Reflexivities in Migration Studies

Key Questions

For what underlying structural reasons did migration research have such a success these last decades?

Why is migration so often presented in politics, in public or in the media as a direct threat to sovereignty and national identity and welfare states?

How could we study migration without turning it into a problem?

How come we develop theories in what we would call the migration container? Assimilation or integration theory? Are migrants à priori and per se so different that we need a special field and special theories for them, beyond what we have in terms of theories and concepts in social sciences?

How are the interpretations we do have on migration related to our position of power? Why are most researchers white and European? Why is it only recently that migration scholar included ‘race’ or in general, post-colonial theories and concepts into their studies?

The aim of this standing committee is to push forward a reflexive (and self-reflexive) perspective within migration studies. Given the growth, relevance and responsibility of migration studies, we strive to promote reflexivity in our research and to investigate on how the field of migration studies has emerged. Being reflexive in these two senses involves investigating how knowledge on migration is produced, circulated and utilized – both by us as researchers as well by other actors in the field.

This endeavour tackles the embeddedness of the field of migration studies in wider societal and power relations and the risk to reproduce hegemonic structures. Hence, studying knowledge production cannot be separated from studying eurocentrism, racism, situated positions of researchers, or contested public debates on “truth” or “fake-news”. Studying knowledge circulation requires examining patterns of knowledge utilization in policy, politics, or state institutions. Equally important is to analyse the transfer of migration-related knowledge produced by other actors, like mass media, so-called migrants themselves, civil society actors, international organizations, or social science disciplines.

For migration studies as field of research, becoming reflexive changes its positionality. The reflexive approach that we pursue emphasizes the boundedness of knowledge about migration to specific epistemological, methodological and political modes of knowledge production. The awareness that modes of conceiving and researching migration are inevitably historical and theoretically contingent shall feed back into the ways of how knowledge is produced. Consequently, the objectives of this SC are to

  • promote reflexivity amongst migration scholars
  • provide a platform for research on knowledge production, circulation and utilization in migration studies
  • address the risk of migration studies of reproducing hegemonic structures and problem definitions
  • develop alternatives in theory, empirical research and science-society dialogues.

Names of coordinators

Anna-Lisa Müller

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Names and institutional affiliations of (key) members

Institutional leadership of the standing committee is at IMIS, Osnabrück University, Germany.

The standing committee is managed by two directors and a governing board.

Directors

Janine Dahinden

University of Neuchâtel , Switzerland

Andreas Pott

Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies (IMIS), Germany

Further members of the governing board

Iva Dodevska

Charles University, Czech Republic

 

Olena Fedyuk

Prof. Halleh Ghorashi

Dr Marta Kindler

University of Warsaw, Poland

Kesi Mahendran

British Psychological Society - Political Psychology Section, United Kingdom

Stefan Manser-Egli

University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland

 

Maissam Nimer

Ferruccio Pastore

FIERI- Forum of International and European Research on Immigration, Italy

Dr Ann Singleton

Gunjan Sondhi

The Open University, United Kingdom

Agenda of activities

In the upcoming years, we will particularly focus on:

  1. Histories, theories and methodologies of migration studies
  2. Migration knowledge production by actors outside academia
  3. Reflection on practices of data production in migration studies and development of new and different forms of data production

Objectives

Based on these activities and the work of the colleagues involved, the Standing Committee intends

  1. to establish ‘Reflexivities in Migration Studies’ as part of the curriculum of the history and theory of the discipline; to contribute to the theory of migration studies; to reflect on the role of commissioned research for the epistemologies, history and theories of migration studies; to de-center and re-position European migration research within global contexts;
  2. to investigate forms of ‘migranticization’ in terms of knowledge production, utilization and circulation by different actors such as state institutions, activists, policy makers and researchers, social scientist experts, and the role of mass (and social) media as distributors of this knowledge;
  3. to enhance competences in reflexivity regarding data production (both qualitative and quantitative approaches) relating to the identified (potential) problems

Recent and Future Activities

Recent workshops and conferences:

Future workshops and conferences:

  • Conference on "De-centring migration in migration studies", planned for 2022. More information will follow soon.

  • Webinar on "Reflexive approaches to methodology and research methods", organized in cooperation with the Standing Committee "Methodological Approaches and Tools in Migration Research". More information will follow soon.

Panels and workshops at IMISCOE’s Annual Conferences:

  • 2022 @ IMISCOE's Hybrid Conference in Oslo, Norway: sessions on "Positionality and power of migration researchers: Searching for reflexive ways of knowledge production" - more information soon available!
  • 2021 @ IMISCOE's Online Conference: Session on challenges in "Reflexivities in Migration Studies. Pitfalls and Alternatives", taking place on Friday, 9 July, 8-11:15ampm (sessions #185 & 212). Please see the panel's description here.
  • 2020 @ IMISCOE's Online Conference: Roundtable Discussion on challenges in "Reflexive Migration Studies", taking place on Wednesday, 1 July, 2-3:30pm (session no 12). Please see the panel's description here.

 Here you find a glimpse of our work, summarizing our kick-off meeting in January 2020.

Currently going on: blog series on Reflexive Migration Studies

Organised by our co-director Janine Dahinden , the contributions in this blog address Reflexive Migration Studies and critically discuss its development over the past two decades. The blog series is a collaboration between the Standing Committee and the nccr – on the move.

Contributions published so far:

Twenty Years of ‘Reflexive’ Migration Studies: Introduction to the Blog Series

Migration and Methodological Amnesia

Why Mobility Matters to Social Policy

Academic Engagement for Refugees’ Inclusion Beyond Good Intentions

A Reflexive Perspective on Privileged Migration Studies. What’s the Point?

Immigrant Researching versus Immigration Research

The Complicity of Culturalist Knowledge Production

What’s Sex Got to Do With It? Migration Studies Meets Sexualities

Recent event: webinar session "Racism at the Border"

On 29 April 2022 we had our anti-racism webinar which actively engaged with questions of racism at the borders of Europe with Kamila Fiałkowska (Centre of Migration Research, University of Warsaw) and Katarzyna Czarnota (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań): Racism at the border.

At Poland’s Eastern border we witness since February 2022 two separate processes. On the southern part of this border, with Ukraine, people fleeing the war can enter practically without restrictions, are provided with humanitarian aid, and received with great solidarity.  In parallel on the northern part of the border, other people fleeing military conflict, war and other atrocities, face “fortress Europe” in its worst version, with a “no go” zone,  a  wall being built, and people after entering Poland are unable to claim asylum. Those people are not being provided humanitarian aid and forced by border guards to re-enter again Belarus. The source of this double-standard border regime in Poland, with a clear preference for “whiteness” and “Christianity”, has its origin in the current government stand on the so-called “refugee crisis” from 2015 and a politically mobilised Islamophobia. This webinar brings together activists academics to discuss within IMISCOE the criminalisation of non-European migrants as well as criminalisation of humanitarian aid. We aim to consider the role of academia, use of language, categories of analysis and critically the use of the “state of emergency” as a tool for racism and social divisions.

Kamila Fiałkowska is a researcher at the Centre of Migration Research, University of Warsaw. Her research focuses on migration from Poland, inequalities, gender, religion and national and ethnic identities of migrants from Poland. Since the border and humanitarian crisis on the Polish-Belarussian border she has been involved in the work of the research collective, Researchers at the Border.

Katarzyna Czarnota is a sociologist and PhD candidate at the Adam Mickiewicz University (UAM). In her research she uses critical action research, concentrating on methods of connecting theory and practice and preparation of models of knowledge production based on the questioning of current role divisions. She conducted research in Jordan, Greece, Turkey and the so called ‘Balkan Trail’. In recent years she conducted interdisciplinary research projects around the so called “refugee crisis”, housing, gentrification, neorealism, violence against people who have been refugees before and migration. She works at the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and is a member of the NGO Coalition “Grupa Granica”.

The discussion was moderated by the Standing Committee's board member Marta Kindler, WSNSiR and CMR University of Warsaw. About 55 people participated in the webinar.

A report on the event will be published soon here on our website.