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The pursuit of a good life in a developing place: a human-centred study among vulnerable migrants in São Paulo-Brazil



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This thesis deals with the perceptions of migrants facing vulnerability about the changes in their lives after migrating to a developing context, especially in terms of their agency, fundamental rights and cultural liberty. It emphasises the need to focus more on the impacts of migration on the individuals migrating, and not simply on the impacts on the economies of their places of origin and destination. To further explore this human-centred dimension of migration, the thesis’ theoretical framework is grounded in Amartya Sen’s line of the Capability Approach (CA), adding some contributions from a rights-based approach (Benhabib, & Sassen) and a hybrid multiculturalist framework (Fry & Sansone) in order to advance the discussions on transnational rights and cultural rights raised by Sen and the CA. The context chosen to develop the research was Brazil owing to its contributions to both capability and migration studies, since its particular approach to transnational rights and to multiculturalism brings innovative ways to rethink current international debates in these fields. Following the theoretical framework indicated, the thesis analyses the main findings of a fieldwork with mixed methods (qualitative + quantitative) held with a hundred Latin American and African migrants temporarily living in two charity houses in São Paulo, addressing the key research question of how they perceive changes in their lives after having migrated, in terms of agency, basic rights and cultural liberty. Considering the main needs and difficulties observed during the fieldwork, the thesis concludes with policy recommendations to tackle these challenges.





Comim , Flavio


South-South migration, multiculturalism, Capability Approach, migrants in Sao Paulo, mobility rights, cultural rights, agency, migration in Brazil


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge