1. A Decade of Migration
‘Migration’ is a difficult word. Difficult because it encompasses a vast array of interlinked phenomena, none of which are clearly explained by the word itself, and because it is a political, social, economic, historical, anthropological, geographical, demographic and global developmental issue. Furthermore, it touches people all over the world personally in myriad ways. Harnessing public issues and private problems, mass migration in the last decade has attracted political controversy in the global north, been at the heart of vigorous urban agglomeration in the BRICs and the global south, and mushroomed academic analysis and public scrutiny. Its associations with economic growth and development, with security, crime and political conflict, and with changing demographics and communities have excited often furious debate, particularly in what The Economist calls ‘the rich world’. The 2003 Global Commission on International Migration, a UN high level dialogue in 2006, and the establishment of the Global Forum on Migration and Development in 2007 have kept migration on the international agenda. Significant economic changes and shifts in power have themselves given rise to or been facilitated by population movements and the global move to the city. Such moves may be within as well as across international borders. In China, rapid economic development has been fuelled by a massive rural-urban movement of people. While Europe has 35 cities of at least a million people, by 2025 China will have an estimated 225, and India’s number will have grown from 42 to 68. By 2030, some 350 million more people will live in Chinese cities. And though growth in Indian cities is driven more by expanding urban populations and the reclassification of formerly rural land, the move to the city has already restructured traditional social and economic relations. Migrants themselves, internal and international, are increasingly vocal. Migration is set to be a key political issue into the future. The proportion of people that move internationally, approximately 3 per cent of the world’s population, has remained relatively stable for a considerable period of time. Yet it seems that the meaning, significance and constitution of such movement have changed both the way in which we consider our present and the calculus through which we conceptualise the future.
Technology and economic growth has meant that travel has become easier, in Europe particularly for people from former Communist states. Some borders have fallen; for example European Union (EU) enlargement in 2004 and 2007 (and now in 2014) eventually facilitated free movement for EU citizens across 28 member states of the European Union. At the same time, states are ever more concerned to manage migration. In place of the Iron Curtain we have new walls – according to one estimate, 6,000 miles of walls have been built in the past decade to divide territory and population, from the West Bank to India, to the US and to South Africa, oftentimes turning mobility or walking to work into ‘migration’. Walls and borders are not impermeable, however, but rather, to use Balibar’s term, ‘polysemic’. While for some travellers they are impassable, patrolled with guns, detectors and unnavigable bureaucracies, for others these same borders are barely noticeable, requiring nothing more than a nod to a security guard. More particularly, travel for the wealthy has usually been easier than travel for the poor. The 1905 UK Aliens Act did not apply to those travelling first class, and in November 2013 UK Home Secretary Theresa May announced the launch of the invitation only ‘GREAT club’, a fast track premium visa service for elite business executives coming to Britain. This is not a phenomenon restricted to the UK. Several EU states now offer permanent residence to those who can afford to pay for it: in Spain, investors spending €500,000 or more on residential real estate or a portfolio of properties are eligible for the “Spanish golden visa” meaning they and their family can live and run a business in Spain. Portugal and Ireland run similar programmes. In Malta a person who pays €650,000 (plus €25,000 each for any spouse or minor children) can be granted Maltese citizenship, provided they meet due diligence criteria and pass a criminal background check. Cyprus too offers ‘citizenship by investment’.
In the face of ever more diverse attempts to check and to channel flows of people, mobility itself has continued. In 2012 there were approximately 365,000 apprehensions of undocumented migrants by US border agents at the US-Mexico border alone. Such attempts at control can be at terrible cost: 477 deaths at the US southern border in 2012 and an estimated 16,000 deaths at the borders of Europe between 1993 and 2012. Thus, enforcement and control run alongside concerns about the human rights of migrants and abuse of migrant workers: conditions endured by workers in the Gulf States, and by (undocumented) workers in Europe, the US and across Asia, and the treatment of asylum seekers have given rise to a sustained growth of campaigning around the human rights of migrants, against deportation and detention, and in support of mobility. Grassroots activism may be driven by the engagement of migrants themselves. The ‘DREAMers’ movement in the US in recent years drew on the self-selected ‘outing’ that structured the politics of sexuality to promote migrant rights of the children of undocumented residents. Migrant workers have formed their own trades unions – the Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants Trade Union (MTU), for example, is a union established for and by migrant workers in South Korea. As well as self-organising, there has been a growth in the numbers and types of organisations working with migrants. Some national trades unions have developed considerably by organising migrant workers and admitting them into their ranks. The gradual softening of attitude by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, and their split with the ‘change to win’ trades unions in the US, for example, spurred immigration reform possibilities and new thinking in the American legislature.
2. Beyond the Empirical
Mobility has ineluctably slipped many of its descriptive typologies. This challenges the ways in which scholarship is structured by both analytical lenses and empirical evidence, how we make sense of the world both through gathering ‘data’ and the analytical frames which make such data meaningful. Analyses of migration were for years premised on a distinction between the refugee/‘forced migrant’ and the economic migrant. This distinction was formalised in the 1951 Refugee Convention and key to structuring international policies on the governance of mobility, but in the past decade academic attempts to describe and analyse these phenomena have moved further and further away from the refugee/economic migrant binary. There have also been significant moves beyond old push-pull paradigms. New approaches in the social sciences of the 1990s reconceptualised the building blocks of ‘society’ – transnationalism, super-diversity, autonomy of migration, and a rediscovery of the urban. Conceptual rethinking in turn challenged what it might mean both to dwell and to be mobile, forcing migration studies to transcend a methodological nationalism that once saw the world through a Westphalian lens of separate and discrete nation states (with distinct populations), and to begin to rethink the geometries and temporalities of networks, circuits, propensities and flows of mobility. While these represent very different schools of thought on migration, they all demand a rethinking of the nature of the relation between the individual/family, the state, and the nation; between identity, sovereignty and place, foregrounding questions of citizenship and belonging. The construction of both individual subject positions and collective subjects through rule, law, power and affect demand an understanding in migration studies of the propensity of people to act as well as their demonstrated patterns of movement. The latter privileges an empirical subdiscipline that measures movements in numbers, with data that is invariably flawed and incomplete. The former provokes a social science that takes the very definition of the migrant as problematic and shifts attention on to contested theoretical framings of regimes of citizenship, freedoms to move and the unintended consequences of migration’s externalities. Both are necessary to compose a picture of contemporary migration, but this theoretical turn we suggest moves us beyond the empirical (or occasionally empiricist) inflection of some migration studies scholarship.
For many years, the theory, practice and policy of citizenship was insulated from migration research (though not from the lives of migrants), but the two now inform each other far more closely, with some scholars arguing that citizenship offers new possibilities for the developing politics of migration, and others that it is necessary to think beyond citizenship. This is part of a more general move to break out of the constraints of border thinking, and to embrace the scholarship of the social sciences that constructs individual and collective human subjects through complexities of institutional forms and path-dependent specificity. For example, while in the 1990s the invisibility of gender in migration policy and analysis was rectified by ‘adding women and stirring’, there is a reaching towards the beginnings of theorisation of subject making, considering how queer migrations disrupt gender binaries and categories completely, and interrogating the different ways that gender is constructed at borders.
The arrogation of powers to keep people ‘in place’ – from historical regimes of serfdom, to contemporary measures to regulate movement, to modern city forms such as the hukou system in China – all define who is and who is not a migrant in relation to regional, national and municipal governance of scarce public goods and ideologies of nation or belonging. However, the mechanisms of state power have long been made more complex through the contingent formations of both the institutions of governance and the subjects of their logics of governmentality. The flow of bodies is regulated through regimes of the biopolitical as well as through the more arbitrary deployment of powers of allocation and coercion by the state. How individuals, families and networks come to consider themselves to be connected, to share a propensity to move, to trigger relationalities between virtual exchange and chains of mobility reflect particular configurations of technology and regulation.
The externalities of the migration process may be priced or regulated through state arbitration but, as Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom remarked, the challenge of common pool resources is made much more complex in the context of new arrivals triggered by migration flows. For example, moral categories of eligibility for welfare may inadvertently favour or discriminate against the migrant. Systems that are based primarily on a contributory contract – that those deemed worthy of welfare support must have paid in before they claim – inevitably favour those who have remained in a single nation state. Systems that allocate resources – be it schooling, subsidized housing, unemployment insurance or public and private health – principally according to measures of social need, may favour the new arrival more. At times this can be contentious – as when new arrivals with vulnerable children claim access to scarce resources, such as school places, subsidized shelter or social housing. At other times it can hide alternative rationalities. Public health concerns over communicable disease may trump categories of rationed access to medical care when it becomes in the interests of all to prevent major outbreaks of ill health rather than differentiate between the eligibility criteria of migrants and local people. The promotion of competitiveness at the scale of the city may sit in tension with national or regional policy, or regulated freedoms of locational preference. The institutional foundations of comparative advantage may generate varieties of capitalism that structure markets and valorize migrant labour differently. Trade-offs between the openness to admitting migrants and migrant rights in liberal democracies may in turn structure potential flows of people and the possible as well as the actual phenomena of those who stay or are left behind, as well as those who move.
In each case, the data that is so essential to critical judgement and becomes grist to the mill of scholarly inquiry can mislead, as empirical inquiry potentially slips into empiricist scholarship and the positivist fallacy that to measure all is to know all. Migration, like all fields of human and social sciences, demands a careful balance between a scientific measurement of data and a nuanced understanding of the institutions that structure human behaviour.
3. Migration and the Social Sciences
As the study and analysis of migration becomes more open to social science and to the humanities, so it challenges the way in which we think of some of the foundational concepts of the social sciences and the humanities.
Conceptually, conventional academic disciplinary boundaries and a language of national economies and nation states look increasingly limited in a world characterised by flows of people as well as capital. The large majority of humanity continues to stay in a single state for most, if not all, of their lives, but in this new context, how do we understand economic performance and sustainable growth, and how do we theorise sociologies and economies of the nation state in an era marked by geographical mobility of ‘non-citizen’ workers, free flows of Foreign Direct Investment and by organizational forms of transnational corporations? If one high-tech worker moves between jobs for a limited time within a single corporation in two different international spaces, and another moves between two companies operating online in a virtual global space while living in the same country, which is the migrant? What does this mean for the obligations of one country to educate future generations in a national context when significant fractions of the labour force might have been educated elsewhere? How does economics prioritise the development of human capital and the support of national workers and companies, whilst maximising the comparative advantage of a flexible economy attracting the ‘best and brightest’ and competing for global investment? How do strong affiliations to both local neighbourhoods and global diasporas reframe what we mean by ‘the social’ and ideas of political community? How are the arithmetical calculations of social policy that structure logics of rationing scarce public goods challenged by international mobility? How are welfare nets made politically legitimate in the context of newly mobile demographics across the medium term? What challenges do migration-driven diversities pose to the creation of the good society? What do new transnationalisms (and complex new configurations of the field in anthropology) mean for ideas of ‘culture’, and how do they relate to new conflicts and intercultural dialogues? How do legal and democratic institutions respond to and shape these drivers of economic globalisation and diasporic identities, which are influencing behavioural norms and gender relations, and informing interventions?
Practically, new social science paradigms must address questions arising from the globalisation of mobility. How will new cartographies of development structure future patterns of migration? What is the relation between migration and the management of global markets? How does massive urbanisation reframe our understanding of the social, the economic and the political? What do migration’s challenges to sovereignty and territoriality mean for the relation between (non-)citizen, state and nation? How do changes in the way we think about the future reconfigure the geometries of collective wellbeing?
In formulating policy interventions, the UK faces particular challenges. The 2011 Census has revealed the growth of super-diverse local areas and neighbourhoods ,but integration and cohesion remain major public concerns, placing emergent identities of ethnicity and faith at the heart of social policy concerns. In contrast to most other countries, demographic changes in the UK in the last decade have been driven principally by international migration. How does the UK promote the interests of workers and companies, particularly when they act globally? How does international migration structure public debates about the UK’s place in the EU, the evolution of nationalism, and devolution? What are the options for Britain in a Europe where the free movement of people is a fundamental right? How do we shape political community to reflect the plural scales of neighbourhood, municipality and nation? How do we organise an understanding of citizenship that recognises the obligations of international law, the principles of human rights, and the geographical and historical realities of mobility?
Policy agendas across the rest of the world reflect this combination of generic pattern and geographical/historical specificity. Liberalisation of trade sits uneasily, at times, with the development of local human capital: brain drain is offset by remittances which may diminish with time, flight and exit may serve as an alternative to political reform and local social movements. Diasporic politics can create new geometries of political engagement across transnational networks of influence. Gender relations, kinship, and the family may be stretched and reinvented for better or for worse in time and space through the process of movement. Quantitative national measures of social mobility, which mark how one generation fares in comparison with the next, are potentially undermined by migration. If first-generation migrants occupy positions where they are commonly overskilled – engineers driving New York cabs, doctors cleaning floors in the financial districts of Europe – their own class position and their childrens’ may be hard to define. Social capital may trump objective class or status position, juxtaposing problematics of social and geographical mobility.
4. The Rationale of the Anthology
To understand mobility we have to transcend boundaries:territorial, disciplinary and professional. Post-war 20th-century scholarship tended to privilege a study of migration as movement between free standing nation states, with a once and for always commitment to a new country, notwithstanding the complexities of free, forced, family, temporary and permanent flows that long characterized the complexity of the process. But for the study of the contemporary moment we need to think across different geographical scales and temporalities, recognizing that geography generates plural geometries and relationalities, and that history might run backwards as much as forwards, faster at some times than at others. This involves moving beyond the analytical register of the nation state, beyond the Eurocentric focus of the ivory tower, and beyond a privileging of the empirical field.
In this anthology, we start from a recognition that the sense in which the conceptualization of migration as a singular process (itself always a simplification) is increasingly nuanced by the manner in which mobility is increasingly qualified. It is qualified by the complexities of its geographies and the plurality of its histories – the selective permeability of destinations, and the rights and freedoms of places of origins and arrival; the contingencies of the future home, the presence of past elsewheres, and the multiple allegiances of diasporic and transnational imaginaries. It is typologised by routes, networks and circuits. The reasons, aspirations and purposes of those who move and reactions to their movement are similarly variable.
The publication corresponds with the 10th anniversary of the ESRC Centre on Migration, Policy and Society, which opportunistically – if slightly arbitrarily – offered the chance to look backwards and forwards simultaneously, linking the publication to a conference held in the University of Oxford in February 2014. Entries are drawn principally – but not exclusively – from the work of researchers who are or who have been based at the Centre over the last decade. Their work is supplemented by invited contributions from a range of scholars who have collaborated with and/or been admired by the team at the Centre. Pieces were commissioned on the basis of previous work, but often contributors responded by saying that they would like to write about quite a different subject that had caught their interest. Thus, we hope to have captured a transformative moment in the decade of migration that is both contemporary and forward looking.
Contributors did not undertake to write on the themes through which we have organised the text, such as ‘Troubling bodies’ or ‘Keeping Time’. The structure of the anthology has consequently arisen from the pieces, rather than the contributions being shaped for particular headings. Many pieces could fit under more than one heading, and the headings themselves are interrelated: how can we separate bodies from representation, or time from place? The style varies, some contributors have extemporized, others have outlined and described. All contributors were asked to make short entries prompting further reading and reflection. Put together we hope that they provoke new insights and suggest new ways of thinking, both about migration and about some of the foundational concepts of social science.
The anthology does not aspire to be a synthetic overview of migration research today, nor to provide a comprehensive range of geographical or theoretical perspectives. Instead, we hope that it might serve as a provocation. We have chosen to publish primarily online (although a limited number of conventional books are available), so that the anthology might work as both an intervention and a resource. Because migration studies shares the sub-disciplinary dangers of the self-referential and the parochial, we hope that the anthology might suggest pathways and routes of future scholarly inquiry that draw on reflections of past research, linking migration as a theme to wider patterns of social change. For these reasons, we have combined academic prose with a selection of photographic images drawn from the annual COMPAS photography competition over recent years, and selected of poems drawn from poetry competitions for adults and children run this year, which were kindly judged by two members of Keble College, Oxford, Dr Erica McAlpine and Dr Matthew Bevis, and by novelist, critic and author, Ruth Padel, who has kindly added one poem to the collection.
Sub-discipline conventions commonly betray disciplinary roots, but we have nevertheless tried to provide a general resource, and to link material to further reading which might be taken up by people inside and outside the academy. In deciding to publish online using principles of a creative commons license, we intend to make material as widely available as possible. We hope that the anthology will thus serve as a resource for teaching and research: a grab bag to dip into as much as a text from which to teach.
5. Towards Provocation
International migrants are made, in large part, by laws and the imbricated powers of borders and sovereignty. Migrants are not simply governed by laws, but constructed by them, and immigration controls are not only about admittance but about the creation of particular types of relations. This places the state at the heart of immigration studies. Yet the state has often been under theorised in migration analyses, either treated as a neutral arbiter between the competing forces of capitalism, democracy and nationhood, or as an instrument of brutal coercion, intervening from a position somehow outside ‘society’. However, there is a move towards more nuanced approaches to analyzing the state and its relation to migration, not least as popular hostility to immigration is increasingly invoked as a reason for heightened restrictions, and as citizens are ever more deeply implicated in immigration enforcement. When external borders become more permeable, internal borders are often tightened, and there is increased interest in examining post-entry controls governing welfare benefits, labour rights and the right to settlement and citizenship. This has received particular academic and political attention within the European Union, and rights to free movement of all European Economic Area (EEA) citizens within the EU have run alongside ‘habitual residence’ tests for accessing welfare benefits. This has implications for nationals: in Italy, local residence requirements, which had hitherto been a formality, are increasingly drawn on to police the claims of international migrants in response to populist anxiety. This has had a significant impact on Italian internal migrants, who may be from Italy but who are not ‘local’. So, even as they are shored up, the borders between the citizen and non-citizen are revealed as ever more fragile. The tension between citizenship rights and human rights, or between citizenship and equality, has been the focus of considerable interest in political theory, and looks to be moving centre stage in political debate as detention, deportation and hostility to migrants increases, raising concerns about discrimination and fairness.
How long a person stays or intends to stay is an important qualifier in the distinction between the mobile and the migrant. States not only control migration through refusal or granting of entry, but also through imposing temporal requirements. Liberal democracies can be averse to ethnic citizenship, and often restrict access to nationality through ever more stringent conditions regarding length of stay. More generally, states govern through temporal devices and rationalities. Institutions such as the school, the university, the factory, the city hall, the hospital and the prison sustain temporal logics, turning time into place-specific rhythms. Regarding migrants in particular, bureaucratic procedures are marked by different and sometimes contradictory tempos, with time traps set, in deadlines that are simply impossible to meet. With some notable exceptions, migration research has not typically engaged with theories of time, but equally, work that engages with the social theory of time rarely engages with migration scholarship. Much of the literature on time takes the nation state as an unexceptional container of time, even as histories of mobilities inevitably historicise both state and nation. Departing from an often strongly imagined, if contested, past, nations increasingly look to the future with demographic and cultural anxiety, and states consider the future and how it may be governed through a series of anticipatory actions: ‘pre-emption, preparedness and precaution’ work their way through government.
But time is not only a matter of governance. The bringing to bear of the imagined future and of the remembered past on the contemporary moment is a critical element of human subjectivity and agency. With this in mind, how should we understand, for example, the ‘decision’ to migrate? As the originating point in a series of familiar stages, rationally oriented towards some intended future? Or as a much more distributed, uncertain and emotional phenomenon? What are the costs and possible pleasures of states of uncertainty, waiting and temporariness? What does the spatial process of migration tell us about experiencing and passing time? Futures present map unevenly for different migrants. The horizon of possibility for the skilled worker may involve a calculus of known unknowns, a career that translates professional uncertainty into financial risk through rational optimising of human capital over a multi-year investment in the migration process. In contrast, the future for the low waged and undocumented may be more immediate, the horizon of possibility foreshortened: temporalities of just in time and getting by that generate alternative tactics of the quotidian, choreographies of everyday life that use the propensity of the city to hide the stranger and the freedoms of anonymity.
Immigration controls are not only about the creation of migrants. The contracts of citizenship, of marriage and of work for example are codified at the border: what is citizenship, what is marriage, and what is ‘work’? Are the paints, carried in the bag of an artist entering as a visitor, evidence that she will break her conditions of entry? Workers and labour markets are, like migrants and immigration, constructed in important ways by law. The law does not simply intervene to regulate naturally occurring processes of buying and selling labour, but rather, is key to their construction in the first place. Are there types of labour that should never be classified as ‘work’ (sex work being the most contentious and consistently struggled over with respect to immigration)? Are there groups of people who should never be classified as ‘workers’ (children for example)? Responses to such questions vary by state and by ‘culture’, and how these two domains of work and immigration intermesh, reinforce and undermine each other raises fundamental policy and theoretical questions.
Immigration also raises questions about the nature of ‘free labour’. How is it that while liberal democracies evince horror at ‘modern day slavery’ on Gulf construction sites, they condone sponsorship, precarity and subcontracting? What does this tell us about the relation between labour, freedom and contract, particularly as migrants continue to queue up for the possibility to work in the Gulf and elsewhere? Furthermore, when does being a ‘migrant’ matter, and when and where are the questions of interest addressed that relate to the precarity and insecurity that are experienced by citizens and non-citizens alike?
Representations: Powers and Pitfalls
It is not only rules that define migrants. Social scientists are beginning to acknowledge the ways in which research itself contributes to the making of ‘migrants’. As with many population groups, particularly those identified as sources of social problems, this can make the relation between research on the studied population and government policy extremely delicate. Social science often does not follow state definitions: the subjects of many migration studies on integration and ‘second generation’ migrants are, in law at least, commonly citizens. The burden of representation falls selectively. Qualitative research, in particular, has focused on the low waged, the poor and the excluded. The wealthy and the ‘expat’ have received, surprisingly, little attention: once a non-citizen is well heeled, their migrancy, it seems, is of less interest to both state and science.
There are methodological implications, and migration research requires reflexivity, whether qualitative or quantitative. While ethnographic or qualitative research is associated with interpretivism – with the researcher not separable from reality, and their subjectivity implicated in the findings – survey methods, big data analysis, and certain more quantified social science disciplines tend to be associated with positivism, facts, objectivity and truth. The researcher is separate and observes, and the research object has qualities that exist independently of the researcher. However, the unavoidably politicised and fuzzy definition of the migrant and the lexicon of migration suggests that, like qualitative methods, quantitative immigration research methods are not apolitical and free from bias. Like Schrödinger’s cat, the observation cannot be detached from the experiment. This also has ethical ramifications: once we ask people if they are concerned about immigration, they become concerned about immigration. The more they hear that others are concerned, the more concerned they become.
While representations in current affairs and journalism are often hostile, the migrant as depicted in myth and in story – from soap operas to portraits, films, poems, novels, and religious allegory – is far more complex. Exploration of migration in multiple forms, and a coming together of social science and the humanities in exploring the experience of mobility, mark important new developments. The structures of feeling that such narratives evoke are often invoked most powerfully through creative expression such as the poems and images incorporated into this anthology.
The annual COMPAS photography competition, whose winning entries are to be found in this volume, was initiated partly to support the development of more creative, less stereotyped images of migration. It is surprisingly difficult to acknowledge bodies in migration, because visual representations are freighted with assumptions and anxiety about gender, class, religion, culture, identity and, encapsulating all, race: that is, anxieties about migration and embodiment. Anxieties about the bodies of migrants emerge in concerns about threats to the national body: the pregnant woman accessing health services, the rise of ‘non-white’ populations, the spread of disease, and so on. Part of being a ‘migrant’ is to be marked by one’s body, one’s way of being in the world. When people are not so marked, their migration is more likely to be viewed as unremarkable.
It is a truism to say that migration is about the movement of bodies; the movement of voices and minds through computers and telephones, like the movement of capital, is free of many of the constraints that bind the movement of bodies. Yet it seems that bodies are largely absent from immigration policy (though not anti-trafficking policies), as indeed they are absent from many state policies. Thus, the bodies of migrants and non-migrants are invisible, even as the sustaining of bodies is increasingly becoming a migrant job, creating a global demand for specifically female care workers. So, for all the anxiety about migrants and the national body, in policy the migrant is largely disembodied, imagined as a rational calculator of costs and benefits, though as feminist scholarship in a range of disciplines and sites has demonstrated, liberal disembodiment is grounded in assumptions of male and ‘fit’ bodies as the norm.
Certain skills and experiences are strongly imagined as embodied, and migrants can be in demand as embodied rather than abstracted labour. For example, UK horse trainers claim that they need migrant work riders because British people are ‘too large’, and owners of Asian restaurants claim that customers do not expect to be served by white bodies. This makes migrants’ bodies troublesome for policy to manage, particularly when it comes to labour. Migration and immigration policy reveals some serious contradictions and tensions with this, even as it promotes the idea that anybody/any body can do low-skilled work, which is why low-skilled jobs can be preserved for nationals. There is a longstanding tendency to imagine low-waged labour as disembodied, or as ‘hands’. As far back as his landmark 19th-century explorations of the new industrial metropolis, Friedrich Engels commented that the typical Manchester factory owner ‘cannot comprehend that he holds any other relation to the operative than that of purchase and sale; he sees in them not human beings, but hands as he constantly calls them to their faces’ . The moral power and ethical imperative of Levinas to recognize ‘the presence of humanity in the eyes that look at me’ is displaced by the substitution of ‘faces’ by ‘hands’. In this sense, just as the representation of the migrant is never innocent, their corporeal form signifies the intersectionality of identity typologies of gender, class, race and sexuality, all mutually constituted.
Technology is facilitating the transnational spread of caring networks, through Skype and through email, with families that monitor each other on screens, where grandparents can see and speak to their grandchildren, and share apps that allow you to kiss online: pursed lips setting off pairs of vibrating smart phones across the planet. At the same time, the disembodied migrant is typically regarded in policy as hiding suspect emotions. Immigration officers must discover motivations and intuit plans as part of their roles. In contrast, the citizen is an emotional subject in their responses to migrants – fear, anger and hostility, but also pity and compassion. Immigration is regularly typified as exciting ‘heated’ debate, yet the relation between the study of emotion and of immigration has been underdeveloped, both in relation to the emotions of the migrant, and the emotions of the enforcer of immigration controls. The emphasis has been, rather, on the requirement for the cold light of reason and of objectivity, yet, according to Weber, a fully developed bureaucracy is dehumanized by the elimination of the personal, irrational and emotional. The question of whether ethics is founded on reason or emotion continues to excite debate in political theory, but is also manifest in political practice around immigration.
Apart from attitudes to migration, an exemplary exception to the lack of interest in emotion is in the study of ‘integration’. While with respect to integration policy, emotion has sometimes been reduced to ‘getting along with one another’, scholarly interrogation of ‘community’ with respect to migrants, citizens and neighbourhoods has practical and political ramifications. Ideas of inclusive communities, unmarked by hierarchies of gender, class and faith, are revealed as complex multi-layered relations of belonging and exclusion. Yet it is through an affective register that many of the qualifiers of belonging are expressed in everyday life – a sense of desire, a fear of loss, the vertiginous moments of insecurity that may trouble and traumatise the new arrival and the seemingly settled alike.
Migration is unavoidably political. It is not just that it is a hot topic used by political parties in liberal democracies, and by other forms of power in non-liberal democracies, in order to achieve certain political ends, but it lies at the heart of social activity and relations. If politics queries the constitution of the good society, then migration amplifies some of its core questions. Who belongs? What do they belong to? Who decides? What rights and obligations do belonging and not belonging carry? These politics cannot be reduced to party politics. Indeed it is noticeable that when it comes to immigration, those on the right may talk about workers’ rights and welfare states, subjects usually associated with those on the left, while those on the left often talk about efficiency and contribution, concerns generally associated with those on the right. The stranger, that is the foreigner and the migrant, has the propensity to generate a mirror dance of political discourse, with left and right uncertain, flipped around or merely a matter of perspective.
Central to the politics of migration are notions of national identity, subjective and collective, and their relation to citizenship. Understanding and identifying oneself as a part of a native group has become an important aspect of the politics of laying claim to social, cultural, economic and political resources, be it land, livelihoods, social service, or a sense of home. Such claims of autocthony, also evident across the political spectrum, are often made against migrants. Those who claim nativity against migrants may be the larger body of citizens, but in certain parts of the world they may also be first-nation sovereignty movements. This suggests that the conventional understanding of colonialism, as a form of foreign occupation and domination, has had major implications for the framing and recognition of immigration and politics.
Rescaling and Re-placing
Migration scholars, such as Nina Glick Schiller, have long pointed out the danger of conceptualizing social science through a lens that studies societies contained within nation states. The fallacies of methodological nationalism reflect the interconnected nature of a world that has, in at least some senses, globalized, but this problematic is particularly pronounced in situations of migration. The consequences of migration play out at different geographical scales. The movement to the city in countries such as India or China commonly involves movements of both cultural and emotional distance greater than most international migrations, and logics of ‘rights’, labour markets and integration that blur the hard boundaries of intranational and international movement. Importantly, people move to places, to streets and to towns. They do not move just to nations, and in the moving to places and communities they also reshape them, often quite literally building places. The imperatives of the small neighbourhood characterized by rapid social change (including processes of migration) are logically different to those of the municipality whose economic growth may be fuelled by migrant labour, or the nation that contemplates its own optimum population.
The turbulence of social change in small neighbourhoods may display strange similarities of suspicion, towards cultural incomers of both gentrification and new migrants from other parts of the same continent. As Simmel argued at the turn of the last century, we should not confuse spatial distance and social distance, particularly as the challenges of diversity do not necessarily respect the passports of the single market. The European Union considers that movements within the EU are not formally covered by policy prescriptions of migrant integration – a policy term reserved for ‘third country nationals’. But such legal typologies and technical niceties may not reflect the social dynamics of life on the ground, where relations between strangers may flourish or generate new kinds of border marking, where a metropolitan paradox may be characterised by both intense intercultural dialogue and nascent xenophobia in the same space.
6. And So …
Fundamentally, the very category of ‘migrant’ has been opened up. Who has not been a ‘migrant’? Who does not have mobility written into the histories of themselves or their loved ones? But if everyone is a ‘migrant’, if the category or subject is so broad, how can it be analytically useful? What is the difference between migration and mobility? And what does using the lens of mobility/migration bring to our understanding of human relations: political, social and economic? These questions bring migration to the core of the social sciences, and raise dilemmas and trade-offs that are both ethical and scientific. The scholarship of migration inevitably invokes questions of the ‘ought’ as well as of the ‘is’. How we consider the cognitive framing and utility optimising of neoclassical economics or contemporary political science, alongside the charged dilemmas of moral obligation, international law and the weight of historical injustice challenges researchers and the public alike to consider how commensurable these very different policy goals and structures of scholarship might be. Migration questions the fundamental relations between people, our obligations to the stranger as well as the familiar, and implies a political economy and a research agenda that speaks both to moral sentiments and the hidden hand of market imperatives. In this sense, this anthology aims to provoke a thinking that is simultaneously analytical and normative, recognizing the logical and epistemological differences between the two, but encouraging an endeavour that strives to be up close and then at a (critical) distance from its subject matter.
Of course, this indicates an entire research agenda rather than the subject of an anthology, but we hope that the following pieces can suggest some ways in which the field can be opened up. We have included an annex of further reading as a resource to help map some routes out of the anthology. This combines the canonical, the eclectic, and important COMPAS contributions for those readers who are interested in rediscovering key texts or starting new lines of analysis and inquiry. We hope that it will encourage you to author your own contribution, and to share it with others by adding to our online version of Migration: a COMPAS Anthology.