Transnational Migration, Citizenship and the Circulation of Rights and Responsibilities (TRANSMIC)

Migration Theory – Introductory Seminar (University of Oxford)

January 12th, 2015 by Niels

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Date(s) - 12/01/2015 - 15/01/2015
All Day

International Migration Institute

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In order to gain a theoretical and comprehensive understanding of human mobility, this introductory seminar aims to elaborate an understanding of migration as an intrinsic part of broader processes of development and social transformation instead of a problem to be ‘solved’ or ‘managed.’ This requires us to radically shift away from conventional “push-pull” models and to fundamentally rethink the nature and causes of human mobility. While the truism holds that most people migrate in search of better opportunities, conventional migration theories often fail to explain real-world migration patterns while rigid categories used by scholars and politicians tend to ignore migrants’ experiences and agency. Common ‘push-pull’ and neoclassical models are simplistic in their inability to explain why people tend to move between specific places, regions and countries or why ‘development’ is often associated to more, instead of less, migration. Since the late 19th century, several theories have evolved which either (1) explain the initiation or the ‘root causes’ of migration; (2) analyse the social and economic impacts of migration in receiving and sending societies; or (3) explain why, once started, migration processes tend to gain their own momentum – migration leading to more migration – through ‘internal dynamics’ such as migrant networks. These theories have largely been developed separately within the various disciplines of social sciences (sociology, economics, anthropology, geography, demography) and offer varying, often contradicting interpretations and understandings of migration.

The aim of this seminar is to introduce students into the main migration theories and their links to general social-scientific theory, which will help to improve their understanding of the nature, causes and consequences of migration processes. This will be done by reading and discussing key migration texts and overview publications. The conflicting assumptions and predictions of these theories will be discussed in order to analyse their strengths and weaknesses in the face of empirical evidence. The course will also address the scope to combine different theories on the (1) causes, (2) effects and the (3) continuation of migration into a more comprehensive theoretical perspective on migration. It will show how an improved theoretical understanding of migration challenges conventional (policy-driven) migration categories and distinctions, for instance between ‘internal’ and ‘international’ migration and ‘forced’ (political) and ‘voluntary’ (economic) migration, which often do not reflect migrants’ experiences and ignores their agency. An improved theoretical understanding of migration processes also enables a more realistic assessment of what migration policies can and cannot achieve.

The programme can be found here.


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