This article scrutinizes how ‘immigrant’ characters of perpetual arrival are enacted in the social scientific work of immigrant integration monitoring. Immigrant integration research produces narratives in which characters—classified in highly specific, contingent ways as ‘immigrants’—are portrayed as arriving and never as having arrived. On the basis of ethnographic fieldwork at social scientific institutions and networks in four Western European countries, this article analyzes three practices that enact the characters of arrival narratives: negotiating, naturalizing, and forgetting. First, it shows how negotiating constitutes objects of research while at the same time a process of hybridization is observed among negotiating scientific and governmental actors. Second, a naturalization process is analyzed in which slippery categories become fixed and self-evident. Third, the practice of forgetting involves the fading away of contingent and historical circumstances of the research and specifically a dispensation of ‘native’ or ‘autochthonous’ populations. Consequently, the article states how some people are considered rightful occupants of ‘society’ and others are enacted to travel an infinite road toward an occupied societal space. Moreover, it shows how enactments of arriving ‘immigrant’ characters have performative effects in racially differentiating national populations and hence in narrating society. This article is part of the Global Perspectives, Media and Communication special issue on “Media, Migration, and Nationalism,” guest-edited by Koen Leurs and Tomohisa Hirata.

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