagined but never achieved. Framing the issue in this way renews research on the precursors of migration and opens up a new chapter about the links between migration and development.

The project is guided by the following research question: How does migration that has not yet taken place shape the lives of individuals and the development of societies?

This question is addressed through a research design that weaves together three streams: theory development, ethnographic fieldwork, and sample surveys. In this way, the project aims for deep mixed-methods integration. The project's empirical focus is West Africa, where migration desires are particularly widespread, and internal socio-economic variation can be exploited for theoretical purposes. We collect data in Cape Verde, The Gambia, and Ghana.

FUMI is a European research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant project, awarded on the basis of 'scientific excellence' as the sole criterion. This funding supports research of a ground-breaking nature. FUMI invests in theoretical and methodological development attuned to a poorly understood aspect of global migration challenges, and in this way aims to have a sustained impact on migration research. The project is set within interdisciplinary migration studies, anchored in human geography and supported by related disciplines including anthropology, economics, and sociology.

Jørgen Carling, Tone Sommerfelt, Mathilde B. Mjelva and Maryam Aslany during fieldwork in Ghana. Photo: Efo Mawuli

The core project team consists of the Principal Investigator (Jørgen Carling) and two Senior Researchers (Maryam Aslany and Tone Sommerfelt), in addition to research assistants. The three senior members will work closely together, using their complementary methodological and theoretical expertise to address a common set of questions. 

For survey data collection in West Africa, we collaborate with PD Consult (Cape Verde), Centre for Research and Policy Development (The Gambia) and Kantar Ghana (Ghana).


FUMI has received funding under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, grant agreement n° 819227. 

Research Groups


Book Chapter

Carling, Jørgen (2020) Two-step approaches and the concept of aspirations in migration theory, in Vezzoli, Simona; & Hein de Haas, eds, Renewing the migration debate. Building disciplinary and geographical bridges to explain global migration (KNAW Academy Colloquium). Amsterdam: The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and the International Migration Institute (IMI) (37–45).

PRIO Paper

Carling, Jørgen (2019) Pathways to an ERC Grant: Learning from Success and Failure, PRIO Paper. Oslo: PRIO.