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.


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

Istanbul University, Turkey

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


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:

  • Webinar on "Reflexive approaches to methodology and research methods", organized in cooperation with the Standing Committee "Methodological Approaches and Tools in Migration Research". Taking place on 30 January 2023, 2-5pm (CET). The program and the registration link will soon be published.
  • Conference on "De-centring migration in migration studies", planned for 2023. More information can be found below.

Panels and workshops at IMISCOE’s Annual Conferences:

  • 2023 @ IMISCOE's Hybrid Conference in Warsaw, Poland: session on "Reflexive practices that unsettle bordering in migration (studies)" and on "The practice of reflexivities in research" - more information soon available!
  • 2022 @ IMISCOE's Hybrid Conference in Oslo, Norway: sessions on "Positionality and power of migration researchers: Searching for reflexive ways of knowledge production".
  • 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.

Online workskop “Integrating Reflexivities into Survey Research”

organised by the IMISCOE Standing Committees Reflexivities in Migration Studies and Methodological Approaches and Tools in Migration Research (Meth@Mig)

On January 30th, 2-5 pm, the online workshop on "Integrating Reflexivities into Survey Research" was carried out with two keynote speakers: Jessica Hagen-Zanker, ODI and Laura Morales, Centre for European Studies and Comparative Politics, Sciences Po and the following contributions:

  • A mixed methods approach to measuring naturalization preferences - Franziska Maier (University of Stuttgart)
  • Using national household surveys to measure the reproductive health of displaced populations: the case of Iraq - Rossanna Le Voir (London School of Economics and Political Science)
  • Decolonisation in the quantitative methods classroom - Rima Saini (Middlesex University London)
  • Mapping quali-quantification pathways from open interview to closed survey – the case of the Migration-Mobility Continuum - Kesi Mahendran (Open University) and Nicola Magnusson (Open University)
  • From movers to migrants: impact of the end of free movement on EU citizens in the UK - Mariña Fernandez Reino (University of Oxford) & Madeleine Sumption (the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford)

This workshop aimed to facilitate discussions across the qualitative/quantitative divide. As migration scholars, we often rely on survey research, be it as researchers collecting primary data or working with existing surveys conducting secondary analysis. When conducting original surveys there is an opportunity to think reflexively about the consequences of the categories (including official categories) we are using. When engaging in secondary analysis migration scholars must rely on the existing categories of survey-based work. However, there are often opportunities to be creative and transformative within the secondary analysis. Survey research, as any other type of research, is an art of itself. It requires pragmatism, expertise and consideration of a series of issues that arise at the various stages of survey design, implementation and data analysis. This workshop created a space for reflexive discussion about survey research. It aims to identify and understand the challenges and opportunities of creating reflexive approaches to survey research in migration studies.

The discussion was moderated by Justyna Salamońska (Kozmiński University) & Marta Kindler (University of Warsaw).

Going on: Reflexivities PhD Sessions Vol. II (Autumn/Winter 2022/2023)

After a great first round of PhD Peer Feedback Sessions on Reflexivities in Migration Studies during the spring semester, we are now launching a second call to continue the sessions into the winter semester! The sessions are organized by PhD members of the Standing Committee. They are meant to serve as a platform where early career peers can present their research, give feedback on each other's work, debate methodological and theoretical issues, and broaden their network by meeting like-minded researchers interested in a reflexive way of doing migration research. It's a safe place for young scholars who like to advance alternative modes of research that remain sensitive to the power relations in the production of knowledge on migration and aim to de-nationalize and de-migranticize the study of mobility and diversity. 
We invite all PhD and early career researchers whose research contributes to advancing Reflexivities in Migration Studies to signal their interest to present, discuss or participate otherwise in our online Autumn/Winter sessions.
The sessions will take place
every last Thursday of the month (except December) from 3-5 pm (CET), October 2022 to February 2023 (October 27, November 24, December 22, January 26, February 23).
You find detailed information on the event and registration here: PhD Sessions Vol. 2. Please register your interest by October 9. For any questions you may have, you can contact stefan.manser-egli[at] and iva.dodevska[at]

Just published: 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

From Objects to Subjects: Expanding Reflexivity in Migration Studies

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 and 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.

Soon to come: Conference "Migration Studies and Social Theory: Problematizing Ontologies, De-Centering Migration"

Increased reflexivity in migration research (e.g. in regard to the construction of social categories like ‘migrant’, ‘refugee’ or ‘migration background’) has changed the focus and identity of migration studies. Since migration-related differences are no longer seen as ‘natural’, it seems less self-evident and legitimate to treat migration or migrants as an exception to ‘normal sedentary life’. Thus, migration and migration studies are de-centered. Relativizing and complexifying difference draws attention to the ordinariness of migrations and migrants in many realms of social life. In consequence, migration studies cease to differ from other fields of social research. How can de-centering transform the ‘epistemic object’ of migration studies in a manner that pushes migration studies forward, i.e. out of its sociological niche in order to mainstream ‘the migration question’? How can we both de-migranticize migration studies and migranticize social theory?

Following this line of thinking, this conference revisits the question of what migration studies can and should achieve after the reflexive turn. It aims at bringing together research perspectives that do not marginalise mobile, legally excluded, and symbolically othered populations but ask for the role they – and the research on them – play in the reproduction and/or contestation of social order(s). We aim to bring together and discuss conceptual foci and research results that contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of society of which migration and mobility are integral. As we take stock of how the reflexive turn has transformed the ways ‘migration’ is researched, we hope to open a way towards novel theory-making beyond groupism and migrant exceptionalism. We are especially interested in whether and how we can build theory by bringing reflexive migration research in dialogue with wider social theories. Therefore, theoretical and conceptual contributions, especially in their connection with empirical research (design), are especially encouraged. We welcome contributions that address the following and related questions:

  • How can we approach migration-related phenomena from the vantage point of more general social theories?
  • What kind of theoretical or methodological innovations did the reflexive turn stimulate or should stimulate in the future?
  • How do these depart from both mainstream ‘Migration Studies’ and more general social research to produce knowledge that neither exceptionalises nor invisibilises ‘migrants’ and human mobility?
  • How can the circulation of concepts, thoughts and approaches between social theory and migration studies lead to theoretical innovation?
  • Which ontologies inform our reflexive critiques? How do they relate to each other?
  • What is the relationship of reflexive migration scholarship to the ‘critical lenses’ on society? What does reflexivity add to critical research, and how can the two be distinguished?

Format: We aim for a conference where brief presentations will be followed by in-depth discussions. To facilitate fruitful exchange, the distribution of short papers (3-5 pages) in advance of the conference is strongly encouraged.

The conference will take place on 14-15 September 2023 at the University of Tübingen, Germany.

Organizers: Iva Dodevska (Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier & Charles University), Stefan Manser-Egli (University of Neuchâtel), Boris Nieswand (University of Tübingen), Anja Weiß (University of Duisburg-Essen)

The abstract submissions is closed. The program of the conference is available pdf here (430 KB) .