Successful collaboration begins with a shared language, hence the need for a glossary. This joint effort of contributors from several teams ensures, on the one hand, terminological and conceptual coherence across not only our theoretical approaches, but also the qualitative case studies and quantitative research conducted in OPPORTUNITIES. On the other hand, our glossary facilitates communication between the academic side of the project and the fieldwork conducted by NGOs, uniting our teams working from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ghana, Italy, Mauritania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania and Senegal.

For more information about the Structure and Objectives of the Glossary, click here...)

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Race and racism


The concept of ‘race’ in English language has changed throughout history.  According to the Shorter Oxford Dictionary (SOD, 1973) race (race in French, or razza in Italian) enters English language in 16th century describing ‘a group of persons, animals, or plants, connected by common descent or origin.’ (P. 1735) There is no reference to biological  or other differences such as colour of skin in this definition. By the late 18th century ‘race’ becomes ‘one of the great division of mankind, having certain physical peculiarities in common.’ (Ibid, p. 1735) The latter reflects, alas in a destructive way, the influence of scientific methods  of observation and categorisation of enlightenment and modernism. The early ‘scientific’ and superficial categorisation of humankind by physical markers of colour of skin and other physical features have been debunked by genetics and the fact that humankind share the same genetic make-up. ‘Race’ should therefore be treated as a social construct and as such has often been used as a basis for division of people into hierarchies of different categories and groups, and for labelling people as the ‘other’ and most destructively for discrimination against them – racism.



According to Merriam Webster Dictionary (MWD, 2022) racism is:

‘1a. a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race

1b. behavior or attitudes that reflect and foster this belief: racial discrimination or prejudice

2a. the systemic oppression of a racial group to the social, economic, and political advantage of another

2b. a political or social system founded on racism and designed to execute its principles’

The narrative of ‘race’ in the definition 1.a presents ‘race’ as ‘a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities’ with its implied hierarchy of races and superiority . This is the narrative that still dominates popular views of race and racism and has led to anti-discrimination and anti-racism legislations and conventions such as the 1965 UN International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination that entered into force in 1969. It defines ‘racial discrimination’:

‘as any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin that has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.’

An important aspect of the challenge to racism in any society, including anti-racism and anti-discrimination campaigns and legislation, is to go beyond individual level prejudice and discrimination, that requires in addition to legislation engagement at cultural level, and focus on structural and institutional foundation of racism. [1]

References and further reading: 

  • Gilroy. P. (2000) Between Camps: Nations, Cultures and the Allure of Race. London, UK: Routledge.
  • Penket, L. (2006) ‘Racism and social policy’, in M. Lavalette and A. Pratt, eds. (2006) Social Policy: Theories, Concepts and Issues. London, UK: Sage Publications Ltd.
  • SOD (1973) Shorter Oxford Dictionary on Historical Principles. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • MWD (2022) Mirram Webster Dictionary. [Accessed: 23 September 2022]

 [1] For an excellent introduction to racism and its variation during important historical periods related to slavery, imperialism in the 19th and 20th centuries and post-second world war migration see Penket (2006).

Category: A/D

Work Package: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

[MM]/ [MD]


In the OPPORTUNITIES project, re-enactment refers to the process of retelling migrant narratives. During Cross Talk events, NGOs and citizens re-tell testimonials of migrants and refugees to establish a connection between in-groups and out-groups. Re-enactment requires both empathy, i.e. each participant’s willingness to listen to the others’ stories and to take their perspectives; and political listening to understand the other’s situation (e.g. an individual’s motivation and reasons for migration). It is through such means of recognition that the process of re-enactment enables migrants and refugees to assume agency in the public sphere.

⇢ see also agency, Cross Talk, empathy, empowerment, narrative agency, recognition

Category: C

Work Package: 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8

[CG / MD]


Recognition is an act of appreciation; in contact zones, where asymmetrical relationships dominate, the principle of recognition calls for affirmative action and empowerment. Advocating recognition and an ethics of listening is the starting point for a new narrative on migration, one which transforms the debate on migration into a conversation with migrants and refugees.

⇢ see also agency, fair dialogue, ethics of listening, multiperspectivity, polyphony

Category: B

Work Package: 2, 3, 5, 6, 7

[CG / RS]


For legal definitions of the term refugee, see the respective entry in the European Migration Network (EMN) Glossary provided by the European Commission. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) broadly defines refugees as “people who have fled war, violence, conflict or persecution and have crossed an international border to find safety in another country” (2021b, n. p.). Such forcefully displaced migrants “are defined and protected in international law and must not be expelled or returned to situations where their life and freedom are at risk” (UNHCR 2021a, n. p.). Refugees do not leave their home country of their own accord but because they have no other choice.

⇢ see also asylum; asylum seeker, expatriate, forced migration or displacement, migrant, economic migrant, labour migrant

References and further reading:

European Commission. 2020. European Migration Network (EMN) Glossary. URL: Date of access: August 24, 2021.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). 2021a. “Refugees.” UNHCR: The UN Refugee Agency. URL: Date of access: August 24, 2021.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). 2021b. “What Is a Refugee?” UNHCR: The UN Refugee Agency. URL: Date of access: August 24, 2021.

Category: D, E

Work Package: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8



Remittance is any good or money that a migrant sends back to his or her family or friends back in their home country or place of origin. For further details on the amount and importance of remittance, see Ratha 2005 as well as the explications and discussions provided on the Migration Data Portal and the World Bank website.

References and further reading:

Category: A

Work Package: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8


Representation of migration

Representations of migration and mobility or migrants and other mobile individuals (see “Figure of the migrant”) can be found in a wide range of discourses, media, and genres. These include literary texts (e.g. novels, short stories, plays; see also “Fictions of migration”), non-fiction books, newspaper articles, policy narratives and political speeches, as well as feature films and TV series. Discourses of migration frequently draw on narrative as a dominant mode of representation. The main reason for this is probably that narrative may appeal to audiences differently than other modes of representation (e.g., argument, description, or explanation). Psychologists and media theorists have repeatedly argued that “stories have the power to influence minds and motivate action” (Bech Sillesen et al. 2015, n. p.), as they evoke empathy by causing their audiences to become emotionally involved with the characters presented in these stories (see Green and Brock 2000). This ‘strategy of affect’ is particularly effective in stories presenting vulnerable, marginalized, or even stigmatized groups such as migrants, refugees, or asylum seekers (see Oliver et al. 2012).

⇢ see also empathy, fictions of migration, figure of the migrant, narrative, narratives of migration, narratives on migration

References and further reading:

  • Bech Sillesen, Lene, Chris Up, and David Uberti. 2015. “Journalism and the Power of Emotions.” CJR: Columbia Journalism Review May/June 2015. URL: Date of access: August 24, 2021.
  • Green, Melanie C., and Timothy C. Brock. 2000. “The Role of Transportation in the Persuasiveness of Public Narratives.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 79.5: 701–721.
  • Juvonen, Annimari, and Verena Lindemann Lino, eds. 2021. Negotiations of Migration: Reexamining the Past and Present in Contemporary Europe. Berlin and Boston, MA: De Gruyter.
  • Oliver, Mary Beth, James Price Dillard, Keunmin Bae, and Daniel J. Tamul. 2012. “The Effect of Narrative News Format on Empathy for Stigmatized Groups.” Journalism & Mass Communication Quaterly 89.2: 205–224.

Category: A

Work Package: 2, 4, 5, 8


Representative thinking

Cross Talks are based on the idea of “representative thinking,” a concept originally proposed by Hannah Arendt (2006 [1986]): “I form an opinion by considering a given issue from different viewpoints, by making present to my mind the standpoints of those who are absent; that is, I represent them. The more people’s standpoints I have present in my mind while I am pondering a given issue, and the better I can imagine how I would feel and think if I were in their place, the stronger will be my capacity for representative thinking and more valid my final conclusions, my opinion.” (Arendt 2006 [1968], 241) Participants in Cross Talk events who lack any migration or refugee experience (i.e. NGOs, citizens, or other stakeholders) enact or re-tell testimonials of migration and refugeedom to understand, and maybe even adopt, migrants’ and refugees’ perspectives. This process of re-enactment creates common ground between the performer and the migrant or refugee, thus opening a window of opportunity for a fair dialogue between the performer, the migrant, and the public.

⇢ see also Cross Talk, empathy, perspective taking, recognition

References and further reading:

Arendt, Hannah. 2006 [1968]. Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought. London et al.: Penguin Books.

Category: C

Work Package: 2, 3, 5, 6, 7



As a noun, risk is defined as a situation involving danger or “([e]xposure to) the possibility of loss, injury, or other adverse or unwelcome circumstance” (cf. the entry in the Oxford English Dictionary). Risk as a verb means ‘to endanger; to expose to the possibility of injury, death, or loss; to put at risk” (cf. the entry in the Oxford English Dictionary). In both senses a ‘risk’ situation implies the chance of a potential loss. Note that risk is different from uncertainty, which describes a situation in which you are not certain about future outcomes. Migration involves various risks as well as uncertainty in relation to questions of travel/route, income, unemployment at destination, poverty, cultural shocks, discrimination, etc. (for further discussions of risk in migration studies see the respective entries provided by the International Organization for Migration Williams and Balaz 2012).

⇢ see also migration

References and further reading:

  • The International Organization for Migration. 2021. “Migration and Risks.” IOM: International Organization for Migration. URL: Date of access: August 24, 2021.
  • Williams, Allan, and Vladimir Balaz. 2012. “Migration, Risk, and Uncertainty: Theoretical Perspectives.” Population Space and Place 18.2: 167–180.

Category: A

Work Package: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8


Rural-urban migrant

The term rural-urban migrant is used to designate any person who migrates from a rural location to the city. In recent years, African cities seem to serve as springboards for migrants heading for other countries in Africa and beyond.

⇢ see also migrant

References and further reading:

Tandian, Aly. 2013. “Nouvelles figures des migrations au Sénégal : Quand les migrants internes et internationaux se côtoient.” Blocs 1 (May 2013). URL: Date of access: August 24, 2021.

Tandian, Aly. 2018. “Migrer pour une réussite évidente : la construction de routes migratoires à partir de représentations.” Série Anthropologie 3 (November 2018): 106– 114.

Category: A

Work Package: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8