Social imaginaries in studies of migration and diversity

2 des 2021 14:00 2 des 2021 14:45 ENG

Keynote by Susanne Bygnes (UiB)

The idea of imaginaries and social imaginaries are widely used in studies of diversity and migration. The idea of a modern social imaginary is defined by Taylor (2002: 106) as the way in which ‘ordinary people “imagine” their social surroundings,’ constituting the ‘common understanding that makes possible common practices and a widely shared sense of legitimacy.’ A social imaginary is something more than the information we need to make sense of and understand practices but represents ‘a wider grasp of our whole predicament, how we stand in relationship to each other, how we got where we are and how we relate to other groups’ (Taylor 2002: 107). Taylor identifies our commitment to the idea of equality as one of the defining features of this modern social imaginary.

In this talk, Bygnes will introduce the social imaginary concept in studies of diversity and immigration and make use of the concept by drawing on a larger study of responses to refugee arrivals and focus on some important implicit common imaginaries that come to the fore both in efforts to include and when responding to fear or xenophobic voices in the community. She will show how critical or important events that challenge or threaten the sense of who “we” imagine ourselves to be, make it possible to investigate deep-rooted cultural notions with a widely shared sense of legitimacy which tend to remain implicit when focusing on polarization or efforts to exclude.

The keynote is part of a seminar organised by the IMER jr. scholar network. It is onsite only (not streamed) at our venue in Jekteviksbakken 31.


Susanne Bygnes is a professor at the Department of Sociology and works with sociological approaches to international migration, ethnic relations and social movements. She currently supervises bachelor, master's and doctoral candidates who write about social movements, immigration, attitudes in the local environment and internet security. 


Photo credit: Austin Chan on Unsplash