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

Istanbul University, Turkey

Ferruccio Pastore

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

Dr Ann Singleton

Gunjan Sondhi

The Open University, United Kingdom

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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.

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

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]unine.ch and iva.dodevska[at]ff.cuni.cz.

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 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.

Extended Deadline: Call for Papers ‘Standing Committee Reflexivities in Migration Studies’ for the IMISCOE Annual Conference 2023

We invite paper proposals for two sessions organised by the Standing Committee at IMICSOE's Annual Conference 2023 in Warsaw, Poland. You find the Call for Papers including detailed information on the submission procedure pdf here (202 KB) . New deadline: Please submit your proposal until Tuesday, 22 November 2022.

Sessions' authors: Janine Dahinden, Oleyna Feyduk, Halleh Ghorashi, Kesi Mahendran, Marta Kindler, Andreas Pott, Gunjan Sondhi (members of the board of directors of the SC).

Session I Boundary spanners: Reflexive practices that unsettle bordering in migration (studies)

The IMISCOE Standing Committee “Reflexivities in Migration Studies” calls for contributions which reflect on the role of boundary spanners in knowledge production and investigate practices of unsettling bordering. The world deals with one human crisis after another, and  the dominance of bordering practices results in growing dehumanization of ‘the stranger’. According to Bracha Ettinger, artist, psychoanalyst, and feminist theorist, the border is not a line that separates ‘us’ and ‘them’ but a shared field that joins the ‘self’ and the ‘other’, a densely woven web of connections, movements and interactions. In this alternative visualization of borders we can see the role of individuals and organizations who act as boundary spanners. These are the ones who cross over boundaries of the self and other, of separated nations and academic disciplines and various forms of knowledge, to create innovative connections which acknowledge, rather than erase, humanity. The in-between positionalities of boundary-spanners disrupt  dominant bordering practices.

With this visualization in mind, we call for papers which go beyond descriptions of dehumanising bordering discourses and practices , but adapt a broader reflexive  lens that engages with societal actors whose  actions unsettle the bordering practices. Boundary spanners embrace an in-between position to mediate, bridge and act as brokers who challenge the dichotomies of difference and help reimagine borders as a shared field that includes mobility of people. These are NGO’s and various  professionals in the field of migration, who connect the lived experiences of migrants with institutional knowledge and search for solutions in-between the lines of separating structures. Also, migration scholars can use their theoretical knowledge and methodological capabilities to collaborate with engaged actors in the field and/or activate knowledge for bettering the situation at the borders. And migrant and refugee advocates can use their in-between position to connect institutional efforts with firsthand experiences and challenges.

The session’s aim is twofold: (i) to reflect on the character and impact of boundary-spanners in knowledge production (ii) to explore how to include different actors involved in unsettling bordering practices?

Session II The practice of reflexivities in research

The IMISCOE Standing Committee “Reflexivities in Migration Studies” calls for contributions which critically reflect on the practice of reflexivities in research.

There is a large body of academic work that critically examines the political, ethical and theoretical problems of migration studies. For example, many scholars have highlighted the embeddedness of migration studies in nation-state centred epistemologies or pointed out the danger of migration studies reproducing coloniality. These works do a good job of questioning categorisations, concepts and theories. In contrast, there is less literature that shows the changes in everyday (empirical) research practice when scholars apply a reflexive view. What do we understand by reflexivity and how do we put reflexivity into practice? What does reflexivity change in  fieldwork, concepts, collaboration, theories, power relations etc.?

We are inviting paper proposals addressing the following questions:

  • How does a reflexive lens change knowledge production in practice?
  • How do we put into practice a reflexive lens in our research?
  • How do we conceptualize and practice reflexivity in various research, methodological and knowledge production contexts?
  • What are the consequences of practicing reflexivities for our research? How can reflexivity change the outcomes, productions, dissemination and application of our research?
  • How do these new practices change power relations and impact on forms of collaboration and knowledge production? What is the role of reflexivity in collaborative projects and knowledge production?

Call for contributions: Integrating Reflexivities into Survey Research

The IMISCOE Standing Committees: Reflexivities in Migration Studies and Methodological Approaches and Tools in Migration Research (Meth@Mig) are inviting submissions for a workshop highlighting reflexivities in survey research. This workshop will bring together scholars from all stages of their career from early career to more experienced researchers. The workshop will aim 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 creates 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 workshop organisers invite contributions from scholars of all disciplines, representing various methodological approaches, and career stages. Submission should consist of an extended abstract of approx. 500 words and a short personal bio of the presenting author(s) (including 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. (putting “ Integrating Reflexivities into Survey Research workshop” in the submission email’s subject line) by the 10th of December 2022. The organizers will notify authors about the results of the review process by the 20th of December 2022. Please see pdf here (167 KB) for detailed information.

Organising Committee:

  • Marta Kindler, University of Warsaw
  • Kesi Mahendran, The Open University
  • Steffen Pötzschke, GESIS – Leibniz-Institute for the Social Sciences
  • Justyna Salamońska, Department of Management in Networked and Digital Societies, Kozminski University

Reflex_studies Blog

From Objects to Subjects: Expanding Reflexivity in Migration Studies

07.07.2022
by Christine Lang Reflexive approaches in migration studies have revealed the problems of traditional constructions of the objects of migration research. Much less attention has been paid to the subjects doing the research and the mechanisms that...

Reflex_studies News

Call for contributions: Integrating Reflexivities into Survey Research

18.11.2022
Online workshop to be held on 30 January 2023 Keynote speakers: Jessica Hagen-Zanker, ODI Laura Morales, Centre for European Studies and Comparative Politics, Sciences Po The IMISCOE Standing Committees: Reflexivities in Migration Studies and...

Reflexivities PhD Sessions Vol. II (Autumn/Winter 2022)

26.09.2022
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...

Kick-off Workshop @ Neuchâtel

On 24 January, 2020, 34 migration researchers from all over Europe gathered in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, for the kickoff-workshop of IMISCOE’s Standing Committee “Reflexive Migration Studies”. The objective of the workshop was not only to get to know each...

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