WAIT – Waiting for an uncertain future: the temporalities of irregular migration

Project Team: Christine M. Jacobsen (project leader - UiB), Shahram Khosravi (University of Stockholm), Randi Gressgård (UiB), Karl Harald Søvig (UiB), Marry-Anne Karlsen (UiB), Odin Lysaker (University of Agder), Thomas Hylland Eriksen (University of Oslo)

Timeframe: 12/01/2016 - 12/31/2019

The Project

The WAIT-project focuses on the temporal aspects of migration and investigates how temporal structures related to irregular migration are shaped by legal regimes, cultural norms and power relationships, and how they shape subjective experiences and life projects.

The WAIT-project aims to produce knowledge that

  • meets societal challenges raised by new migration patterns
  • adds a temporal perspective to dominant spatial approaches in migration studies
  • advances theories of temporality in the humanities and social sciences


The project uses theories of temporality and the concept of ‘waitinghood’ as tools for producing new and critical insights into the cultural conditions and implications of migration.

Waitinghood is not about the everyday forms of waiting that we all experience in modern societies, but about the condition of prolonged waiting, uncertainty and temporariness which is characteristic of irregular migration. Waitinghood is also about the ways in which migrants encounter, incorporate and resist such socially produced conditions.

Why study the temporalities of migration?

population growth, suggest that the current increase in migratory movements towards Europe – the said refugee-crisis – is not a temporary exception. With stricter migration laws and intensified border control, the number of migrants who travel and stay without proper authorisation from the state is likely to increase.

As patterns of migration change, new research approaches are needed. Migration has generally been studied as a spatial process, while migration’s temporal aspects, has received much less attention.

Waitinghood in migration is likely to adversely affect migrants’ physical and mental health as well as their integration into society. More research about the effects of waitinghood is needed.

Ethnographic field studies (WP1)

The project focuses on three European migration-hubs: Oslo (Norway), Stockholm (Sweden) and Marseille (France).

Major field sites include asylum reception centres, voluntary health clinics, and NGOs and migrant networks.

Theoretical tasks (WP2)

  • the tempos involved in irregular migration
  • future, hope and failure
  • the normative and ethical dimensions of the temporalities involved in migration management

Read more about the project here or download the PDF brochure.