Migration and Perceptions of War : Simultaneous Surveys in Countries of Origin and Settlement

University dissertation from Uppsala : Department of Peace and Conflict Research

Abstract: This dissertation contributes to post-war public opinion research by examining the perceptions of migrants – the gastarbeiter, the refugee, the family reunited after war – and the local population in comparative perspective. Existing surveys of post-war populations are typically conducted in a single country affected by war. However, particularly following forced expulsion and campaigns of ethnic cleansing substantial portions of national communities affected by conflict no longer live within the boundaries of the state. Current research may therefore overlook important populations as well as contextual factors that shape post-war attitudes.I help to address this problem by examining three widely held assumptions in the literature: that migrants hold more conflictive attitudes than the local population after war; that assimilation in settlement countries leads migrants to hold more peaceful attitudes; and that traumatic experiences lead migrants to hold more conflictive attitudes. These claims are largely based on theoretical accounts, case studies that suffer from selection bias and quantitative results that have proven unstable. By contrast, I examine new micro-level data: two large-scale surveys conducted simultaneously in post-war Bosnia and Sweden as a settlement country. Sweden’s choice to grant permanent residency in toto to refugees from the Bosnian War in 1993 resulted in the vast majority remaining settled in Sweden. As a result, the population of ex-Yugoslavs in Sweden is arguably more representative than in other comparable settlement country contexts.To explain differences among ex-Yugoslavs in Sweden and between these migrants and the local population in Bosnia, I connect social-psychological processes that help meet individuals’ basic psychological needs. These include: belief formation in the context of war; acculturation strategies in settlement countries; the development of nostalgic memories; and coping with traumatic experiences. The findings shed light on largely misunderstood processes. Under certain conditions, migration may provide an exit from detrimental wartime and post-war settings that produce and sustain conflictive societal beliefs after war. At the same time, the migration context may provide a richer set of socioeconomic and psychological resources for coping, offsetting the need to rely on conflictive beliefs as a way of dealing with the conflict crisis.

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