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Agency of Migrant Youth in Hostile Socio-political Environments in Illiberal Regimes. Case Studies From Hungary and Poland

Monday, March 13, 2023, 1:30 pm – 3:10 pm

The Inequalities and Democracy Workgroup of the CEU Democracy Institute cordially invites you to its seminar.

If you would like to attend, please register here.

Please keep in mind that external guests will not be able to enter the building without prior registration.

The paper examines processes of social embedding of migrant youth from non-European countries in Poland and Hungary, in two contexts of Central Eastern Europe characterized by a hostile socio-political environment for migrants, by right-wing policies, illiberalism and backsliding in various related policy areas. The article is based on an EU-funded research project investigating the integration of migrant youth in precarious circumstances (MIMY). The article first introduces how illiberal regimes in Hungary and Poland curtail institutions and provisions for immigrant integration. Using data from qualitative interviews conducted with migrant youth, it also presents the perspective of migrant youth while exploring ways of coping and navigating in such hostile environments. Our findings highlight the particular importance of evolving migrant agency in hostile environments. It argues that in the difficult contexts due to the state’s rejection of integration, various forms of agency evolve along the remaining opportunity structures. While this agency carries hope and promise of social embedding for migrant youth, they are also seriously limited. The analyzed cases serve to better understand the ways in which the agency of migrant youth evolves, also to delineate the boundaries (or limits) of migrant youth agency hostile environments of illiberal regimes.

The seminar starts with a 25-minute presentation of the research followed by the comments of the discussant. Then the floor will be open for participants to ask questions and discuss the research. To be able to actively take part in the discussion, please read the draft paper beforehand. The draft chapter is available upon request from the author.


Vera Messing is a Research Fellow at the CEU Democracy Institute as well as the director of the Institute of Sociology at the Center for Social Sciences. Her research focuses on a comparative understanding of different forms and intersections of social inequalities and ethnicity and their consequences. She is specifically interested in policy and civil responses to ethnic diversity in the field of education and labour market; migration and migrant integration; attitudes towards racialized minorities and immigrants; media representation of racialized groups and conflicts; social science methodology and measurement of social phenomena. She has been involved in the coordination and research activities for several European comparative research projects in the above topical fields and she is also the lead researcher of the Hungarian team of the European Social Survey, ERIC.

Zsuzsanna Árendás is a Research Affiliate at the CEU Democracy Institute and a Research Fellow at the Institute of Sociology at the Center for Social Sciences. Her research focuses on various aspects of human mobilities in a transnational space in relation to the reproduction of social inequalities- including social and political enactments of citizenship, social integration of immigrants, migrant vulnerabilities, and various aspects of return migration. In her recent work, she explores youth and child mobilities. In the context of social inequalities, Zsuzsanna’s research also centers around the sociological aspects of labour relations, the employment of Roma with high educational qualifications, and the diversity management and its potential in the inclusion of Roma workforce in Central and Eastern Europe. 


Violetta Zentai is a social anthropologist, associate professor at the CEU Department of Public Policy and Research Fellow at the CEU Democracy Institute. She is also faculty member of the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology and the Doctoral School for Political Sciences and International Relations at CEU. She has been founding member and advisor to the Open Learning Initiative (OLIve) program of the CEU since 2016. She co-directed the Center for Policy Studies of the CEU (2003-2020). Her research focuses on ethnic and gender inequalities, post-socialist socio-economic transformations, European social inclusion policies, and social justice and pro-equality civil society formations. She also worked as expert with the Open Society Foundations for two decades on democratic local governance, equality mainstreaming, and rights-based development.