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Researching Migration, Migrants and Transnationalism. Researching Society and Culture 14 th January 2014 Hannah Jones. Defining the research field (‘migration’?) Methodological nationalism/the unit of analysis Measuring migration – research examples Uses of migration research

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researching migration migrants and transnationalism

ResearchingMigration, Migrants and Transnationalism

Researching Society and Culture

14th January 2014

Hannah Jones


Defining the research field (‘migration’?)

  • Methodological nationalism/the unit of analysis
  • Measuring migration – research examples
  • Uses of migration research
  • Ethics and migration research
defining the research field
Defining the research field
  • Migration flows (how many people are moving, and who)
  • Migrant population (who lives where)
  • Who counts as a migrant?
  • Different statuses of migrants
  • Experiences of migrants
  • Effects of migration
  • Why do people migrate?
  • Migration policy
  • Attitudes to migrants
  • Comparison over time, or between places
  • Follow the money?
methodological nationalism
Methodological Nationalism

The assumption that the most natural way of understanding the world is as made up of bounded nation states.

methodological cosmopolitanism
Methodological Cosmopolitanism

The need for a ‘cosmopolitan turn’ that considers social phenomena as not necessarily ordered or divided up by national boundaries.

beck and sznaider
Beck and Sznaider

“Methodological cosmopolitanism opens up new horizons by demonstrating how we can make the empirical investigation of border crossings, mixing processes, and other transnational phenomena possible. The resulting real cosmopolitanism, which, seeking to overcome dualisms by proceeding based on a logic of ‘both-and’ instead of ‘either-or’, does not fit into uniform or dualistic frameworks.”

Beck, U and Sznaider, N (2006) ‘Unpacking cosmopolitanism for the social sciences: a research agenda’, British Journal of Sociology, 57(1): 1-23.

wimmer and glick schiller
Wimmer and Glick Schiller

“The shift towards a study of ‘transnational communities’ … was more a consequence of an epistemic move away from methodological nationalism than of the appearance of new objects of observation”

Wimmer, A and Glick Schiller, N (2002) “Methodological nationalism and beyond: nation-state building, migration and the social sciences”, Global Networks, 2(4) 301-334.

why is this relevant to social research more broadly
Why is this relevant tosocial research more broadly?


How we look at the world (rather than changes in the social world itself) can throw up new research questions (and answers)

Unit of analysis:

Is the number of people entering/leaving a country the unit of interest – or (for example) the experiences and effects of people living in places other than where they were born?

why is this relevant to researching migration
Why is this relevant toresearching migration?

Cross-border snapshot or transnational processes?

Migrants in isolation from rest of society?

Migration separate from other social processes?

But how can we understand migration without starting from borders?

measuring migration i
Measuring migration I

Migration flows

(numbers, direction, over time, causes)

Key issues (defining categories, areas for comparison)


What you find out

who is a migrant
Who is a migrant?

ONS LTIM = Office of National Statistics Long Term International Migration; LFS = Labour Force Survey. Source: Anderson, B and Blinder, S (2013) Who Counts as a Migrant? Definitions and Their Consequences, Oxford: Migration Observatory.


“Eurostat’s main role is to process and publish comparable statistical information at European level. We try to arrive at a common statistical ‘language’ that embraces concepts, methods, structures and technical standards.Eurostat does not collect data. This is done in Member States by their statistical authorities. They verify and analyse national data and send them to Eurostat. Eurostat’s role is to consolidate the data and ensure they are comparable, using harmonized methodology. Eurostat is actually the only provider of statistics at European level and the data we issue are harmonized as far as possible.The bottom line is we try to provide you with data that are comparable because apples have to be compared with apples - not with pears…”


Total immigration – (EU – Eurostat figures)

“Total number of long-term immigrants into the reporting country during the reference year”

Total emigration (EU – Eurostat figures)

National populations (EU – Eurostat figures)

d eaths at the borders of europe
Deaths at the borders of Europe

United for Intercultural Action’s methodology:

“We scan several newspapers daily and we read them through. When we find a death case which falls into the criteria selected to be part of the death list, we translate it into English. Then, we check if the case is already in the database. If it is, we check if we have already listed this source (the article), otherwise we add the newspaper/magazine among the sources. If the case is not already in the date base, we add it with all possible details. We have a special entry form for that.”


measuring migration ii
Measuring migration II

Effects of migration

Key issues (defining categories, areas for comparison)


What you find out


Source: Vargas-Silva, C (2013) The Fiscal Impact of Immigration in the UK, Oxford: Migration Observatory.


From Bell, B and Machin, S (2013) Briefing: Immigration and Crime: Evidence for the UK and Other Countries, Oxford: Migration Observatory.

social and cultural effects
Social and cultural effects?



Archives Ethnography


measuring migration iii
Measuring migration III

Experiences of migrants

Key issues (defining categories, areas for comparison)


What you find out

experiences of migrants
Experiences of migrants

The super-rich (e.g. work by Beaverstock, Hubbard and Short)

Lifestyle migrants (e.g. work by Michaela Benson)

Domestic workers (e.g. work by Bridget Anderson)

Irregular migrants (e.g. work by Nando Sigona and Vanessa Hughes)

Refugees (e.g. Birmingham Churches Together)

uses of migration research
Uses of migration research

Headlines: 1 and 2


Academia Activism


ethics of migration research
Ethics of migration research
  • Participants
  • Researcher
  • Public
to summarise
  • Migration, like any topic, is broad. Define which aspect you are interested in.
  • Be clear about your terms, and how you will operationalise them.
  • When reading others’ research, get to the bottom of where their data comes from, how it was gathered and the definitions they used.
  • What method is most appropriate for your research question? Both scientifically, and practically (can you get access?)
  • Consider the ethical and other implications of your research before, during, and after.