Routed Magazine

Articles from Discussing Displacement’s collaboration with Routed Magazine on ‘The Language of Migration’

The words we use shape our understanding of the world. Through language, we construct our perceptions of complex realities and position ourselves toward them: we relate, we reach out, we reclaim, and we reject. When it comes to the language used to define, represent or discuss migration and (im)mobility, there are multiple actors that develop sometimes competing narratives and vocabularies. Migrants, institutions, policymakers, the media, advocacy groups and academics all participate in creating diverse languages of migration, with various effects, which over time change, spill over, adapt, and keep redrawing the lines of inclusion and exclusion.

This issue is the product of a collaboration between Routed Magazine and Discussing Displacement. Both publications share the common goals of facilitating access to knowledge on the field of migration and mobility, and making critical perspectives and diverse voices more approachable to our readers, one article at a time. With this aim of openness and proximity, we have also taken this special joint issue as an opportunity to reflect on our own use and production of mobility-related language and narratives.

In this issue, we examine the origins, implications and shortcomings of concepts from ‘internally displaced person’ and ‘climate refugee’, to ‘expatriate’ and ‘remittances’. Discrimination against migrants and even criminalisation can stem from the connotations and meanings of the words used to refer to migrants in host societies, as well as institutional discourses on ‘safe migration’ seeking to enforce immobility. At the same time, linguistic innovation at the institutional level has the potential to create more inclusive societies.

Reflecting on the self-perceptions of receiving societies, we also examine the legal roots and implications of being a ‘guest’ in Jordan, the role of previously arrived migrants in hosting newcomers, and the Turkish concept of ‘God’s Guest’.

Academia, in conversation with policy, understands migration through theoretical and empirical frameworks in constant development, from migrancy to transnationalism. Academic perspectives, however, also have to fight their own biases, such as the methodological nationalism that often impregnates integration research and the gender bias behind concepts such as ‘care drain’.

Migrants create, share and advocate for a vocabulary that fits their own experiences, as a form of community-building, heritage, or resistance. Latinx migrants in the US and sub-Saharan migrants in Morocco have their own vocabulary to name and describe their experiences with law enforcement and their migration journeys, while Cameroonian aspiring migrants and returnees frame their migration as an adventure. Terms such as ‘migrant domestic worker’ make a difference for migrants’ claims to labour rights in Hong Kong. Migrant voices often go unheard, but they are key to understanding their needs and accomplishments, from Filipina migrants in Bangkok and Manila during the pandemic to Indonesian LGBTQ+ migrants in France.

Through literature, migrant authors such as Behrouz Boochani contest mainstream narratives of migration, challenging refugee detention systems and exposing how differently time works during prolonged experiences of mobility and immobility.

This issue also brings you three pieces that go beyond the language of migration: an insight into the current migration of Indian Jews to Israel; the testimony of an Indian student living in Japan through the pandemic; and a recollection of best practices in integration policy from the Brazilian city of São Paulo.

We would like to thank the whole team at Routed for offering their support, guidance and enthusiasm when compiling this issue. It has been a joy to work with such fantastic and supportive friends. As always, thank you to all the writers who have shared their research and experiences; and to you, our reader. We wish you a pleasant reading!

The Spatial Language of Migration

Burcu Ateş As probably for almost anyone communicating in a context ‘foreign’ to their native language, writing in a second language has always been challenging for me. Given that I am unfortunately unable to know my mother tongueContinue reading “The Spatial Language of Migration”


The Estranged Song

Dipsita Dhar Migration discourses have mostly revolved around economics or, more recently, legality. However, questions around non-economic opportunity cost are not discussed enough. In South Asia’s developing countries, internal and international migration have been shaped by the economicContinue reading “The Estranged Song”


Corrie Macleod What do you see when you read the word ‘expatriate’?  A well-dressed, young multilingual European man with a tertiary education and lofty career ambitions? What about ‘migrant’?  A desperate father crossing the English Channel in damp,Continue reading “Expatriate”


Daniella Espacio The first thing that commonly comes to mind when one hears the word ‘remittance’ is money. Remittances are a significant part of a migrant’s migration cycle or ‘journey’. In fact, many families and individuals rely on remittancesContinue reading “Remittances”

Terms of Migration

Lucia Chiurco In recent years, the topic of international mobility has received a high level of mediatisation, whilst levels of hostility, discrimination, racial harassment and hate speech towards people with a migrant background are growing alarmingly in manyContinue reading “Terms of Migration”

Hybrid Hosts

Caroline Lenette We often speak of ‘host communities’ when discussing displacement and migration in research, policy and practice. The term usually refers to citizens or established communities in countries and neighbourhoods who host new arrivals, including refugee-background individuals and families.Continue reading “Hybrid Hosts”


Renato Galhardi Migrancy is a ubiquitous concept in migration analysis. But what do scholars mean when they use migrancy? And, maybe more importantly, what is migrancy? By retracing the meanings embedded in the first usages of migrancy, it becomes clear that migrancyContinue reading “Migrancy”

God’s Guest

Damla Mursül The sayings, proverbs and cultural myths of a society reflect its values and traditions. People live through these legends and believe in their authenticity, but do not always act in accordance with them. Many people useContinue reading “God’s Guest”

Migrant Transnationalism

Katherine Lao To put it simply, migrant transnationalism is the connections and interactions migrants maintain across state borders. These can range from maintaining their relationships with families, friends, and communities left behind, to participating in faith-based organisations, clubs,Continue reading “Migrant Transnationalism”

Brain Drain/Care Drain

Yurdum Cokadar Despite the increasing feminisation of labour migration, women migrants are understudied in skilled migration research. Some conceptual developments reducing migrant women’s roles to household and/or family in migration studies have contributed to this invisibility of highlyContinue reading “Brain Drain/Care Drain”


Marlene Gärtner Emotionally charged narratives about mobility and respective immobilities produce an endless array of meanings, judgements, and labels. Through framing in politics and media, complex realities are reduced to a point where only a few figures andContinue reading “Bushfalling”

‘Climate Refugees’

Rachael Diniega & Daniela Paredes Grijalva From ‘environmentally displaced persons’ to ‘climate refugees’ or ‘environmental migrants’, popular news media have used a variety of terms to describe a phenomenon that is often oversimplified or misunderstood. That is: theContinue reading “‘Climate Refugees’”

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