Call for Abstracts for a Special Issue in Migration Studies - Interrogating the Transnationalism of the Immobile

16 August 2022

Guest Editors: Amanda Klekowski von Koppenfels (University of Kent); Naiara Rodriguez-Pena (University of Kent; UPVM)

This proposed Special Issue aims to contribute to current critiques about the ‘mobility bias’ (Schewel 2020) within the study of transnationalism. It joins the call of other researchers (Boccagni 2012; Gaibazzi 2015; Lacroix 2009) in advocating for a more comprehensive inclusion of non-migrants in this subfield. Indeed, while migration scholars have long discussed migrants’ interactions both in origin and destination countries, the integration of non-migrants in these studies has remained marginal. In recent years (Carling 2008), the assumed passivity of non-migrants as receptors of transnational connections has been challenged, along with increasing attention being paid to the ties of the children of migrants (Wessendorf 2007), to the importance of the immobile within transnational families (Bastia 2009; Mata-Codesal 2015) and to the interdependence and exchanges between mobile and immobile individuals (cf. Lacroix 2009).

The proposed topic for this Special Issue is therefore timely, and focusing on non-migrants’ transnational practices remains relevant for four reasons:

1) Sustained transnational practices serve as political, economic and cultural adaptation mechanisms as migrants cross borders. How can the so-called ‘left behind’ adapt accordingly?

2) When transnational ties are sustained over time, how do these impact non-migratory or returned family members? Are transnational activities perpetuated between origin and destination even when the initiator of the transnational ties is no longer present? If so, how?

3) Migrants’ impact on sending countries goes far beyond the oft-mentioned economic remittances. This Special Issue aims to also highlight how the exchange of ideas – i.e. social remittances – might lead to further cross-border connections as the immobile become more aware of opportunities elsewhere.

4) Finally, despite research showing the active role non-migrants play within transnational social fields (Levitt and Lamba-Nieves 2013; Mata-Codesal 2015), the assumption is often made that current migrants, and only current migrants, create transnational ties between origin and destination countries. Can non-migrants also act as initiators of transnational ties? What is the role of returnees within transnational social fields?

The proposed Special Issue, tentatively titled Interrogating the transnationalism of the immobile, answers a call from Migration Studies, particularly aiming to shed light upon the active role nonmigrants play within transnational fields, but also to look at the long-term impact that migration has upon countries of origin. Its objectives are:

(i) to further contribute to challenging the ‘mobility bias’ that has traditionally characterized research on transnationalism within the field of migration studies,

(ii) offering theoretical and/or empirical discussions on incorporation of transnationalism into the daily life of societies (whether sending or receiving), as demonstrated by the embeddedness of non-migrants in cross-border activities;

(iii) offering theoretical and/or empirical contributions on transnationalism that go beyond the studies of migrants’ engagement with their home countries. For this, the proposed Special Issue is particularly interested in highlighting how migration facilitates the transnationalism of non-migrants, but also including the long-term impact on home societies of migrant transnationalism, moving beyond, for instance, economic remittances or the short-term influence of social remittances.

By doing so, this Special Issue will explore, among others, the following questions: Who are the actors being researched within transnationalism studies? In what ways is that research undertaken, and what are the effects of the focus on these actors?

Other topics that address these questions, and will contribute to exploring and understanding the role of non-migrants (whether in sending or receiving countries) on transnational processes, are most welcome.

If you are interested in contributing, please send us an abstract of no more than 500 words with contributor name, affiliation and contact information to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by September 10, 2022. First full draft of papers will not be due before April 2023.


Bastia, T. (2009). “Women’s Migration and the Crisis of Care: Grandmothers caring for grandchildren in urban Bolivia”. Gender and Development 17 (3), 389-401.

Boccagni, P. (2012). “Rethinking Transnational Studies: Transnational ties and the transnationalism of everyday life”. European Journal of Social Theory 15 (1), 117-132

Carling, J. (2008). “The Human Dynamics of Migrant Transnationalism”. Ethnic and Racial Studies 31 (8), 1452-1477. 

Gaibazzi, P. (2015). Bush Bound: Young men and rural permanence in migrant West Africa. Berghahn Books.

Lacroix, T. (2009). “Transnationalism and Development: The example of Moroccan migrant networks”. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 35 (10), 1665-1678.

Levitt, P. and D. Lamba-Nieves. (2013). “Rethinking Social Remittances and the MigrationDevelopment Nexus from the Perspective of Time”. Migration Letters 10 (1), 11-22.

Mata-Codesal, D. (2015). “Ways of Staying put in Ecuador: Social and Embodied Experiences of Mobility–Immobility Interactions”. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 41 (14): 2274-2290.

Schewel, K. 2020. “Understanding Immobility: Moving beyond the Mobility Bias in Migration Studies”. International Migration Review 54(2): 328-355.

Wessendorf, S. (2007). “‘Roots Migrants’: Transnationalism and ‘return’ among second-generation Italians in Switzerland”. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 33 (7), 1083-1102.

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