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Legal consciousness and migration: towards a research agenda

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 March 2022

Ayse Güdük
Migration Law Research Group, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
Ellen Desmet*
Migration Law Research Group, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
*Corresponding author. E-mail:


This paper reviews scholarship regarding migrants’ legal consciousness. After discussing the personal, geographic and methodological scope of the reviewed studies, the conceptualisation of legal consciousness is examined in light of evolutions in general legal consciousness studies. Thereafter, factors emerging as shaping migrants’ legal consciousness are analytically clustered at four levels: individual characteristics, relational factors, cultural dynamics, and public policies and discourse. Future research on legal consciousness could shift its gaze towards understudied migrant groups as well as places. We suggest being more explicit regarding the conceptualisation of dimensions of what is ‘legal’ and of ‘consciousness’, and adopting a pluralist approach to law. The analytical grouping of the factors impacting migrants’ legal consciousness may serve as a useful reference point for future research and facilitate a more comprehensive appraisal of the various dynamics shaping migrants’ legal consciousness.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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