The Interdisciplinary Research Program (IRP) ‘Cities and Newcomers’ gathers scholars from four disciplines at Vrije Universiteit Brussel. As geographers, criminologists, sociologists and historians, we work together around questions and challenges posed by migration and integration.
Three sets of research questions guide our cooperation. Each of these three sets tackles the migration-integration nexus from a different perspective. The first one turns our attention to the experiences of the migrants themselves: How do newcomers negotiate and assert their economic, political, social and cultural positions in the city of arrival? The second one adopts a state perspective: How is the urban arrival infrastructure supported, controlled, administered and regulated at urban, national and supra-national scales of statehood? The third one focuses on the involvement of different categories of professionals: How do civil servants, migration officers, police officers, teachers, doctors, nurses, lawyers, social workers, real estate brokers and other professional intermediaries working in the urban arrival infrastructure deal with newcomers?
These questions are particularly relevant in Brussels. According to the World Migration Report, the Belgian capital is the second most diverse city of the world. As much as 34 per cent of the residents of Brussels has a foreign nationality. 68 per cent of the population has foreign roots. Hence, Brussels is a minority-majority city: a city where minorities are in the majority. It also remains a city of arrival: a city where the mobile trajectories of newcomers from all social, economic, cultural and geographic backgrounds converge.
To understand Brussels as an arrival city with a minority-majority dynamic, we set up common research projects, joint PhD trajectories and international workshops. We consider it essential to voice our insights and concerns about the contentious issues we study. Therefore, we engage in outreach events and publications for a broad audience as well.