I met with my mentor, Dr. Lauren Carruth, on December 8, 2016 for about half an hour. I had sent her an email a couple of weeks earlier to detail the progress I had made in class on my research topic, questions, and methodological decisions, so in the meeting we mainly discussed some of the details of the topic and scholarship surrounding it, some of the choices I need to make for planning my research, and other perspectives or factors for me to consider as I move forward.
We agreed that a small-n, case study analysis would probably be best suited to investigating the elements of coercive migration present in the European migrant crisis, because it would allow me to delve more deeply into the case that I am most interested in studying, and because there is so little existing scholarship on the topic of coercive migration that a deep study could reveal characteristics that would be important to broader, statistical study of such coercion. We discussed some of the confusing aspects of the topic related to definitions of terms like coercive migration (as opposed to forced migration) and what constitutes “successful” deterrence of coercion. The general trend in the literature I have read defines successful deterrence as somehow both avoiding doing what the coercer wants and avoiding accepting the consequences imposed by the coercer. However, I think successful deterrence of coercive migration might be more complicated than that or require different criteria altogether, since it is difficult to choose not to accept demographic changes. That is a decision I will have to work toward as I continue to read scholarly work on the subject and conduct my own research—perhaps I will only be able to decide at the conclusion of my project. Dr. Carruth encouraged me to be critical of theoretical definitions of success in compellence and deterrence, and to keep an eye out for places where the theory may not fit the empirical evidence.
She also suggested that I look at historical examples of coercive migration (such as the Mariel boatlift) that seem to have contexts parallel to the situation in Europe so I have a better idea of the different factors that might be more consequential than others, and she suggested considering how narratives of “deservingness” (whether refugees, especially of certain origins, should be given access to citizenship and welfare services, et cetera) affect the level of coercion or deterrence between Russia and the EU. We discussed other factors like populism and nationalism, which might also play into the EU’s decision to endure coercive migration or not and could also be indicators of whether Russia is successfully destabilizing the EU. I also need to find more literature on the effects that the proximity of a problem has on state decisionmaking.
We also discussed Dr. Carruth’s plans for her fieldwork in the spring, my involvement in a campus organization that advocates for refugees, and general current events surrounding refugees and newcomers in DC and in other parts of the world. As far as planning for class in the spring semester, I will need to decide whether to do interviews, and with whom, so that I can begin the IRB process as soon as possible if it is necessary for my project. Over the break, I will continue to stay updated on current events in Europe and the migrant crisis, especially any intergovernmental/international negotiations, and I will continue reading scholarly, peer-reviewed work to build my understanding of the variables that other schools of thought regard as important.