RN35 - Sociology of Migration

RN Coordinator: 

Karin Peters, Wageningen University, Wageningen, Netherlands



1. General session: Differences, inequalities and sociological imagination – RN35 Sociology of Migration

ESA Research Network 35 'Sociology of Migration' provides a platform for all scholars who deal with questions of immigration and emigration, inclusion and exclusion, and diversity within Europe. The call for papers for our RN programme at the upcoming 12th ESA conference (25–28 August 2015, Prague) is now open. The theme of this conference – Differences, inequalities and sociological imagination – provides a fruitful basis to continue discussions started at earlier RN activities, as well as for moving to new subject areas.

Differences, inequalities, and imaginations – and especially the links and tensions within this triad – have concerned migration research from its beginning. Of course, the emphases varied over time. During the 1990s and 2000s, the focus was put rather strongly on aspects of (cultural) difference, on questions of ethnicity, identity, and belonging. Partly due to the obvious and urgent crises and contradictions of neoliberal globalisation, inequalities have resurfaced as key concerns of sociological enquiries over the past few years. Lately, the question of how the interplay between differences and inequalities is structured by political agency and discourses has risen in the agenda, most notably in recent studies on migration regimes. Political imaginations play a crucial role here – most obviously, but by far not exclusively the idea of national belonging. This is very different from a second form of imagination, that has so far received little attention: the sociological task of imagining alternative futures.

We invite paper proposals that relate to the general theme of the conference. Authors may submit their abstract to one of the specific sections described below. If they prefer not to declare a specific session, their papers – if accepted – will be considered as part of our general sessions. Abstracts should be no longer than 250 words and need to be submitted through ESA's online submission system by 01 February 2015.


2. Migrant students: new directions in migration research

Session organisers: Renee Luthra (University of Essex) and Lucinda Platt

(London School of Economics)

The internationalisation of education, combined with the increase in visa restrictions on labour migration in many traditional receiving societies, have resulted in an upsurge in student migrants both in absolute terms and as a proportion of overall migrant flows. Between 1975 and 2011 the number of foreign students worldwide increased from 0.8 million to 4.3 million. Yet, this group of migrants remains relatively under-researched. When they are considered, current research tends to cover them in broader discussions of highly skilled migrants or in the context of the free movement or exchange programmes experienced by inter EU migrants more generally. An emerging qualitative literature charts seem of their personal struggles, ambiguities and trajectories, and suggest that such broad frameworks do not do justice to the complexities of this migration stream.
In this session, we invite papers that address theoretical and empirical questions relating to current student migration. Papers might cover comparisons across origin or destination countries, subsequent trajectories of student migrants in either the country of study or on return to the country of origin, investment in study as a family strategy, returns to international study, or other topics relevant to the determinants, characteristics or consequences of migration for education.

3. Escaping power relations or helping to maintain social order? Informality in migration research

Session organiser: Małgorzata Irek (COMPAS, University of Oxford)

As Keith Hart put it, in our times the capitalist state is the dominant social form. Everything that happens beyond this form he called informal. The state is a territorial unit, closed within clearly defined borders and possessing its own legal system and bureaucratic apparatus claiming the monopoly of violence and guarding the existing power system, hierarchically organised from the most privileged at its top, through the ‘gens modestes’ as Bourdieu called the ordinary people, to the ‘precariate’ at the bottom of the social ladder. The lowest place in this hierarchy of power is reserved for the informal immigrants, excluded from human rights enjoyed by all other groups.

Informality, in turn, is a lack of form, which makes it a continuous category, lacking boundaries, and thus infinite. This concept is wider than the popular, developed by the American economists definition of ‘informality’ understood as economic activities that are not reported to a taxman, as well as the concept of ‘irregularity’ used after Portes with reference to migration regulations. So, while the state is a finite and fixed form which controls only a fragment of human experience, informality is a vast category describing a universal human condition, allowing to appreciate migration as a natural part of human experience, rather than its rapture.

Asking whether informal activities of migrants defy existing inequalities, have a revolutionary potential or perhaps save the power system from radical changes, the proposed panel invites contributions of scholars who explore how the relationship between the state and informality is described and theorized in the migration research.


4. Migration and Social Change: European perspectives

Session Organisers: Remus G. Anghel (Romanian Institute for Research on National Minorities, Cluj) and Margit Fauser (Bielefeld University)


Migration and transnational dynamics involve increasingly more people around the world, linking localities of origin and destination in ever more extensive webs of social ties, transfers and exchanges.

In this session, we want to discuss the manifold forms of change migration leads to, in regions of destination as well as in regions of origin.

Debates on the migration-development nexus, remittances and social remittances point towards the social and cultural changes brought about as a consequence of migration. In this vein, an emerging scholarship has started to investigate the consequences of migration in many places of origin. Still, there is a further need to unfold the types and forms of migration-induced social change worldwide, and in comparative perspective. Therefore, migration and development debates need to be located within a more comprehensive understanding of the social changes produced by migration. Rather than focusing on 'Great Transformations', meso-level changes seem of particular interest.

We aim to bring forth a view on Europe as a destination, acknowledging the different migration streams, their composition and histories that may have different implications for change ‘back home’. Hence, what types of meso-level changes can we observe? Are migrants challengers to local social orders? How do changes confront the established systems of economic, political, and social power and inequality? How do local cultural understandings change? What significance does migration have for cities and villages of origin? And how can such processes be researched and understood in places that are simultaneously affected by many other global dynamics? These are some of the question we wish to address with this session.

We invite methodological, empirical and theoretical engagements with these issues.


5. Promoting Social Imagination at the Global Level: A discussion about Migration and Intercultural Integration

Session Organisers: Rina Manuela Contini (University of Chieti-Pescara) and Mariella M. Herold (Northern Arizona University)

Globalization processes and dynamic transnational migrations are bringing about remarkable demographic differences in European societies. The flow of migrants from Eastern Europe, Africa, and other parts of the world are also creating new social, economical and educational inequities which are forcing EU nation states to reflect on these differences and imagine solutions.

New immigrants bring with them cultural practices, foods, forms of art and expression, and perspectives on all aspects of human experience that daily transform the cultural fabric of their communities and of host countries–which are also transformed and enriched by these new cultural experiences. Dichotomies between "natives" and "newcomers" emerge, as well as new forms of identities and distinctions between "them" and "us", as expressed in politics and in the art and literature of marginality, patterns of adaptation and integration. There are also sources of conflict between generations within immigrant communities. In addition, schools and teachers do not feel prepared to educate diverse children with many proficiency levels and diverse languages.

Societal inequities cannot be understood in isolation and they need to be understood from a global perspective.

This session gathers international researchers from Europe, the US, and other parts of the world to examine new paradigms, policies and practices for the development of an inclusive intercultural and transnational framework, in order to reduce inequities. This is necessary to positively integrate culturally-diverse families, children and adolescents into schools and societies.


6. The inequalities referring to the right to mobility in a context of Globalization

Session Organiser: Catherine Wihtol de Wenden (Director of research, CNRS, CERI Science-Po, Paris)

The right to mobility is one of the less well shared rights all over the world, underlying the gap between those who are subject to visas and the others who can freely cross the borders at world scale. This leads to numerous statuses that refer to the segmentation of this right: “illegals”, “regional migration”, “short term residents and workers”, all statuses that conduct to less mobility and more settlement in precarious lives. This session will focus on theoretical and field study approaches on fragile migrant populations included in the new types of migration in, to or from European countries.


7. ‘Policing Ethnicity: Between the Rhetoric of Inclusion and the Practices and Policies of Exclusion’

Session organisers: Abby Peterson (University of Gothenburg) and Malin Åkerström (University of Lund)

Policing will be broadly understood in this session as all those activities involved in the provision of security and/or the maintenance of order, expanding our gaze from the usual criminal justice agencies to also include the new multiple modes of policing, for example, private security, policing partnerships with local authorities and civil society associations, etc. The papers can interrogate policing in different ways: as the patterns of social control, or as the governance of inclusion and exclusion, along the dynamic and interrelated dimensions of ethnicity, class and gender. How does the provision of (physical) security by the multiple new modes of policing construct a topography of ‘insiders’ who enjoy the benefits of the policies and ‘outsiders’ who bear their burdens? Who is consigned to the ‘outside’ , who is invited in the ‘inside’ and how does this process occur? How do countries police their borders, both internal and external? The papers in this session will address how the rhetoric of inclusion is all too often at odds with the practices and policies of exclusion and control.


8. Family dynamics and inequalities in migration=

Session organisers : Muriel Dudt (University of Strasbourg), Elise Pape (EHESS, Paris/University of Strasbourg), Catherine Delcroix (University of Strasbourg)

This session proposal deals with migrant family dynamics and social, political and economic inequalities. How are migrant families affected by the inequalities linked to the depth and acceleration of globalization? What strategies do they develop in order to fight those inequalities? This session encourages contributions on the following themes: How do transnational families (Bryceson and Vuorela 2002) deal with “South-North”/”East-West” inequalities, for example through remittances or migration strategies within the family? What are, in an intersectional perspective, the impacts of age, gender or “race” on the social positioning of the family members in the different contexts they live in? What role does the transmission of languages play in this process? Furthermore, how do migrant families deal with inequalities they may experience in their country of arrival, for example in the fields of access to social and political rights? If families are affected by processes of domination that can trigger tensions between the individuals, they can also be a « space » where original strategies can be created in order to fight inequalities. Family members can for instance share a common « minority » status that can bring them closer as they share experiences of discrimination. What then are the struggles in which they can support each other or which are the struggles that may create distance among them?

The session pays specific attention to how the chosen methodological approach affects the scientific findings. Papers discussing the role of languages in families and working from an intergenerational and multisited perspective are particularly welcome.


9. Migration and Multiculturalism: Making sense of the popular politics of resentment

Session Organisers: Ipek Demir (University of Leicester) and Gurminder K. Bhambra (University of Warwick)

The backlash against multiculturalism and the rise of anti-immigration sentiment have both been dominant themes in European social and political discourse in recent years. Leading European politicians (e.g. Cameron, Merkel, Sarkozy), public figures and sociologists (e.g. Habermas, Beck) have appeared to disown the multicultural and post-colonial legacies of Europe in favour of a more traditional mono-culturalism whether of nationalism or cosmopolitanism. There also exist increasingly explicit anti-immigration stances and policies by parties and movements such as the UK Independence Party and that of Golden Dawn in Greece. It is no coincidence that the stances on migration and multiculturalism emerged simultaneously, draw on similar perspectives and also overlap significantly in their rhetorical claims. How can/should sociologists make sense of these developments using the insights of literature and research on both migration and multiculturalism? What kind of overlapping themes emerge? Taking the ‘popular politics of ethnic and cultural resentment’ as the starting point, papers in this session will examine connections and overlapping theoretical insights, and empirical examples evident in the debates on both migration and multiculturalism.


10. Refugees’ Everyday Life Worlds and the Production of Societal Inequalities in Europe

Session Organisers: Elisabeth Scheibelhofer (University of Vienna) and Vicki Täubig (University of Siegen)

Refugees face manifold restrictions on their stay in Europe. As asylum seekers, they are usually faced with social exclusion, marginalisation and, in some cases, the fight for survival. Usually, they are forced to lead a passive life and often face racism, or difficulties in finding adequate schooling for their children and healthcare. After having been granted asylum they have, to a great extent, equal rights with other citizens. It is only at that stage that it is demanded of them to actively and rapidly ’integrate' into European societies, often without sufficient means. Those whose applications for asylum have been rejected are transformed into illegal refugees without any rights. Refugee studies connect global processes of societal change and biographic or group struggles for a self-determined life and societal recognition.

Firstly, this session invites both theoretical and empirical contributions. Secondly, we are interested in comparative and/or long-term case studies, of the living conditions of refugees. Papers that suggest answers to the question of how people organize themselves in the face of others and “how they organize themselves vis-á-vis broader structural situations” (Clarke 2005: 109) are especially welcome. Thirdly, we cordially invite contributions that focus on historical and political analyses in order to reach a better understanding of these ongoing societal processes. Papers should address the question of production and reproduction of social inequalities. The session organisers plan to produce a special issue within an international journal containing session contributions.


11. Inclusion, exclusion and precarious employment of migrant workers in Europe

Session Organiser: Olena Fedyuk (University of Strathclyde, Glasgow)

The session aims to move the debate beyond the perspective that situates migrants’ exclusion and inclusion solely in migration processes. The central concern is to explore how migration is experienced in gendered, ethnic and class terms. Specifically, how these categories intersect with each other and the larger transformations of global capital and local labor relationships. Current academic debates conceptualise migration as an integral part of such transformations. This suggests that migration should be understood in the context of the ongoing changes in employment regimes, i.e. liberalization, flexibilisation and precarisation of labour around Europe as well as ideologies accompanying these practices, which have an impact on an individual’s subjectivity. Against the backdrop of these changes in employment and migration regimes, we scrutinize processes of inclusion and exclusion as a continuum of social positions. The session aims at fostering a debate on how to conceptualize those processes in relation to empirical studies of migrants’ work trajectories.

The session welcomes papers, which critically engage with concepts of inclusion and exclusion, citizenship and precarisation, and which tackle macro, micro and meso- level of migratory flows and practices. The purpose is to examine the political economy of the recent transformations in employment, migration and care regimes, and to situate ethnographic examples from Europe within this context in order to explore migrants’ individual and collective responses to these transformations.


12. (Successful) migrant integration: whose responsibility is it?

Session organiser: Markéta Seidlová (Charles University in Prague, Prague)

The integration of immigrants has always had a strong local (and especially urban) dimension (Borkert et al., 2007), while cities always served as “machines of integration” (Bosswick, Heckmann, 2006). The un/success of integration policies is measured by comparing data from selected fields between the “majority society” and immigrant minorities (Entzinger, Biezeveld, 2003). Usually four main fields of integration are distinguished: socioeconomic; cultural; legal and political integration; and the attitude of the host society (Heckmann, Schnapper, 2003). It is also stated that the probability of a successful social and economic integration of an immigrant into the host society depends not only on his/her human capital, but also on his/her particular country of origin, “race” and belonging to a specific ethnic community (Castles, 2008).

In this panel, we would like to approach the socioeconomic integration of immigrants from different perspectives and on different scales of analysis. How can the determinants of immigrant integration be addressed by national governments and local councils in order to boost immigrants’ access to the labour market? To what extent do immigrants themselves use their social networks to get incorporated into their host society? Are there differences between the integration strategies taken by immigrant minorities in specific local places or coming from diverse environments? Are the integration policies adopted by the countries of Eastern and Western Europe different? These are the issues that this panel aims to address.

13. Access to fair and transparent qualifications recognition – a right or a privilege?

Session Organiser: Beata Sokolowska (Trinity College Dublin)

Ongoing globalisation has led to European societies that are becoming increasingly diverse. On one hand, progressing globalisation evokes demand for equity and provision of high quality information. On the other hand, European countries face unacceptably high rates of unemployment and are concerned about social inclusion. Exploring academic and social aspect of the recognition of foreign qualifications in the European context is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, migrants who move from one country to another are often interested in seeking the recognition of their qualification so they can access regulated or unregulated professions and/or pursue further studies in their host country. Secondly, fair recognition of migrants’ skills and educational attainment should facilitate transferability of already acquired knowledge and social competence. Thirdly, recognition of foreign qualifications acts as a mechanism to place international awards in the context of particular education and training systems, which is of great importance, particularly in the context of labour market activation; access, transfer and progression (ATP) and the recognition of prior learning (RPL). In terms of contributing to social cohesion, the recognition of qualifications and competencies of migrants is decisive. However, only a few European countries offer this service free of charge (e.g., Ireland).Finally, there is a limited availability of information on the impact of recognition of foreign qualifications for migrant employability and social cohesion. This session calls for papers on this topic that will reflect how information barriers may be removed and how this may contribute to a greater social equality for migrants within Europe.


Notes for authors

Authors are invited to submit their abstract either to the general session or any specific session. Please submit only to one session. After abstract evaluation, coordinators will have the chance to transfer papers between sessions where applicable.

Abstracts should not exceed 250 words. Each paper session will have the duration of 1.5 hours. Normally sessions will include 4 papers.

Abstracts must be submitted online to the submission platform, see below. Abstracts sent by email cannot be accepted. Abstracts will be peer-reviewed and selected for presentation by the Research Network; the letter of notification will be sent by the conference software system in early April 2015.

Abstract submission deadline (extended):  15th February 2015

Abstract submission platform: www.esa12thconference.eu 

If you have further questions on the conference, please visit the conference website. For further information on the Research Network, please visit www.europeansociology.org.