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Unlocking migration politics: researching beyond biases and gaps in migration studies and comparative politics

Abstract : The focus of research in contemporary international migration and integration politics has long been immigration to Western democracies and their related migration corridors, often defined by colonial history. Just like in any field of social science, the ethnocentrism of this focus mimics the geography of scientific employment and institutions, the economics of research funding and the politics of academic publications. Apart from raising ethical issues, these limitations constrain our understanding of processes and dynamics of international migration politics, both by neglecting empirical realities that are statistically relevant -notably migration politics in the Global South- and by creating methodological and epistemological biases. Documenting less researched cases seems an obvious answer. But the future of research on migration politics is not only about researching “non- Western others” more, and boxing results in an “area” or “comparative” sub-discipline. It is about using single case studies and comparative research across types of states and political contexts to uproot some of the most blinding assumptions of existing migration theories and open new research avenues. This could mean taking migration processes and not political regimes, geographical location or development levels, as the independent variable to construct broad comparative frameworks where migration politics becomes the dependent variable. This could first be achieved by considering seemingly “most different” political contexts across countries, like comparing democratic apples and authoritarian pears. It could secondly be achieved by paying more attention to migration histories across contexts and trace political processes and institutions with great care. As such, a really insurgent and disruptive methodological claim would not be to include more Southern case studies into preexisting paradigms and epistemologies of migration politics but expand, amend or recast migration theories based on the new knowledge generated.
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Hélène Thiollet. Unlocking migration politics: researching beyond biases and gaps in migration studies and comparative politics. KNAW Academy Colloquium, Oct 2019, Amsterdam, Netherlands. pp.115 - 125. ⟨hal-02951418⟩

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