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Around the globe, people leave their homes to better themselves, to satisfy needs, and to care for their families. They also migrate to escape undesirable conditions, ranging from a lack of economic opportunities to violent conflicts at home or in the community. Most studies of migration have analyzed the topic at either the macro level of national and global economic and political forces, or the micro level of the psychology of individual migrants. Few studies have examined the "culture of migration"-that is, the cultural beliefs and social patterns that influence people to move.Cultures of Migration combines anthropological and geographical sensibilities, as well as sociological and economic models, to explore the household-level decision-making process that prompts migration. The authors draw their examples not only from their previous studies of Mexican Oaxacans and Turkish Kurds but also from migrants from Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, the Pacific, and many parts of Asia. They examine social, economic, and political factors that can induce a household to decide to send members abroad, along with the cultural beliefs and traditions that can limit migration. The authors look at both transnational and internal migrations, and at shorter- and longer-term stays in the receiving location. They also consider the effect that migration has on those who remain behind. The authors' "culture of migration" model adds an important new dimension to our understanding of the cultural beliefs and social patterns associated with migration and will help specialists better respond to increasing human mobility. Copyright
Cultures of Migration:
The Global Nature of Contemporary Movement
Jeffrey H. Cohen and Ibrahim Sirkeci
© 2011
University of Texas Press
Austin, Texas, USA
For movers and their families
Table of Contents
Preface iv
Acknowledgement xv
Introduction: The culture of migration 15
Chapter 1: The household in a global perspective 60
Chapter 2: The growth of migration: mobility, security,
insecurity 97
Chapter 3: Contemporary migration: commuters and internal
movers 127
Chapter 4: Contemporary migration: international migration 165
Chapter 5: Non-migrants and those who stay behind 206
Chapter 6: The economics of migration and the possibilities
of development 227
Conclusions 262
References 275
Co-authoring is always a difficult process; nevertheless, it is
one with a great payoff. It allows researchers to share
approaches and it creates an opportunity to critically engage
theories that aren’t always apparent. Our setting, one that
bridges anthropological and geographic models of migration and
brings complementary ethnographic examples to the fore, has given
us an opportunity to write what we believe is a unique book on
international migration, bringing together different disciplinary
perspectives and questioning the role of conflicts, insecurity,
economic motives, transnationalism and socio-cultural influences
at micro, mezzo and macro level by drawing upon examples from
around the world.
Our relationship has developed over many years during which
we have shared work, Cohen on Mexico and specifically Oaxacan
migration patterns as well as the experiences of Dominicans in
new receiving communities; Sirkeci on Turkey and the experiences
of Turkish Kurds in Western Europe as well as outcomes of
migration in the face of violence for Iraqis. This has been a
rewarding relationship, and we are both surprised by the
similarities we find among Oaxacan and Kurdish migrants for
example. In fact, our first joint effort compared migration
outcomes for Oaxacans and Kurds.
This project grows from our belief that the study of
migration too often ignores cultural outcomes and social forces
that influence migration and remittance practices. Put another
way, we found that most discussions of migration typically
focused on the economic factors driving migration and the social
costs of migration for sending and receiving communities. We
also found that with the exception of a few anthropologists and
geographers, most analyses of migration outcomes tended to focus
on receiving communities and countries and the actions of
migrants as movers. We were left asking first, what are the
effects of migration for sending households? And second, why more
people do not migrate? Our questions were framed by household
decision-making and a belief that migration was a cultural or
social process, not merely a response to economic pressures at
home and opportunities afar. Not to sound off, but we typically
asked one another why a Kurd would stay in Iraq and choose to
remain at home with family when jobs are available in Germany,
and why a Mexican would choose to stay in his or her rural
hometown and not migrate across the border to the US and
opportunities and salaries that allow a worker to earn a day’s
wage in less than an hour?
There were plenty of other questions that gave us pause.
Why it is that migration tends to flow south to north, east to
west? The question may seem simple, and one potential answer
follows the musings of Bill Clinton who argued “it is the
economy, stupid.” But if economics explained migration, it would
be much easier to plan a response and organize to reduce the rate
of border crossing.
We dedicate this work not to one person, but to the millions
of movers who migrate so that they can provide for their families
and homes. They are the unseen, the unknown. They should not be
blamed for their actions; rather, we need to better understand
why they move (or why they don’t move), so that we might better
help them and the countries they travel to better respond. We are
grateful to hundreds of respondents who have helped in our own
research but also hundreds others we have quoted from other
We are grateful to our families for their support and for
giving us the time to complete this book. We also thank our
friends and colleagues who have commented on this work at earlier
stages as well as the anonymous reviewers whose constructive
comments helped us to enhance this work.
Jeffrey H. Cohen
Ibrahim Sirkeci
June, 2010
This book began as a discussion between Cohen and Sirkeci over the meaning
of migration. We started by email, talking about our work. Cohen had spent
several years looking at the patterns of migration in rural southern Mexico, while
Sirkeci had followed patterns of migration in the Kurdish parts of Turkey. Later,
we shared papers and began to compare the outcomes we noted in the
populations we studied. Sirkeci also began “Migration Letters” a journal focused
on migration research from around the globe, and he invited Cohen to join him
as co-editor. Our work with the many authors contributing to “Migration Letters,
as well as our ongoing investigations from two similar fields anthropology and
geography suggested to us that there were strong parallel currents between
the migration experiences of very different populations.
The parallels in the patterns and processes we discovered among
Mexican and Kurdish migrations have fueled an ongoing conversation over the
meaning, scope, and outcomes of human mobility. Our work here is a part of
that conversation, an attempt by us to frame migration in a way that builds
upon earlier work but that also lays out what we see as a new foundation for
continued analysis and debate. Specifically, we develop a cultural framework
or a culture of migration that acknowledges the various ways in which migration
decisions are made and how individual decisions are rooted in the social
practices and cultural beliefs of a population.
Put another way, we argue that the choice to migrate is not driven by
economic need alone, nor is a desire to leave a natal home sufficient to
promote border crossing. It is culturein other words, the social practice,
meaning, and symbolic logic of mobilitythat must be understood along with
economics if we are to understand patterns of migration. We are certainly not
alone in our belief that economics is not a sufficient explanation. This is widely
accepted in migration literature. Thomas Faist (2000a: 17) describes the
challenge facing migration research as understanding the meso-level outcomes
of mobility, or the outcomes that take place in the social universe of the mover.
Faist’s approach contrasts with micro-level analyses that focus on the
psychology of the migrant and the desires, drives, and practices of movers on
the one hand (Bougue 1977; Douglass 1970; Gamio 1969; Koch 1989; Mahler
1995) and macro-level analyses that define migration for a nation and region on
the other (Taylor, et al. 1996).
Our focus on the meso-level is important to better understanding how
migrants talk about and frame their experiences. Nevertheless, the decision to
migrate is a profoundly personal one, and it reflects personal strengths and
desires. Migrants make their sojourns to better themselves, to satisfy needs, and
to care for their families and homes. They also migrate to escape undesirable
conditions. For example, many Mexican women migrate to escape familial
violence, turning their backs on homes and parents in an effort to find a safer
environment in which to live. Kurds in the Middle East and many groups in Iraq
also flee homelands, not simply to find prosperity, but to escape insecurity
brought on by ongoing conflicts within their homeland (Sirkeci 2005; Sirkeci
2006a; Sirkeci 2006b). Even the North African who seeks economic opportunities
unavailable at home moves for social, cultural and political as well as economic
reasons (Castle 2009).
A focus on the migrant, or a micro-level analysis, runs the risk of ignoring
macro-level as well as meso-level outcomes. First, while sojourns are personal
decisions, they are also typically decisions made in response to economic
troubles at home; social processes at home and abroad; and judgments
concerning treatment abroad. Second, understanding the push and pull of
local economic life and how local political life ways frame the migrant’s
negotiation of security are critical to understanding migration outcomes. Third,
decisions are always bigger than the individuals involved. For example,
personal choice does not fully explain why Filipinos are driven to join nursing
programs and train to become caregivers in the US. The reality is that children
who join the program often do so in response to the insistence and direction of
their parents (Kingma 2005).
In a similar fashion, macro-level analyses that are focused on the national
or global economic and political forces that drive migration outcomes do not
account for social and cultural practices that can increase border crossing or
sometimes check migration patterns. What do we mean? Think about a typical
Mexican migrant from the state of Oaxaca’s central valleys, the site of most of
Cohen’s studies. Oaxacan migrants to the US are young men, and typically they
migrate to support families and their households. Women are not well
represented in the Oaxacan migrant stream to the US, yet when it comes to
internal moves, women and men travel at nearly the same rate (Cohen, et al.
2008). To understand this pattern, we must look beyond macro-level forces (in
fact, at a national level, Mexican women outnumber men as movers to the US)
and toward cultural beliefs and social patterns that influence migration decision
making. Following traditional Oaxacan beliefs, women should not migrate to the
US. Oaxacans believe that women belong at home and caring for families, this
set of beliefs as well as fear of sending women alone to unknown places, limits
the percentage of women who cross the border in search of work in the US.
Our analysis of the social and cultural basis of migration is not meant to
replace micro- or macro-level understandings of mobility. Instead our goal is to
introduce a complementary model of movement that focuses on social
practices and patterns, and cultural beliefs even as we recognize migration’s
economic and political drives. Again, our goal is to add to the debate on
human movement and suggest that a culture of migration exists in nearly all
migrant and refugee settings. Cultural traditions and practices frame and
reframe and finally form responses and outcomes that allow people to make
sense of what is going on around them (and see Bourdieu 1977 on the concept
of habitus). It is our hope that our approach of bringing together
anthropological and geographic sensibilities as well as sociological and
economic models can help advance our understanding of migration and
mobility outcomes.
The study of migration is an important current in our fields, and while its
roots may be somewhat deeper in geography, understanding why and how
people move is critical to both the anthropologist and the geographer. At the
same time, we believe there is a renewed urgency to studying and
understanding migration. Too often, migration is misunderstood as something
that challenges the cultural fabric of a society and disrupts social and
economic life. In fact, migration is simply movement, nothing more or less.
Humans, like many other animals in this world, migrate. And while prehistoric
movement lies beyond the scope of our inquiry, our very evolution as a species
is linked to our ability to move and adapt to new environments (on early human
migration and settlement see Cavalli-Sforza and Cavalli-Sforza 1995). In the
contemporary world many humans continue to migrate annually. Some
migrations are motivated by an urge to escape a situation, and sometimes
migration is nothing more than the need to escape colder winters, such as the
Englishmen who crowd the beaches of southern Europe. Others move to seek
temporary or seasonal employment and supplement low incomes and limited
opportunities, and here, we can think of the migrants that Cohen studies in
southern Mexico.
Anthropology is replete with the stories of pastoralists as well as pilgrims-
both are in a sense migrating groups of people, different in quality, but at their
core movers (Massey, et al. 1998). Yet, at present, contemporary migration is
often seen as something unique, new, and often threatening. And while some
migrants travel freely and others are refugees, we should not assume that
migrants have no home and that they seek to displace others. The reality is far
from this dangerous caricature. Migrants are people who movesome move
for reasons of employment, others for reasons of pleasure. Some seek to escape
from somethingfear and a lack of securitywhile others seek to find
somethingstability and belonging. Understanding these patterns is critical and
our goal.
This book then is meant as part of a step in the continued dialogue
between the fields of anthropology and geography, but also a dialogue about
places and people. Unlike the work we have both done as individualsCohen
with Mexican Oaxacans and Sirkeci with Turkish Kurdsthis book brings many
different examples together from many different parts of the globe. We follow
people who are moving from the west to the east and from the south to the
north. Our examples include Mexicans and Turks, but also people from Europe,
sub-Saharan Africa, the Pacific, and many parts of Asia. Our goal is to show the
cultural basis of this movement and the human dimensions of global mobility.
We do not purport to have all of the answers, nor can we cover all of the
examples of migration. Nevertheless, we believe our contribution is an
important one that builds upon work in the social sciences and defines a new
path to understanding the culture of migration.
Introduction: The culture of migration
Hey you, you think I’m mojado? You’re the mojado! My family has been
here forever . . . your families! Your families came here in a boat! [1]
Don Mario, Oaxaca, Mexico, 1993 in a heated discussion with Cohen.
Lots of people talk about migration and lots of people talk about
migrants. They are intrigued by the process and they want to ask questions
about why people move. Many people assume migrants are escaping
something that cannot be resolved in their home country. Others figure that
migration is a solution to a local economic problem such as the lack of jobs.
When a country cannot provide for its citizens, those citizens may choose to
migrate to a country where opportunities are present (Goodman and Hiskey
2008). The belief that migration is an important option for people who cannot
make a living in their native homes can quickly grow to promote a fearful
reaction among native populations. They oppose migration in general and
assume that migrants are people that take jobs, bring crimes, and access
services that are better held for the native born. Ultimately these assumptions
about migration can and often do lead to xenophobia, especially in the times
of economic crisis. Xenophobic reactions include a fear of migration and of
migrants as well as the belief that migrants bring with them culture and practices
that challenge and threaten the very fabric of the destination nation’s
traditional way of life.[2]
The discussion of migration and the migrant, of the movements of
populations from south to north, east to west, poor to rich and insecure toward
security fills library shelves. But how should we talk about migration? It isn’t
accurate to talk about migration as something new and unique. Migration is a
historical process and it has been around for a long time. While contemporary
movements might seem extraordinary, it shares a lot with what has happened
before (Massey, et al. 1998). Just as importantly, migration is not a solitary
process. It isn’t just about a mover and where he or she goes. Migration is
about security and escaping dangerous situations. It is about sending
households that are homes to migrants and about the communities where those
households are found. Migration is local and follows individual movers to internal
destinations. It is also about international flow and global processes. We must
look beyond the present and the person to understand the history and socio-
cultural setting of the mover.
Our goal is to frame migration so it can be better understood. We want to
capture the growth in migration literature and interest in migration among policy
makers, academics and the public, and using anthropology, demography and
geography, explain at least a bit of what is going on. Our intent is to clarify
definitions and enhance understanding of this complex phenomenon. We aim
to continue (not resolve) the debate on the definition and meaning of
migration, the dynamic nature of human mobility, the place and role that
security plays in movement and the culture of migration cultivated, created and
recreated through the process of migration.
Our definition of migration is rooted in an understanding of the household
as the adaptive unit where social actors make active decisions (Wilk 1991). In
other words, migrants do not act alone. They come to their decisions in
discussions with other members of their households and with friends and relatives
at points of origin and destination. Sometimes they ignore the household,
sometimes the household overwhelms the mover, yet, regardless of the situation,
the household is always present. Beyond the household, the decision to migrate
reflects communal traditions, village practices and national or even
international trends.
A critical factor in the discussions concerning migration is security. We
have no problem assuming that migrants leave their homes in search of work
and economic security. But, we also want to push this concept forward and
argue that security is more than an economic outcome. It is cultural as well as
social. Migrants think about their well-being and their security as individuals as
well as members of culture groups and societies. In other words they are
cultural agents and their decisions reflect larger cultural and social debates.
Migrants seek to live well, and this means they seek cultural, economic,
and social security in their decisions. They want an opportunity to survive and
thrive and to practice their culture in a safe environment. They are also thinking
about insecuritywhat is lacking at home that might motivate their moves.
When we talk about refugees we assume they make their migrations happen in
response to insecurity, whether political, religious, or environmental. But we
argue that most migrants, regardless of their status, are thinking about issues of
security and insecurity in their decisions.
There is much debate and controversy surrounding the structure and
meaning of migration. Therefore we start with a basic definition of migration. In
later parts of this text we examine households, conflicts and the culture of
migration in detail. We also look into non-movers, those left-behind who are
crucial in understanding transnational mobility and importance of the household
in changing patterns of mobility and a conflict framework.
Framing migration:
A 2006 United Nations General Assembly report noted that globally nearly
200 million people were involved in one or another form of international
migration (2006).[3] In other words, the movement between two sovereign
nations by sojourners, asylum seekers, refugees and the like included literally
millions of individuals on a yearly basis. Yet, the United Nations’ numbers do not
include internal migrants (or the movers who chose to remain within a nation’s
boundaries) nor do they include internally displaced persons who cannot or will
not leave their country of origin.[4]
Despite being criticized by researchers and practitioners as too broad a
definition to be useful, the UN’s model of migration – defined as individuals who
live away from their place of origin for at least a year is widely used by
academics and policy makers; and most available statistics are collected
accordingly. The length of absence criteria (i.e. those who migrated to another
country for more than 12 months) complicates understanding migration and
makes it difficult to develop a complete and complex picture of international
movement.[5] Defining migration as something that must last for at least a year
likely leaves millions of people who move for only a short period of time, or those
individuals who cross borders regularly yet nightly return to their sending home
uncounted. This last group includes those movers who live in the border areas, or
“borderland people” (Horstmann and Wadley 2006). Groups on borders often
move daily across international boundaries, yet, because they are permanent
residents in their county of origin, they are not, by definition “migrants.” Daily
trips or circular and seasonal migrations such as those made by Mexicans
crossing the US border, Polish movers who commute to nearby German towns,
Laotians who are working across the border in Thailand factories, or Turks, Arabs
and Kurds[6] who regularly cross the Southeastern border between Turkey, Iraq
and Syria for trade, funerals, weddings, and the like and are not obvious as
migrants in such restrictive lenses. Nevertheless, these movements may be
voluminous and are part of the growth, history and culture of migration.
Along side these temporary and local short term sojourners are other
mobile populations who often do not show up in migration registers. For
example foreign students (Scheurle and Seydel 2000), holiday makers,
professionals and business people who spend a significant portion of their time
away from their homelands are all migrants of a sort who do not “count” in
estimates of international movers. Academics are another example of migrants.
Professionals can spend lengthy periods abroad teaching or conducting
Can we call these diverse groups migrants? It may seem odd, but there
are studies of holiday movers (Buckley 2005; Kinnaird 1999), nostalgic travelers
(Vryer 1989), religious pilgrims (Brower 1996; Leppakari 2008; Moerman and
Collcutt 2008) and highly skilled, itinerant workers (Luthra 2009; Regets 2008) who
are often best described as migrants. The differences between these movers
and refugees, forced migrants, displaced peoples and even unskilled
international movers are stark. While the religious pilgrim travels to her or his
destination as a personal sacrifice to a belief, the refugee is moving in response
to external and often uncontrolled outcomes. The unskilled migrant who leaves
a rural home to find work might serve a highly skilled migrant from his home
country in a restaurant, but he or she has little in common with the experience of
this co-national beyond place of birth. Zlolniski explores this process and the roll
that unskilled migrant labor serves in the support of highly skilled native and
migrant labor in his work with Mexican immigrants to the Silicone Valley in
central California (2006). While highly skilled workers assimilate into middle class
America and upward mobility, most Mexican migrants to the region join the
ranks of unskilled labor and a future of downward mobility (and see the
discussion of segmented assimilation in Waldinger and Lichter 2003).
The difference between these groups of migrantsthe traveler, skilled
mover and religious pilgrim on the one hand and the unskilled migrant, refugee
and forced mover on the otherrests in the asymmetrical relationships the later
have with systems of power at points of origin and destination. The “weary,
world traveler” fits into a prestigious slot in most countries and is encouraged to
continue his or her tour. The religious pilgrim is celebrated and welcomed as a
guest and the highly skilled migrant fills an important niche in a nation’s
intellectual endeavors even as he or she shares a basic set of progressive beliefs
(Cornelius, et al. 2001). The unskilled migrant, the refugee and the forced mover
are not equalsregardless of their origin or destinationrefugees are a burden,
forced movers are a reminder of failed promises and unskilled migrants are
often seen as a nuisance even as they are encouraged to take low wage
positions with few benefits.
The asymmetrical relationships and social inequalities that characterize
mobile populations and their relationships often contribute to a migrant’s choice
of destination and while they were noted in the 1970s by Eric Wolf among others,
they are often overlooked in contemporary discussions of migration (Wolf 1972).
This asymmetry can be geographic, economic or social. Geographic
asymmetry is evident when international moves bring fewer changes and
complications than do internal moves. For example, while it is considered
international migration when people migrate from Luxembourg to neighboring
Belgium, moves between Xinjiang (or East Turkistan) and Shanghai in China are
described as internal migrations. The international move from Luxembourg to
Belgium involves almost no change in cultural, linguistics, socioeconomics and
legal environments. Yet, the latter represents an internal move from west to
east, and includes a shift from a rural part of China to an urban setting, a
change in language, economics, religion and culture, not to mention the
distance between the two regions. Shanghai is a densely populated global
economic powerhouse with a dominant Chinese population while Xinjiang
remains a rural, underdeveloped region ethnically dominated by the Uighurs
who suffer from internal discrimination by People’s Republic of China. [7]
A different asymmetry is evident when we encounter migrations that are
limited by the economic and social facilities of the movers in question. The
economic and social facility of a migrant is often determined by her or his
household and country, and the community’s relationship to national and
global processes. Wealthier households can afford to support longer moves
and are usually able to send their members across national borders and to
access jobs and opportunities that are not available locally and that may take
some time to find. Internal and regional movers are often from members of
lower economic classes, and those individuals whose households cannot afford
the costs of crossing international borders (C. de Grammont and Lara Flores
2010). These migrants do not have resources to support their moves across
border nor do they have the time necessary to access distant opportunities.
Many Central and South African movers fall into this later group. They migrate
regionally, from rural to urban setting following social networks as they move
from one part of the informal economy to another. Their earnings remain low
and they find only limited opportunities, yet, at the same time, they reduce the
burden on their family and sending household (Cliggett 2003).
Cultural and social inequalities also create asymmetries for different
movers and between movers and their destinations. Asymmetries can be
gender based and define where men and women can and cannot travel.
Asymmetries are also rooted in ethnic and religious differences that are
expressed in opportunities or their lack when migrants determine destinations
and must confront a religious system that is skeptical and dubious of their native
system. Such is the case in Canada and Britain where Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims
are confronted by a Christian system that defines them as non-believers, and
potentially dangerous interlopers (Model and Lin 2002). Social and cultural
differences can also shift from one that a migrant makes by choice to one that
he or she is forced to take. In many countries, women should not make
international movesinstead, women stay at home or move locally and when
they do move internationally, they follow fathers and brothers (see Cohen, et al.
Ethnic and religious differences also impact migration outcomes. Ethnic
and religious compatriots can be an important resource for the mover. He or
she finds shelter, support and a shared set of beliefs and practices that do not
have to be explained. On the other hand, people of different faiths may greet
migrants with skepticism and contempt. This is often the case when ethnic
minorities seek refuge in other countries or regions within a country or when
differing belief systems encounter each other.
Where Christian and Muslim clash, migration may be an important avenue
for avoiding conflict. Yet at the same time, the religious nature of the clash can
make movement difficult. Faith, like a label, marks the mover and restricts
mobility as well as ability. In these situations, the members of the minority faith
must move with out the knowledge of the leaders of the dominant faith. And
often, the result is that the followers of minority faiths become refugees as is the
case in both Darfur and East Timor, two regions where religious differences force
the large scale movement of people and transform them from citizens to
refugee (Ferguson 2010; Ondiak and Ismail 2009; Wise 2006).
From Migration to Mobility
Mobility is a term that can replace “migration” and help us explain and
understand cross border human movements. The advantages that come with
using mobility in place of migration are twofold: First, it accommodates human
movement beyond the limited definition of migration that is based on 12 months
residence in a country that is foreign to the home country of the mover. Second,
mobility is a dynamic term that emphasizes the changing, floating, fluid nature
of this phenomenon and captures the regular as well as irregular moves of
people on the ground regardless of time or destination.
For a long while anthropologists, geographers and other social scientists
have emphasized the importance of defining migration as a process that is
regular and predictable. In other words, the motivations and the pathway to a
destination are understandable. So too are the processes that promote
migration as well as the outcomes that occur as migrants arrive at their
destinations (for historical models see Ravenstein 1889; Zelinsky 1971).
Framing migration as mobility helps to define the process of movement
and emphasizes its fluid progression even as it organizes a framework for
understanding. Mobility breaks the conventional and static definition of
migration offered by groups like the UN: “movement from point A to point B for
at least 12 months” and more clearly defines it in relation to the experiences of
movers and non-movers as well as our experiences as researchers. It is
abundantly clear that people travel not only to international destinations, but
also to local destinations. Their moves can be short term and last for a few days
to long term and many years. Finally, moves between more than two places
are often typical for migrants and multiple moves, even circular moves are
qualities that can be lost in the assumption that migration is unidirectional
beginning in country A ending in country B and lasting for at least a 12 month
Transnational movement describes the circular moves of individuals; or the
mobility of a group as they transcend space and travel between two or more
destinations in a regular fashion over time. Anthropologists among others use
the term to describe migrations as mobile, cultural and motivated by a variety of
potential causes but also to contrast with the assumption that movement is
typically from point A to point B with little or no return or integration across space
and time (Glick-Schiller, et al. 1992).
Transnationalism as an approach overcomes some of the ills of
conventional views of migration and particularly the idea that movement
follows one direction, it embraces a view that migration is dynamic,
multilocational and circular as well as a natural part of human life (Basch, et al.
1994) . Any attempt to reconceptualize and redefine migration as a process
must integrate a transnational perspective.
Transnationalism and the circular movement of individuals between two
or more locations over time that often follows a back and forth, give and take
between a sending and destination community is celebrated in the
anthropological literature for the positive ways in which it creates new spaces
(often referred to as transnational space, see Pries 1999), for the construction of
cultural, social and sometimes political identities (Kearney 1996). This process is
clear in the ways that indigenous migrants from southern Mexico travel to Los
Angeles, California for work. In their new southern California destination
communities they forge an identity built around their indigenous, Mexican past,
and energized by a shared sense of identity that becomes a foundation upon
which they demand political inclusions in their sending country (Rivera-Salgado
While celebrated for the ways it builds networks and revitalizes culture,
transnationalism also brings with it costs and a recent special issue of Migration
Letters focuses specifically on the costs of transnational moves (volume 6, no 1,
April 2009). The costs of transnationalism can be economic and include the
expense of moving in a circular fashion. Importantly, transnational migration
brings global economic ideals to rural communities and the impact of these
ideas and ideals is not simple. Transnational practices can create new stresses
and place pressures on traditional practices that appear unworkable or
problematic (Marcelli and Lindsay Lowell 2005). Socially, transnational migration
reorganizes sending communities and brings debates over the meaning of
tradition. Movers do not leave, rather they rethink and redefine their roles and
non-migrants or non-movers may not be particularly supportive.
The transnational is just one kind of movement that can become critical to
a mover’s success. But how long do transnational migrations take? And how
long does transnationalism last? These are complex questions as many
transnational movers transcend borders regularly and transnational practices
come and go through time (see for example Guarnizo 1997).
To return to the idea of migration, the numbers provided by various
supranational or national agencies can only tell us who is migrating in a given
year albeit only those who stays 12 months or more. These numbers do not
include how long a migrant may be absent from their home community, how
many sojourns he or she has been involved in and if the migrant who is currently
in her or his destination country plans to return to their country and home of
origin in the future. These facts also lack any notion of transnationalism. Thus, as
we have pointed out the estimates of migration are problematic at best,
particularly if we are interested with transnational outcomes (Cohen, et al. 2003).
These estimates likely miss many millions of undocumented movers who remain
uncounted or do not want to be counted and internal movers who are not
counted among others.
Regardless of the strength of the UN’s estimates, the numbers and patterns
of movement they note reminds us that people are moving in increasingly larger
numbers from east to west and south to north, and not always to destinations in
developed countries. Of course, over the last several decades the increase in
the total number of migrants has risen rapidly. And while the numbers from the
UN are indicative of the global patterns of movement and the growth of that
movement in demographic terms; they tell us little about the motivations behind
migration; the concerns movers have for security and insecurity; and how they
migrate and the outcomes (or ends if you will) of migration.
When we claim there are many more millions of people globally involved
in mobility (internal, transnational and otherwise), we are not arguing for the
inclusion of a perfect estimate of the illegal or undocumented migrants whose
numbers are hard to define. Just to clarify how complicated mobility can
become, consider this: if one takes a look at the number of passengers
departing or arriving at main global airports we find a very complex picture.
Between the five airports in London, there are a total of over 200 million
passengers passing through per annum. You can add the totals for New York,
Los Angeles, Paris, Shanghai, Beijing, Frankfurt, Moscow, Mexico City, and
Istanbul and the number of people moving regardless of their status is
enormous. Of course we do not want to claim that all of the passengers
identified within these airports are migrants but they are mobile and as we noted
above they may fall into one of the less common types of migrations we have
identified whether it is religious pilgrim, nostalgic traveler or highly skilled worker.
Some of these movers will settle; others will re-migrate, relocate, or return; and
others will build upon strong social networks to create transnational spaces
which other walk away from family responsibilities. Yet even a fraction of this
total dwarfs the UN’s overall figures for migration.
Conflict and Migration and Conflict Migration
Even as migrants plan their sojourns, balance family against self-interest and
gain at least some satisfaction exercising their mobility, they are also sometimes
challenged by internal conflicts that come in many forms including ethnic or
religious disputes; and in their destinations they face xenophobic responses to
their moves. Internal disputes and anti-migration sentiments in destination
countries are just two aspects of the conflicts we must acknowledge and take
into account as dynamic building blocs of an improved understanding of
transnational mobility.
Our definition of conflict builds upon the work of Ralf Dahrendorf (1959).
Dahrendort argued that conflict is not necessarily equal to violence; it embraces
a range of situations from latent tensions to violent encounters. Conflicts are not
necessarily political, ethnic or religious in their orientation nor are they only
evident in armed clashes, revolts or war but also in the contests, competitions,
disputes, and tensions that characterize everyday life (1959) and include explicit
(overt) as well as latent or covert events following Parsons’ terminology (1954:
329). For all of these variations, conflict is present when there is an environment
of human insecurity, or such an environment is imminent where conflict is
present. Conflicts are likely to motivate people to move towards other places
where they perceive that the ongoing or potential conflict is relatively low or
non-existent. Thus, transnational moves often reflect conflictive situations in
home communities or nations and blending transnationalism with conflict helps
to avoid dichotomous categories of migrants and refugees, economic versus
political migrants, and so on (Massey, et al. 1998).
All migrations are culturally framed and socially defined by the migrants
and non-migrants and the conflicts and contests they are involved in and that
they perceive. In other words, there is a cultural framework or a culture of
migration that helps migrants define their mobility in relation to their household,
home community and world. A culture of migration relates to the strengths and
weaknesses of the migrant her or himself as well as the strengths and weakness
of their homes, families, sending and receiving communities, sending and
receiving nations and global patterns of social and economic life. A migrant’s
strengths and weaknesses reflect the gender, age, experience (including the
experience in migration), schooling, and security and, the history and
experiences of other movers and non-movers involved in the social networks
that characterize migration history and experience (and see Singer and Massey
Early movers from countries with low rates of out migration follow
trajectories that are often of a type that is quite different from migrants who
leave countries with high rates of expulsion and rich histories of movement. The
situation in Mexico illustrates this process clearly. For over a century, Mexicans
have moved to the US from the country’s central states including Zacatecas,
Durango, Jalisco, and Guanajuato.
On the other hand, a migrant from a “new” sending region-that is a region
that lacks a tradition of migration and a history of movement like the state of
Chiapas, may lack the support network or must build support networks on his or
her own (Téllez 2008; Villafuerte Solís and García Aguilar 2008). The linkages and
experiences that ease the stresses and strains of border crossing, settlement and
job seeking are absent for the new mover. However, improved communication
technologies such as internet and satellite television are making knowledge
available to masses across the globe (Chapman 2004). Today, border crossings
are not the unknown they were for those who crossed the Atlantic for new
pastures at the turn of the last century. Yet, the stories, motivations and
outcomes are often shared.
Understanding the culture of migration is critical as we define the
motivations, outcomes and possibilities that exist for movers and that encourage
mobility. Migration can follow an internal path and take the migrant from her or
his rural home to an urban setting. This pattern of movement is generally freer of
federal harassment than is the crossing of international borders. However,
moves can remain difficult as the migrant must deal with internal bigotries and
internal socio-economic problems that may arise as he or she moves (think of
the Qighurs who moves from ethnic enclaves in rural western China to eastern
cities and industrial centers). These stresses can be quite painful when it involves
crossing ethnic or religious borders. On the other hand, migration to an
international destination which by definition must include crossing borders,
typically places migrants at risk of capture, persecution and perhaps jail time
(this is particularly true for undocumented movers).
Life in a foreign country can be difficult even when the migrant is
successful, finds work, earns a living and remits to a hometown. Not surprisingly,
many non-migrants that Sirkeci and Cohen have encountered do not want to
trade their lives in their communities of origin for the risks of life in a foreign
country. Often the question “why aren’t there more migrants leaving” is of more
interest than “how many migrants are there”. As one Oaxacan farmer said
when asked why he hadn’t considered migrating to the US, “it isn’t worth it! I’ll
earn a lot, but look at how much I have to spend, maybe $5,000! This just
doesn’t make sense; it isn’t worth it for me. I’d rather stay here [Oaxaca,
Mexico]” (interviewed May 2001). Similar sentiments were found among Turkish
Kurdish immigrants in Cologne, Germany. Some felt that they had failed to
achieve what they had intended, but they were unable to return to Turkey as
they were too proud to admit failure. Put another way, they would not migrate
if they were to begin again, yet, having migrated and failed, there was no way
to return home (Sirkeci 2006a).
Nevertheless, the risks of international migration often do not outweigh the
benefits that can include higher wages; work and schooling opportunities; and
security (Heyman 2007). This is the case even where culture, language and
tradition are not often shared with the majority community that the migrant
enters. Of course, there are also people who move as refugees and asylum
seekers, and for these individuals, including Somalis; migration follows a path
that may include years of living in camps and waiting for papers to be
approved (Valentine, et al. 2009). But also, typically, once in a destination, the
refugee and asylum seeker is in a position quite different from the migrant and
particularly the undocumented migrant (Zetter 2007). Refugee camps in Kenya
limit the ability of Somalis to earn a living as they deny access and legally block
active engagement with the larger national economy. Thus, Somalis must
respond not only to the crises that put them in the camps in the first place, but
they must also organize themselves to survive, to seek permanent settlement in
new locals and to maintain a sense of identity and social belonging (Kapteijns
and Ali 2001). In a very different example, El Salvadorian immigrants who once
held refugee status in the US have seen that status shift as warfare and conflict in
their sending country has declined. Now, one time refugees must struggle
against a system that may recognize them as extra legal immigrants. El
Salvadorians in the US face new limits on their rights and potential deportation
that come with their revised status (Coutin 2007).
To put all of this somewhat more succinctly, we have replaced a
traditional focus on the movement from point A to point B for at least 12 months,
with a culture of migration. The culture of migration defines the abilities, limits
and needs of the mover, and as importantly the cultural traditions and social
practices that frame those abilities and limitations through time. Finally, we note
the national/international and transnational processes that render movement
sensible, practical and reasonable while also taking into account the enforcing
While migration might look chaotic from afar, it is not a chaotic process.
In fact, if migration was chaotic, people would not succeed as movers and
mobility would hold little value. Therefore, we argue that migration makes sense
and it makes sense as a cultural process, an economic move and a social
event. Movers plan their sojourns and base their choices to migrate on real and
perceived needs and benefits. Whether they see their plans through to their
logical ends or not does not indicate that migration is chaotic or that mobility is
a foolish choice. Rather, the outcomes of moving, regardless of the conclusions
are executed strategically and in a rational fashion. In other words, when a
migrant leaves his or her home, he or she does so with a plan and a goal in
mind. Even the moves of refugees who flee cultural, economic, religious and
social problems and persecution in their home communities and nations are
typically making calculated decisions about their futures.
There are migrants who do not plan their sojourns, have no goals and
simply want to leave, must escape or cannot stay. However, these migrants tend
to be a small percentage of any group of movers. People do not typically pick
up and move without forethought and some planning. We argue that even
migrants who are described as “disappeared” are likely to have followed a
clear plan of action in their decisions to leave. We base our beliefs in the
assumption that migration is a costly decision, and often, migrants who
“disappear” according to those family members or friends who are left behind,
often choose to leave problematic and difficult relationship. Thus, the decision is
not random, but in fact planned and in response to the costs of remaining in a
dysfunctional social arrangement (Ley and Kobayashi 2005; Osella and Osella
2000; Velayutham and Wise 2005).[9]
It is also critical to recognize and understand why people stay behind and
do not migrate (Cohen 2002; Conway and Potter 2007; Faist 2000b; Fischer, et al.
1997).[10] A driving force for migrants is a combination of their needs and the
needs and wants of those who cannot or will not migrate. Movers and non-
movers depend upon systems of cultural meaning framed in social processes to
make sense and organize their decisions. Coping with migration, contesting
outcomes, challenging decisions and responding and representing the future
all are part of what migrants and non-migrants do as they negotiate movement.
The links with non-movers in any migration decisions are important to recognize.
In the popular media, the migrant is often portrayed as a threatening
individual or from a threatening group; someone who we as citizens of sovereign
nations must fear and avoid. Migrants invade our lands and communities; they
take our jobs and burden our schools and health care systems. Migrants drain
away resources from natives who are most in need of those very benefits.
Furthermore, there is an assumption that migrants often turn their backs on two
systemsthe one from which they have left (their community or country of
origin) and the one to which they have come (their community and nation of
destination); and thus might be considered as part of the human insecurity for
some others as formulated in our conflict model (Sirkeci 2009).
In this book, we argue that migrants are social actors making decisions
about their futures that are framed by traditional beliefs, cultural expectations
and social practices and embedded in their immediate and broader
environment characterized by a variety of conflicts and competitions changing
the likelihoods of decisions to migrate. Thus, we define migration as a rational
and rationalizing act. It is not a decision made lightly, but rather a decision with
far reaching impacts (see Conway and Cohen 1998). This process of decision
making or planning often takes a long time and may involve family members,
relatives, and friends. It is a very complicated, multi-faceted and often
emotional decision.
It is wrong to assume that the migrants who have made it to the US or
Western Europe among other places are there for the strictly economic or
political reasons and that they are by definition a threat. As we will show, while
migrants may share many motivations, they are not automatons and few are
moving to join criminal groups or participate in illegal activities. Furthermore,
shared motivations do not mean that outcomes will always be the same. To be
more precisewhile the pull of relatively high wages in destinations is a strong
motivator to move, people migrate for many and multiple reasons while many
others do not move at all. Movers often consider a variety of indicators to come
up with an overall assessment of human insecurity and security which informs
their decision to move. This consideration is not necessarily a systematic and
accurate one but largely shaped by the individual circumstances and
Consider young women who migrate from rural hometowns in Mexico or
Turkey to escape abusive relationships at home. Other women cross to the US
and Europe to support their fathers and brothers who are established in
destination communities. These young women often leave caretaking jobs in
rural homes for the same sorts of positions in the US and Europe; replacing the
children and siblings they cared for at home with working fathers and brothers.
On the one hand, these women are caretakers for their relatives; on the other
hand, they work to supplement family budgets and support children in their
homes of origin. Not surprisingly, there are a growing number of women who
migrate to seek out new opportunities independently. They also leave to join
husband who are established in destinations and reunify their families.[11]
Nevertheless, these moves are also about security and reveal how people move
from an environment of insecurity to relative security. Those women arriving in
destination countries may have better their lives compared to their fellow
citizens who stay behind but are unlikely to enjoy same level of security within
their host society members (for examples see Cuban 2009; Nadeau 2007;
Thapar-Björkert 2007).[12]
A second example of the range to which migration outcomes are related
to cultural norms, social practices and history among other factors comes from
Sirkeci’s work with Iraqis. Economic motives, while important in Iraq and among
Iraqi migrants are often superseded by an urge to find a secure and safe
environment for self and family. Sirkeci (2006b) found that many Iraqis based
much of their decision to migrate around the increasing sense that terrorism and
insecurity are now part of life in places like Baghdad and the only clear solution,
that is the only way to find a secure home, is to leave the homeland. There are
hundreds of thousands of Iraqis struggling to leave their countryand while
many of them seek work and opportunities where they can, nearly all also seek
to escape the violence and insecurity in Iraq. Sirkeci captured a detailed
picture of such exodus from an environment of human insecurity while studying
Kurdish migration from Turkey, Turkmen emigration from Iraq in the 1990s and
2000s, and Lebanese fleeing after Israeli attacks in 2007 (Sirkeci 2005; 2006a;
A third example comes from families that send their children to internal
destinations in an effort to first, enhance the socio-economic status of a family in
the place of origin through remittances and second, reduce the burden a
family places on local resourcesan old migration model to be sure, but also
one that can impact and effect later transnational mobility. In sub-Saharan
African countries, like Zambia, we find just such a process at work. Young men
often leave their rural homes for the country’s capital. These men can find it
difficult to earn a living in their communities of origin and move not only for
wages, but to ease pressures on sending households, effectively reducing the
number of individuals that a household’s members must support in the moment
(Cliggett 2000; 2003).
Perhaps more importantly, for the discussion of global patterns of
movement, there are also migrants who regularly return to their homes of origin.
These transmigrants travel between sending and receiving communities
following complex, paths that link them to compatriots at many points (Levitt
2001). What these migrants bring home can be as important as the destinations
to which they travel (Eder, et al. 2003; Konstantinov 1996; Yukseker 2007).[13]
In many settings (including India, Turkey, Mexico, El Salvador) the financial
remittances returned by international migrants are critical to national budgets as
well as homes and sending communities. In El Salvador, financial remittances
are the largest source of income for the nation. In Brazil, migrants are
celebrated as “national heroes” and the remittances that flow through the
nation’s banks are taxed by the state (Cohen 2005). Similarly Lebanon is among
the top recipients in terms of remittances per capita constituting a significant
share of the nation’s wealth (Amery 1992).
The point of these examples is not that we must pick one variable and use
it to explain outcomes (here economics, there politics; here labor markets, there
security), or even that we must measure all migrants equally given their
situations. Rather our point is that we need a model that allows us to define
migration outcomes in relation to a variety of possibilities and in which we are
not lost in the pursuit of numbers.
Understanding that about 200 millions of people are moving about the
global landscape is a starting point and one through which we can understand
national, macro-level trends. While a focus on the migrant typically emphasizes
the impacts of movement on the individual with less interest in larger patterns.
But what if we look instead for a middle ground? A place where we can explore
macro trends; trends that often frame decision making at the national level with
decision making at the personal level; in other words, the wants, desires and
limits that face households and their members around the world. This approach
allows us to explore the economics behind migration decision making, but not
forget the cultural, political and social decisions that migrants also make. While
we reflect on what a migrant wants, we also keep track of the cultural and
social boundaries that frame those wants and needs and the histories that limit
making those decisions locally and prime a population to turn to migration.
Our goal through the remainder of this book is to develop a model of
migration as a cultural process. To develop a cultural model of migration we
build upon important work in anthropology, economics, geography, history,
political science, psychology and sociology. We believe this approach is critical
as it emphasizes the dynamics of a culture of migration (not the decisions of
individual migrants-what is best thought of as a micro-level approach, nor a
focus on national outcomes-a macro-level analysis). We attempt to understand
migration or better put mobility from the perspective of cultural and social
practices while acknowledging national patterns and personal, micro level
The social universe (or meso-level) is where the decisions of individuals
meet, where social practices and cultural beliefs engage and where
community traditions connect with personal and family choices. Building upon
work in migration studies, we believe that our book offers a new model and new
“reading” of migration in the 21st century and one that should help advance the
We organized our work around particular themes and topics. We begin,
not surprisingly, with the household. Our goal in the next chapter is to define the
central importance of the household to migration outcomes. Using examples
from throughout the world, we note how the very concept of the household has
changed over time and the role that a household’s members play in decision
making. It is critical to realize that regardless of the moves a migrant makes
(whether international or local, circular or one way), the decisions are framed
within a larger social field than the individual-and for us that is the household.
Even for the migrant who elects to leave a home and turn her or his back on a
family, the decision to move will have repercussions changing the social
universe for the household and those left behind. Furthermore, the
developmental process that takes the household from founding to demise, or
from its establishment at a marriage to its demise in death of its members, is
critical to understanding migration decisions and outcomes. A young couple
with small children from Bangladesh who sends a migrant to England to work in
the service sector and send money home likely has a different set of needs and
expectations then the older couple with grown children who are no longer at
home. For this older couple, remittances are not hoarded to educate children,
rather, remittances can be invested in new and different ways and create a
different set of opportunities.
We follow our discussion of the household with an exploration of
contemporary migration. While we focus generally on the last several decades
of movement and the importance that local and global patterns play in driving
contemporary movement, it remains critical to also understand the historical
underpinnings of migration. Furthermore, it is critical to place international
migration and transmigration into a discussion that recognizes the continued
value of internal moves, refugee movement and lives of asylum seekers.
The next two chapters look specifically at internal and international
movers. Our goal in these chapters is to show first, that we cannot fully
understand migration patterns if we ignore internal moves. Often these
migrations are the first step a sojourner makes as he or she embarks on more
involved border crossings. For other migrants, internal moves fulfill the basic
needs and demands of the household and thus, there is no further movement. It
is also critical to understand that internal movement can be motivated by
factors that are quite different than those that influence international movers
and thus, we use several different examples to show the wealth in meaning
associated with internal moves. As we progress to international movers, we focus
again on the role culture and households play in decision making. We use
examples from around the world to explore the local meanings of migration, the
impacts of economics, work, etc… on movers and non-movers. It is important to
underline again that the link between international and internal migrations is not
a one way street. Movers may follow a step process, as they move from an
internal to an international destination, yet this is not a fixed rule.
In chapter five we consider non-movers or those individuals who stay at
home even as migrants leave. Often times it is easy to ignore stay-at-homes and
non-movers in the discussion of migration, and often even in discussions of the
role household’s play, non-movers are seen as fairly passive decision makers.
The real decision makers, or at least those actively involved in decision making,
are the migrants. In this chapter we will also expand upon the idea of mobility
and move away from a linear, year long migration to capture the wider picture
of international mobility which is much bigger than the UN definition allows.
Chapter six focuses on the economic impacts of migration. It is not difficult
to see the overwhelming role that financial remittances play in health and well
being of migrant sending countries (like Mexico, El Salvador and Lebanon for
example), nevertheless, money is not shared equally, and people remit material
as well as financial resources. Thus, in this chapter, we look specifically at the
impacts that various kinds of remittances have on sending households and
communities and we disaggregate national data that shows us the overall
impact of remittances, and instead, we show what individuals do. However our
discussion is not limited to remittances. Immigrants’ contributions to their host
economies need to be acknowledged too. Therefore we will also discuss the
gains from immigration.
To further frame our work and to clearly outline our interests we review key
issues in migration studies and the theories that have developed through time
and from various fields. We develop a concise set of terms and definitions to
help the reader follow our discussion and to effectively meet and critique our
model. Our goal is not to limit the debate on migration, but to bring better
precision to that debate in an effort to move away from unidimensional models.
Our goal in this book is to illuminate the lives and experiences of the
people behind the numbers and to inform you, why it is important to look
beyond these raw totals. We argue it is critical to move away from caricatures
of migrants as lonely individuals without homes, dangerous rouges out to take
jobs from unsuspecting citizens and poor people avoiding responsibility and
seeking employment and financial enrichment at the expense of their families,
sending communities and home nations. Such caricature-depictions are
maintained by tabloid media and chauvinist groups. Many governments may
like to see figures like the one provided by UN for planning and policy purposes,
however, there is strong evidence that migration includes more than those
individuals who stay for at least a year, as well as others who move more often.
Of course, all of those movers, short and long term, internal and
international have needs and wants. Their decisions have a bearing on settled
populations, populations left behind, and populations at their destination. All of
these groups have demands and they must be provided for. Perhaps we can
approach mobility and migration using a basic marketing definitionor, a
definition that assumes individuals have nearly limitless needs and wants but only
limited means through which to satisfy them. In this situation migration becomes
an important avenue toward satisfying those wantsnot satisfying all of them,
but certainly satisfying more than what might be possible without migration.
Mobility is not a perfect answer for the individual as he or she remains with
certain wants and needs that can never be fully met. In other words, mobility is
not a panacea. Nevertheless, it is a fairly complex response to needs and wants
and often allows for the individual mover to secure at least some of the needs
he or she has defined.
1. Mojado, or Spanish for “wet”, is used negatively to refer to Mexicans who must
cross the Rio Grande (the river separating Mexico and the US along the Texas-
Mexico border). The term is pejorative and defines the Mexican migrant as
undocumentedhe or she cannot cross the border legally and instead is forced
to sneak across the river getting wet mojado as he or she enters the US. This
fosters the assumptions that all Mexicans in the US are mojado or illegally in the
country, and because Mexicans are illegal, they are dangerous.
2. Fear of immigrants is often organized into anti-immigrant laws, such as SB1070
in the state of Arizona. SB1070 demands (among other things) that anyone who
may look like an immigrant to a law informant officer must be able to show
papers that prove their status as legally in the US (for details see the full bill at: Similarly, one can find
dozens of examples from Europe where major political parties have increasingly
promoted restrictive immigration policies particularly in the last decade.
3. The United Nations reports that approximately 115 million migrants are
currently living in developed countries (three quarters of the total are in 28
countries, with one in five in the US) while about 75 million are in developing
countries. The greatest increase in the number of international migrants over the
last 10 years has occurred in high income destination countries, home to 41
million migrants (2006: 13) Nevertheless, it is clear from the UN’s numbers that
poorer countries host the vast majority of movers and in particular those forced
out of their homelands as refugees.
4. It is difficult to estimate internal moves, particularly because these moves are
often short term and can range in distance. Even census data that often
includes the presence and absence of locally born individuals as well as those
who have come to a place from outside is not flawless. Typically, the numbers
are a snap-shot of time and note the mobility of local movers only at a given
point in time which is usually the date the census material was collected.
5. Government agencies are increasingly interested in counting short term
migrations (i.e. less than 1 year but more than 6 months) as part of the overall
count of international moves in reaction to increasing mobility including long
distance, cross border commutes (Sirkeci 2009).
6. Turks, Arabs and Kurds (among others) are linked to superficial national
borders drawn at the end of the World Wars I and II which divided ethnic entities
an issue that we will return to in chapter 4 and in our discussion of transnational
7. For details on the plight of the Uighurs, see Amnesty International’s 2004 report
“People’s Republic of China, Uighurs fleeing persecution as China wages its
“war on terror”, AI Index: ASA 17/021/2004, available online at, accessed 10 March 2009.
8. The migrant’s strengths and weaknesses contribute to perceptions of security
and insecurity; whether it is personal (what the individual can or cannot do),
communal (for or against others who exhibit strengths and weaknesses), or
global and places the migrant into a situation where they may have to defend
themselves against unknown threats. Perceptions of strengths and weaknesses,
security and insecurity may be short term and fleeting, or that can be long
lasting. Strengths and weaknesses can challenge local beliefs and cultures of
migration. They can also serve as foundations for future actions. The positive
place the migrant holds in his or her sending community can strengthen his or
her position in the social life of the community. Yet, at the same time, new ideas
that migrants often bring with them as they return from destination communities
can challenge traditional cultural practices.
9. Researchers have shown that migrants can and do fall for the myths (i.e.
excessive wealth and success stories of earlier fellow migrants) they hear about
destinations and benefits. But even in these situations, the potential migrant is
making a calculated choice to moveunfortunately, her or his calculations are
based in fallacious knowledge and a lack of background on the outcomes of
10. The very idea of “non-movers” is vexing and suggests that migration is the
norm for a population or people. Yet, in nearly every situation migrants are
outnumbered by those who never leave their home town.
11. Contrary to most beliefs, over the course of several years of research with
hundreds of families, Cohen only encountered one couple who decided to
migrate to try and access health care for their physically handicapped
daughter. In fact, after staying in the US for about 6 months, the family returned
to their home in Oaxaca having found it too difficult to gain coverage as
undocumented migrants with a disabled child.
12. Similar examples can be drawn from relatively conservative and traditional
societies including Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries where women are
subject to various limitations. In the process, many of these women found
themselves under extreme social pressures. Arranged marriages, honor killings
among Muslim immigration populations in Western Europe are few rather bold
indicators of such pressures (Thapar-Björkert 2007).
13. We also include “luggage-traders” (also referred as “trader-tourists” and
“shuttle traders”) from Balkans and former Soviet Union countries, and other
Eastern Europeans who visit Istanbul but for very short terms to move goods back
and forth (see Eder, Yakovlev and Garkoglu 2003).
What Alexis de Tocqueville saw in America was a society of immigrants, each of
whom had begun life anew, on an equal footing. This was the secret of
America: a nation of people with the fresh memory of old traditions who dared
to explore new frontiers, people eager to build lives for themselves in a spacious
society that did not restrict their freedom of choice and action.
John F. Kennedy, A Nation of Immigrants (1964: 2)
Immigration policy should be generous; it should be fair; it should be
flexible. With such a policy we can turn to the world, and to our own
past, with clean hands and a clear conscience.
John F. Kennedy, A Nation of Immigrants (1964: 37)
John F. Kennedy’s comments concerning migration capture the hope of
a time in our collective history when most people believed immigrants were
going to help build toward a stronger future. There was potential in their arrival
as we assumed that immigrants embraced their receiving nations, and the
promises that would come with their engagement in its growth and expansion.
Nevertheless, for every hopeful statement on migration, there was and there still
is an equally negative declaration. One that argues immigrants are criminals,
they are focused on gaining wealth, accessing education and attaining rights to
health care, retirement and social supports; and often these abuses are framed
as coming at an expense to the native born. The critic continues and tells us that
immigrants do not speak our language, they do not worship the same god and
they are not interested in participating in our national dialogue.
It is impossible to reconcile these perspectives and certainly neither fully
captures the realities that face movers today. The realities of migration are
difficult to unwrap and understand. And it is probably much easier to simply
demonize movers and blame them for all of the ills we face. Yet, our goal
should be to move away from caricatures of migrants (whether our stereotypes
are positive or negative—compare Kennedy’s statements with those of
Theodore Roosevelt that started chapter two) and explore the rise and meaning
of migration, the place of internal and international movement and the
importance of remittances to everyday life.
To gain a better overall understanding of mobility we have combined a
culture of migration approach with an appreciation of security and insecurity for
contemporary movers. In this conclusion we briefly recapitulate our approach.
In chapter four we noted that migration may have entered a new phase, and
here we return to that point and consider just what the new phase of mobility
may be.
A culture of migration
Our approach begins with a simple question that any potential mover must deal
with, do I migrate? The question may not seem complicated, yet the answer is
complex and the response can send shock waves through households, families
and communities.
The question of mobility arises as a potential mover sees new opportunities
outside of his or her immediate surroundings. It might be that the mover has
encountered boundaries at home that limit her or his ability to successfully
engage in work, social life and local politics and heads for an internal or
international destination (Goodman and Hiskey 2008: 37). Alternatively, a
potential mover sees the opportunities that await the migrant regardless of his or
her destination. Those destinations exert a strong pull, whether real or imagined,
on the potential migrant and encourage movement with their promise of work,
high wages and new opportunities (Massey and Garcia 1987).
The decision to join the stream of migrants moving from rural to urban
settings and crossing international borders is based on the strengths and abilities
of the moverhis or her experiences, age, marital status and education all
influence outcomes and possibilities (Conway and Cohen 2002). Strengths and
limits, capabilities and inabilities all combine to support the mover in his or her
decision and to build toward an outcome that is hopefully positive for all
Migration also has a profound impact on the migrant’s household and
family as well as the community he or she leaves behind. Non-movers scramble
to reorganize socially, cope with the loss of an integral member of the socially
constituted household. Child care and elder care may both be issues that face
non-movers. Non-movers are challenged and must determine who will take
care of animals, land and communal demands for participation. In other words,
non-movers cover for movers and juggle resources and requirements as they
come and particularly before a migrant’s remittances arrive.
The structure of migration and its history and the continuity that
characterizes movements past and present for most sending communities
creates a “culture of migration” that supports movers and non-movers and
facilitates network building between origin and destination populations (Cohen
2004). New movers and potential migrants turn to friends and family for support.
Migrants follow pathways to their destinations that were charted over years and
with the input of earlier movers. Movers keep in touch with the families and
households they left behind with the aid of ever more complex cell phone
networks, computer programs and the constant movement of other people
between origin and destination. Finally, the migrant supports her or his family
through regular remittances. While we have noted that sometimes those
remittances fail, and over time even the most regular of remittances decline,
generally, remittances play a critical role in the survival and maintenance of the
sending household.
Security and insecurity are critical to understand the process and
development of migration and defining a culture of migration approach (Sirkeci
2009). Traditionally, we assumed that migrants fled insecurity at home to find
security (or opportunity) abroad. Yet, in the last chapter, we argued that
security and insecurity are dynamic and shift over space and time. While a lack
of security can encourage migration, an overabundance of security can also
restrict opportunities. New ways of thinking, contradictory gender roles, and
new religious and political beliefs can be difficult to maintain in a traditional
community. Thus, individuals may migrate to escape the security of home and
gain new experiences, try new ways of living and take chances.
Insecurity at home is an issue for many movers. We see the power of
insecurity to motivate movement most clearly when we follow refugees who are
typically physically forced to from their homes to camps and diasporic
communities. In a sense, refugees struggle against at least three kinds of
insecurity. First, insecurity at home, second, insecurity while in a camp; and third,
the insecurity that comes as the refugee is thrown into new setting for
resettlement. While there is no way to fully measure or quantify the level of
insecurity that would motivate someone to join the ranks of refugees, we can
clearly state it is profound. To lose security at home, to fear physical harm and
to flee to a camp is nothing if not intense. Life needs to be difficult in the
extreme to force people to abandon their homes, wealth, way of life and links to
place (Moorehead 2005).
A refugee trades everything he or she knows in response to a threat, fear
of harm or sometimes a promise of a better future. The threat is usually one of
extermination and death while the promise may be of little more than a place
to rest. Yet, the refugee, with few choices and options, moves. Once away
from the insecurity of home the refugee faces a new kind of insecurity. In a
camp or center waiting to return home or for a settlement to be struck in a
conflict between antagonists, the refugee is in limbo. In the camp, insecurity is
the threat to wellbeing and comes when living without a history, without papers
and with few rights and privileges (Whittaker, et al. 2006). Resettlement does
not necessarily mean an end to insecurity, rather, resettlement brings a new kind
of insecurity as the culture, identity and practices of the past come into conflict
with the expectations of the destination country. And while many refugees are
able to organize themselves and their communities in a way that reconstitutes
their native systems, they are also challenged by the expectations of the
destination country, its traditions, demands and expectations (Valentine, et al.
While the example of the refugee captures the insecurity that comes with
migration, most movers face similar challenges as they travel to internal or
international destinations. Yet, migrants decide to take the chance and face
the challenges of moving. They transcend regional divisions, cultural traditions
and linguistic difference to find opportunities. In their destinations they often
organize, creating transnational communities that link them to sending
communities and anchor them in the traditional practices they have left behind
(Vertovec 2009).
Regardless of the motivations for movement, remittances remain central
to migration as a process. An overwhelming number of non-migrants rely upon
the work of friends and relatives to support them over time (Yang and Martínez
2006). Economic remittances help households survive and families maintain
themselves even when they are under a great deal of pressure that might
threaten their very survival (Cohen 2005). But, as we have noted remittances are
more than economic, and they include goods and services, experiences,
knowledge and the like. These non-monetary remittances are critical to a
household’s survival and maintenance over time. Non-monetary remittances
serve as social and cultural connections that become critical to sending
households and the children of migrants.
A new phase for migration
The realities of contemporary migration are quite different from those
encountered by migrants and movers from even a few decades in the past.
The rural to urban shifts and industrial growth of the 50s, 60s and 70s that
attracted many migrants to internal as well as international destinations has
given way to migration that is driven by a growing demand for service workers in
the West and declining economic opportunity in the Third World. The demand
for labor, and specifically cheap labor, drive migration and pulled unskilled
workers to new destinations in Europe and the US, at the same time, neoliberal
reforms pushes rural peoples from their lands and toward urban centers and
wage labor. No where was the international dimension of this process more
obvious than in the rise of Mexican migration to the US (Delgado-Wise and
Marquez Covarrubias 2007). At the same time, internal movers traveled from
their hometowns in western China to work and new lives in the coastal and
industrial cities (Fan 2008).
The end of the 20th century saw the continued growth of unskilled, service
based migration from south to north and east to west. The growth of migration
brought national, ethnic and minority populations into contact in new ways.
Generally through the end of the 20th century, native citizens saw the migrants
living among them as necessary. Here were people willing to work for low
wages and to do the jobs natives had left (Waldinger and Lichter 2003). At the
same time, the migrant communities began to find their voices. They used their
communities as a foundation to criticize their former nations (Fox and Rivera-
Salgado 2004). They organized themselves to support their home towns and
they managed and coordinated their remittances to sustain their sending
communities, build homes and foster growth.
Yet the shift to service based migration on a grand scale has not
continued unabated in this new century. Nativist and anti-immigrant groups
have always existed and they have always objected to the presence and role
of the migrant in native affairs (economic and otherwise). The events of
9/11/2001 and the recessions of the last several years have only intensified the
criticism of migrants and the calls for tighter borders, more restrictive laws and
more limitations on access to institutions that range from schools to health care.
The impact of heightened border security and the recession on migration are
just now beginning to play themselves out and migrants are caught in the
center of the debate.
In this book, we have put together a positive account of understanding
migration. We place it within the framework of a dynamic conflict model which
is helpful to grasp the process (i.e. the fluid nature of migration). We also see
mobility through households as collection of individuals with strong ties and joint
decision making processes. Emphasizing a key element in migration processes,
we believe, is the non-movers who are often left outside the debate. Thus
pointing out the links between movers and non-movers we tried to show that
human mobility is not just a problem for those non-movers (host and sending
communities) but they are also a part and parcel of the due process.
The impacts of the renewed calls for tighter borders and the recession are
two areas ripe for increased study. Through the 1990s and into the start of the
21st century migration was a relatively easy process for the mover. Migration
was like a game of cat and mouse, with the migrant playing the role of the
mouse who tries to avoid capture by the cat. Typically the mouse was able to
avoid the cat, establish him or herself; find a home and job and work with little
At present, migrants are treated as criminals and capture often means
deportation and a criminal record. We argue it is time to worry less about
legality and criminality and more about human rights. Legislating migration
controls and in particular controls that limit access to public services will not lead
to lower rates of migration, nor will they mitigate the impacts of the economic
recession. Migrants are not a cause of these problems; rather they are a
symptom of the inability of states to meet the needs of their populations. In a
speech during his presidential campaign, then senator president Barack Obama
Like millions of Americans, the immigrant story is also my story. My father
came here from Kenya, and I represent a state where vibrant immigrant
communities ranging from Mexican to Polish to Irish enrich our cities and
neighborhoods. So I understand the allure of freedom and opportunity
that fuels the dream of a life in the United States. But I also understand the
need to fix a broken system.
Perhaps rather than fear, we can embrace this diversity and challenge the
status quo that defines migration as a problem.
Chapter 1: The household in a global perspective
“I think her being there [abroad] is good for me because she
helps me. If she was here maybe she could help in different ways,
however for me it is important that she is there since I get
money to pay for school. … So the benefit of my mom being in the
US is economic. We always have food and my grandmother doesn’t
worry as much as she did before about money.”
Guillermo the son of a Honduran transnational migrant working in
the US (Schmalzbauer 2008: 336)
“The Filipino family has become transnational in an effort to
protect itself from declining real incomes and standards of
living, and to achieve family aims for investment in education
and acquisition of other productive assets including land and
(Abella 1993 cited in Sills 2007:4)
Many researchers focus on migrants and the decisions that drive
their mobility and the outcomes of their moves. Of course, the
decision to migrate is in the hands of the mover. Nevertheless,
it is a mistake to think of the migrant as a lone decision maker,
just as it is a mistake to think of the migrant in her or his
destination community as a rouge individual. The decision to
migrate, while in the hands of the individual mover, is made in
reference to and relation with many other actors and includes
other people, places, processes, promises and potential outcomes.
In this chapter we explore how the decision to migrate is made
and look beyond the individual.
The decision to migrate takes place in reference to the
strengths and weaknesses of the mover, but also in reference to
the strengths and weaknesses of her or his household. Beyond the
household, the community, sending nation and receiving country
influence outcomes. Economic and social patterns link origin and
destination communities and include the pulls and pushes of wage
and labor markets; immigration policies; cultural values and
traditions; and macro socio-economic processes. The key decision
making structure is the household where all (or at least most) of
the factors influencing outcomes come together.
A focus on the household may seem counterintuitive,
particularly given the power of the global labor market and the
pull of relatively high wages to drive migration patterns. Yet,
consider this; even the migrant who denies his family, abandons
her households and forsakes a community to find a job in a
foreign land is making a decision that is in response to the
strengths and weaknesses of her or his household. In this
respect, the Georgian woman who flees her household and hometown
to organize a new life around a new job and opportunities in a
new setting is making a household decision. For the people she
leaves behind, the outcome of her decision to migrate can be
devastating (Buckley 1997). The origin household is left with one
less engaged member and the loss is apparent for all to see.
Certainly, migration is a very difficult decision and it is a
decision with far reaching impacts. It is not that different for
the Nicaraguan household that whose sons leave for the promise of
work in a Mexico City store. The promise of work in Mexico City
and the income the job will provide likely will do little to
enhance the status of the Nicaraguan sending household. The
young man’s decision is made in reference to a dream and a
possibility and even though he may consult family and friends,
his decision can impoverish his sending household. Nevertheless,
once the decision is made it creates a series of new concerns for
the household and its members and how they will deal with the
{Figure 1.1 about here}
What we hope is apparent from these brief examples are the
processes and boundaries that define the household structure of
decision making (see figure 1). The individual mover (like his or
her non-moving relatives and friends) is embedded in the
household and her or his migration decisions reflect broader
external forces that are defined by the individual, but also by
the community, region, state, nation or global process(Pennartz
and Niehof 1999).
The Migrant’s decision
Migration is a complex decision and it does not suddenly happen.
Individuals in Mexico do not wake up and think, today I will go
to the US, nor do Pakistanis arise one morning and decide, okay,
it is time to leave for London. As a complex decision, the choice
to migrate is influenced by many factors; some factors are
defined by the individual, others by the individual’s household
and community. Finally, there are external forces that frame
migration outcomes and that develop from global economic and
social patterns and processes.
The potential mover has much to consider as he or she
ponders the value of migration. His age and her marital status
are both critical to outcomes. Gender can open or potentially
close doors to certain moves. Education and experience are also
critical to the success of a migrant as are her or his wealth and
skills. No one factor will determine the outcome of the decision
to move, or of migration. Of course the decision lies with the
individual (regardless of the factors that influence it) and may
not correspond to the social scientist’s expectations for
An individual’s age, marital status and gender are perhaps
the most basic and critical factors to migration decision making
and outcomes. Young movers follow paths that are unique, the
newly married make choices that are different than unmarried
movers and women make decisions that are often fundamentally
different from those of men.
A migrant’s age is critical to migration decisions. The
moves of young men and women men and women who are not adult
(and adulthood is often culturally defined ideal) are
circumscribed by the rules and social regulations defined by
parents and elders. Younger movers typically frame their
sojourns in terms of the needs and desires of their families.
Parents send their children to jobs and opportunities away from
home and often with little input by the child him or herself.
This is particularly true when the child is, in effect, sold to
an outsider who will employ him or herperhaps in the sex trade
as is too often the fate of young girls in Thailand and Burma
(Kempadoo and Doezema 1998; Kitiarsa 2008; Quirk 2007).
Children also benefit from the decisions of their parents
and they may find themselves enrolled in school programs that
demand they leave their natal homes. Such moves are often
premised on the assumption that the child will support her or his
family once a skill is mastered. This is the case among Filipinos
who will go into debt to send their children to training programs
at national universities where they can master new skills as
nurses and care givers. Parents assume their children will take
their new found skills, gain employment in the US and support
their families in the Philippines once they have established
themselves in North America (Kingma 2005; Parreñas 2005).
Thousands of students migrate to gain access to universities
and for the jobs and incomes that higher education brings (Zhao
1999). The selection and admission processes in each country
impose a set of particular expectations for young movers.
Nevertheless many young people make their first long term moves
when they enroll for a university degree. Here again gendered
attitudes may determine the patterns disadvantaging girls in some
countries.[2] Those in developing or less developed countries
face a bigger challenge in the search for higher education.
Often they have to move to another country to escape bigotries
and cultural limitations and to access strong, recognized
programs particularly for postgraduate studies.
Older children can sometimes ignore the demands of their
parents. Once a child is in her or his late teens he or she is
better able to make decisions and can exercise a degree of self
determination. The costs of migration are still likely covered by
a family or family friends and their may be some demands placed
on the young mover, yet often the mover is able to define a path
that begins to establish some independence.
Once settled young movers, particularly young men, are often
seen as a threat by members of a destination country. Thus,
North Americans often assume that nearly any young, male Latino
immigrant to the US is a member of a gang, involved in smuggling
drugs or interested in escaping their past rather than supporting
a sending household. The same basic problem confronts young,
Muslims, Middle Easterners and North African immigrants to
Europe. To the French, German and British among others, these
young men are terrorists or criminal threats and pose real danger
to the young women it is assumed that they target.[3]
It is quite often the case that the young (male) members of
the family go abroad and once settled try to help and enable
others to join them. This is relevant to conflict cases, where
human insecurity is strong as with Turkish Kurds in the 1990s and
early 2000s. Turkish Kurds migrated to Germany not simply for
work, but also to escape persecution at home. And while they
encountered new kinds of discrimination in Germany, it was not
motivated by anti-Kurdish trends present within Turkey. Thus,
many young Kurds arrived in Europe in search of a sense of
security and once established, they waited to be joined by
brothers, sisters as well as parents. The young son’s or
brother’s migration is thus part of a household strategy to
tackle with the environment of human insecurity felt in the
origin community.
The binds that challenge young movers in their destinations
can challenge them at home as well. Young movers can be
mistrusted by their families and their sending communities. If
they decide to migrate with little support from their natal,
sending homes, there is the sense that they are escaping or
fleeing responsibilities. They often leave work that while poorly
paid, contributes to cover the daily costs of living in a direct
and immediate way, replacing one set of costs and benefits with a
different but sometimes no less problematic set of costs and
The sending household does not wait for remittances that may
never materialize; rather it creates new strategies to deal with
the loss. Finally, there is often the sense that a young mover
who leaves without the direct intervention of her or his family
has turned away from the sending household and severed any
relationship with that family. While this may be true, often the
young migrant who leaves maintains some connections over time,
and even if these connections are not strong, they can become the
basis for future links that reemerge at a later date. These
renewed links emerge as the settled migrant and her or his
success allow for engagement with sending households and origin
Marital status is a second variable that influences
migration outcomes. Young, unmarried migrants make decisions that
are fundamentally different than are the decisions of the newly
married or a well established couple. Young, unmarried migrants
move for their natal families and for themselves. Married
migrants move for their families, young children and to cover the
costs of weddings, homebuilding and improvements, and the
expenses of educating young children. Schmalzbauer (2008)
provide us rich examples from among Honduran families including
19 years old Guillermo (quoted earlier), who like many other
Hondurans benefits from family migration as his parents earn
money in the US to finance his education in a Honduran university
to better his employment chances:
“With a high school degree one can’t earn much, only
70-80 percent (of a good salary). With university degree one
can get 90-100 percent. … My idea is to continue with
international marketing [studies] and then if possible I
would like to get a masters degree in finance. … After
finishing school what I want the most is to open my own
business. … I am very positive” (Schmalzbauer 2008: 340).
Older couples with older children and couples who are
established in their households and communities face a different
set of decisions when thinking about mobility. Now, the costs of
a child’s education may be a non-factor for the couple, they can
use their remittances for home improvements.
The migrant is likely moving to accomplish one of several
goals (whether realistic or not). He or she may begin to organize
the capital needed to invest or expand a local business and in a
small way support a community’s social reproduction and
maintenance (Boehm 2008; Dreby 2006; Hondagneu-Sotelo 1994;
Oropesa and Landale 1997; Voigt-Graf 2008). Alternatively, an
older mover might travel as a tourist to visit family already
settled elsewhere and in the process organize resources to
resettle in the future.
Gender impacts outcomes and married men and women make
different decisions. Married men typically use their families as
a reason to migrate. They make the sojourns they do to earn the
money necessary to cover the costs of education, health, wedding
and so on. Thus, a Chinese illegal migrant apprehended in Belgium
I am the only breadwinner in the family. I am responsible
for my wife, my son and my old mother. My father has passed
away. I earn 300 Yuan per month in my village. This is not
much. With this amount I cannot support my family. My son
stopped going to school because we don’t have money. My wife
is sick” (Pang 2007: 99).
Married women often face a series of traditional beliefs that are
barriers to mobility and suggest their migrations are problematic
at best and extremely dangerous at worse. In transnational
migration, they are likely to follow the trajectories of their
spouses, brothers or fathers and often with a certain time lag.
Their resources also go to the family, but where men can have an
adventure, women are at risk. And it is only in recent years that
migrant women have begun to work independently and for themselves
rather than their families (Donato, et al. 2006; INSTRAW 2007;
Nolin 2006).
It is obvious that men and women follow different paths as
migrants; they often travel to different destinations and for
different reasons and once settled they access different jobs.
Yet gender also influences outcomes before migration takes place.
Men and women encounter different barriers to decision making at
home as well as abroad. Gender impacts migration outcomes from a
young age as rural women and women who are members of families
living in poverty are removed from schools at a younger age and
often before the boys around them. Furthermore, younger women,
when they are encouraged to continue their education, are
channeled into traditionally female careers which can also narrow
options for new migrants. Transnational mobility frequently
places these young women into jobs for which they are
overqualified. Careers as domestic workers are one good example.
A recent UK study showed that women’s qualifications and skills
are often ignored by their clients and they are forced into a
career path with no upward mobility (Cuban 2009).
While young men may have the ability to migrate nearly
anywhere within reason particularly if they are not married;
young women typically find their destination choices
circumscribed by family, community and traditional concepts of
correct gendered behavior.[4] In many settings young men are
expected to migrate. They move as a “rite of passage” a signal
that they are adults and can care for themselves. Women, on the
other hand, are not so free to travel and often their travels are
not deemed as valuable. This is partly due to traditions in
sending societies but also because of restrictions imposed by
receiving countries. While Arab countries, for instance, remain a
major destination for female movers from south east Asia (a group
that is mainly employed as domestic workers) Turkish migration to
Arab countries was almost completely male dominated and focused
on construction (Icduygu and Sirkeci 1998).[5]
Young women in southern Mexico find there are many barriers
to crossing the US border.[6] Even before they consider the
dangers of the borderlands and the challenges of the US
immigration laws, traditional local practices in sending
households can severely limit the opportunities open to women.
Cerrutti and Massey (2001) argue “in Mexico, who migrates and why
is likely to be related strongly to gender and household
position” and the pattern would seem to apply elsewhere as well
(see also Curran, et al. 2006). In fact, in southern Mexico, the
assumption is that women should stay home. It is only in their
homes that women are safe and not threatened. Young women who
travel across the border face many challenges that include
becoming a crime statistic, involvement in the sex trade and
abuse. The fear is likely not so much that women will be
victimized once across the border as it is that the families
sending these women will lose control of them and their earnings.
In response to the pressures not to travel across an
international border, young women are encouraged, if they want to
migrate, to move to an internal destination. For example, “women
from the Philippines show higher rates of rural-urban migration
than men; moreover, Filipinas are more likely than men to migrate
as teenagers, well before marriage” (Lauby and Stark 1987: 1;
Nadeau 2007).[7] Nevertheless, when young women do manage to
migrate to the US, they often travel as daughters and sisters and
once they are settled in the US, they often find that they must
care for their families and in effect, find that the time they
have available for work is limited by the demands that their new
households place on them. A striking example of gender
selectivity imposed by government policies is found in Portugal,
where the government issued passports only to men until 1989
(Brettell 1995). Women and children were supposed to travel on
men’s passports as dependents. Even after the policy changed
Portuguese women had to seek permission from their husbands to
travel abroad.
While Latina women are encouraged to stay close to home, in
other situations women are encouraged to travel to foreign
destinations. For instance, women are also recruited to
particular jobs such as domestic care or nursing (Cuban 2009;
Nadeau 2007; Pojmann 2007). Chinese rural to urban migration is
often focused on young women who fill factory jobs in part
because of the assumption that they are better at the repetitive
kinds of labor that is available (Myerson, et al. 2010). Of
course, the fact that these women are paid less than men for
their work further increasing their attractiveness to employers
(He and Gober 2003).
Gender also has a bearing on remittance practices by
migrants. Immigrant men typically find better paying jobs than
do women even though are paid less than the non-movers in the
host community. Additionally, women find that they assume care
taker roles in their new communities and often must balance this
demand against the requirements of work. Men may also have time
to find a second job and earn additional income. Over the long
run, it may well be that because women continually remit, or
remit more consistently over time, they will return more money to
their homes then their male compatriots (Fomby 2005; Gamburd
2008; Georges 1992; Wong 2006). Nevertheless, while women do tend
to remit over longer periods and more regularly than do men, over
the short term, men remit more than do women.
Households and migration
Just as no two migrants are equal but instead reflect
special skills, age, abilities and values; the households that
migrants come from are unique. Migrant households bring
strengths and weaknesses to the decision processes. For our
purposes, a household is more than the building within which a
family or domestic group lives. The building is a home; nothing
more than a structure and it is dangerous to assume that the
physical structure is the household or to assume that the people
who matter are the people who live in that structure at a
particular moment in time (Guyer 1981; Wilk 1989).
The household’s structure may indicate some social realities
and symbolically represent and create identity; nevertheless, the
relationship of the household to its meaning is not direct nor
should it be assumed that it is unproblematic (Netting, et al.
1984). Furthermore, we should not assume that the household’s
physical structure is determined solely by systems of production
and demographic processes (Goody 1972). Such a perspective
misses the creative, active and adaptive ways in which the
household is formed and through which it forms and informs social
process (Netting, et al. 1984; Wilk 1991). Thus, we argue that
the household is created by, around and in reference to the
people who live in it. It reflects history, but is not historic;
it gives physical definition to a domestic unit, a group of
people (sometimes but not always a family and not always a family
that is easily recognized), but it also transcends place to
include individuals (like migrants) who live in a variety of
places and destinations.
Households reflect and build upon the history and the
cultural ideals and social norms of the people who create them
(Netting, et al. 1984). While some households develop around a
nuclear family unit (the typical western household of a married
couple and children) others reflect a very different logic. We
might encounter extended families (multigenerational units within
a broad set of kin members living together), blended households
that include members from a variety of formally and informally
linked units or single parent headed households. The common
thread that links households is their purpose and role, not their
defined structure or their determined organization, for these can
be quite fluid. Garifuna households in Belize are an example of
what we mean. The Garifuna, an Afro-Caribbean society living on
the coast of Belize organize their families and households along
regularly changing patterns. Most households are female headed
and visited by a series of men who share responsibilities for the
children they have sired. The men who earn their money through
work on fishing boats and international migration to the US
intermittently invest in the women and children with whom they
are involved. They show up from time to time and lavish gifts on
the women they co-habitat with and their children. Thus, for the
Garifuna the household is a fluid unit whose membership changes
over time and expands to include men when they are present, but
contracts as well when those men leave; and through every change
social authority and power is held by women and passed down
through generation (Gonzlez 1988).
The example of the Garifuna reminds us that what identifies
a household is the role it plays in social lives of its members.
Households are “dynamic and changeable” (Wilk 1991: 39). They
are also contradictory in that the very structures that create
the household (and that the household creates in return) are
linked to social, economic, natural and historical processes that
are always changing and sometimes conflictive (Taylor, et al.
2005). In other words, even as authority is organized within the
household, that authority may change, leadership can be replaced
and reorganized, even membership can be restructured. Such a
pattern is evident in Somali refugee households where women
increasingly organize and support households that are
traditionally patrilineal and structured around male centered
social hierarchies. Somali women, who find jobs more easily in
the disapora, are more and more heading households as single
mothers. Their allegiance lies with their mothers and fathers
and the patrilines they were born into, not those that define
their spouses. In an interesting twist, Somali women preserve
and reconstruct traditional society in the diaspora, and around a
core of linked female dominated households that establish new
relationships even as a traditional identity is created around
Islam and Koranic law (Al-Sharmani 2006; Fuglerud and
Engebrigtsen 2006).
Households are also finite units. Households have a
beginning and end, they exist in specific places and over time
and they have histories, trajectories and meanings. Some of the
earliest work in anthropology identified how the household
developsor as put by Meyer Fortes, how the household follows a
developmental cycle (1971). What Fortes meant is that the
household’s growth is not random; rather it is established at the
marriage of two individuals. Over time, the household expands as
children are added. Responsibility also increases as young
newlyweds become parents; parents become important citizens and
as citizens assume authority positions in a community. The
period of expansion is replaced by a trend to consolidation as
the children in the household grow to be adults and move out and
on, often to establish their own new households. This point
often marks the zenith of the household’s member powers as the
time needed to care for children is now donated to the community
at large. Finally, as the members of a household age, so too
does the household itself and it will finally collapse as its
founders pass away.
The household also serves a symbolic and ideological purpose
for its members and for the larger communities within which it
exists. Households are settings where education takes place,
where individuals learn about what is correct and incorrect, and
what is morally important and culturally valued. Members, thus,
learn social roles and the social rules they must follow. Our
point is not that individuals simply fill household positions
like automatons. Rather, it is that within the households
sanctions on behavior, what is right and wrong and the meaning
and value of cultural beliefs are established reproduced and
constested. Of course the identities that are established
include that of the migrant. He or she fits into the broader
system. The potential to migrate brings with it specific ideas
of what a migrant should do. He or she should ideally support
his or her sending household and invest in its well being. A
community should also find itself valued by the migrant.
The household as a social setting is not only a place where
meaningful cultural beliefs are practiced. The household is also
a setting where those practices are reproduced, recreated and
changed as we noted in the examples of the Garifuna and Somali
women. In other words, households do not merely reflect cultural
values as if they were part of some kind of rote memory exercise;
rather, the household is integral in the negotiation of meaning
and over time, the household is critical to the creation and
maintenance of identity over time (Netting 1993).
The household does not create opportunities for migration
rather opportunities grow from the abilities, strengths and
weaknesses of individuals and from the fixed and flexible
resources that characterize the household (Conway 2000; Conway
and Cohen 1998). Fixed resources (see figure 1) include those
items that are directly defined and linked to the household and
tend not to change through time. Flexible resources are those
things including wealth that define the household but shift over
time and space. Thus, land is typically a fixed resource for
most migrants. It is a source of wealth and at least for some
peoples (particularly in the past) a resource that is critical
because it can be used productively. Other capital investments
including the physical home, businesses, animals and large
domestic goods are often fixed, although they tend to have
specific starting points on the calendar.
Though they may change through time, households are fixed
resources for most migrants. They are physically real and set in
time and space. Households are also social resources, they serve
as a central node for their members and individuals (movers and
non-movers) who develop familial, kin and friend based systems of
support. In other words, a household is a symbolically fixed
resource that serves as an anchor for the migrant and members.
Wealth (both economic and social) can be fixed or flexible. A
household’s members can build upon wealth they can deploy to
support their decision. Wealth is also flexible and one outcome
of migration is the creation of wealth that can grow over time
and is translated from flexible to fixed. In other words, as a
migrant is successful, that success translates from perceived to
real social status in a community. This is clear in the actions
of migrants who hail from San Francisco Cajonos, Oaxaca, Mexico
(Sanchez 2007). The town of San Francisco Cajonos has less than
100 citizens living in it today, yet there are thousands of
migrants who call San Francisco Cajonos home and who live in
Oaxaca City (the state’s capital), Mexico City (the nation’s
capital) and Los Angeles, California, one of the most important
Oaxaqueño destinations in the US. San Franciscans who have
emigrated and the children of those emigrants continue to return
throughout the year to their home town in Oaxaca’s mountains or
Sierra Madre Occidental (also called the Sierra de Juarez in
honor of Benito Juarez a national hero, president and leader of
Mexican independence from Spain who is a native to the region).
More importantly, every year, San Franciscans return to their
town to serve in the local political hierarchy. Their service in
San Francisco builds social status and social capital that
follows a traditional model of community organization that is
present throughout rural Oaxaca (Hernández Díaz 2007).
Service “at home” translates to San Franciscan communities
in Los Angeles as well. Thus, social status earned in San
Francisco Cajonos, Oaxaca is flexible in its organization (it can
be used for nearly anywhere) as long as people share social
meaning and cultural values. In a general sense, status is
flexible, in that it works regardless of community, but also
fixed through support for the hometown that anchors identity and
serves as a symbolic homeland (for comparison, see Paerregaard
Flexible resources are those things that contribute to a
household’s well being over time, but also can shift quite
dramatically. Income and labor practices within a household are
perhaps the most critical of flexible resources that a potential
migrant can draw on as he or she makes a decision to move. So
too the temporary demands that a household places on its members
perhaps demanding that a member take on new responsibilities. The
goods and services a household demands also changes over time as
new technologies and possibilities emerge. Finally, the very
perceptions that characterize how a household’s members approach
important decisions can have a profound effect on outcomes. When
migration is not a typical or common choice, the household may
exercise control over decision making. On the other hand, as the
migration of citizens grows more common, a household may in
effect make the decision for a member and push border crossing as
an important opportunity.
Households are constantly transforming themselves and being
transformed as times change, people move and grow, and societies
vary from strata to strata and over time;. What we mean, then,
is that households not only reflect the immediate needs, desires
and possibilities of their members, households help to form those
needs, desires and possibilities. Households also reflect and
form the very fabric of local society, and through households,
citizens establish identities, create powerful and long lasting
associations and, one hopes, thrive.[8]
Households are not created equal. Not only are there
wealthy and poor households and high and low status households
(although in relative terms), households also develop over time
and go through specific stages. Thus, the young family, just
starting out and with very young children represents a kind of
household that is different from the older family, with grown
children. When it comes to migration, these two families may
follow similar paths and send members to a distant location for
work, nevertheless, the outcomes of those migrations and the uses
of the remittances resulting from those migrations are quite
different. The young family is likely to use migration to cover
the immediate expenses that come with raising young children.
The older family may use the remittances from migration to open a
small business. The point is that the household and the family
that is based within it have a direct impact on the outcomes of
Beyond the household: the role of community in migration
Migration decisions reach beyond the household to include
communities, origin countries and destinations. A decision to
migrate thus reflects not only a household, but the interaction
and integration of households, communities, countries and the
globe. It is critical to capture how households work together to
maximize resources that will support decision making while
minimizing the challenges that the individual may face.
Households with migrants as members tend to work together. The
linkages that tie a migrant to his or her household and home town
also create an important bond to other movers. In fact, a
majority of movers follow such paths as they make their decisions
and follow earlier movers who are often family or friends
(Massey, et al. 1994). One of the signs of a mature migrant flow
is that the very social ties that make migration possible become
so common as to connect nearly every household to a migrant, yet,
in many settings there remain non-migrant or non-mover
households. These households typically lack the bonds and
relationships that will support easy movement.
Intra-household relationships are critical to decision
making. Potential migrants learn about the challenges they face
as movers as well as the opportunities they will find once they
reach their destination. The links with movers and their
households also translate to important and positive ties that can
be exploited to help cross a border. In other words, knowing a
migrant means the resources he or she has gained can help new
movers as they cross borders; find smugglers, perhaps purchase
papers and move goods.
Social connections to earlier movers and their households
are absolutely critical as the new migrant settles in his or her
destination community and begin to search for work (Massey 1990).
These connections are also important as the new migrant is
inserted into a new set of relationships that bring with them
their own unique challenges and opportunities. Central here is
that the relationships the new mover holds with his or her
household and with the households of other movers becomes a
foundation upon which social life is constructed, but a social
life that is defined by the cultural beliefs and traditional
practices of the origin community (Paerregaard 2008).
Differences and similarities between origin and destination
countries also influence migration outcomes. Often these
differences are defined around the push and pull factors that
drive migrants from one country to another. The push and pull of
labor markets, wages and job opportunities are clear where
migration is a rule. Movers seek jobs where no or few
opportunities are present. They are looking for relatively higher
wage that typically dwarf the wages available in their origin
country and finally, the seek opportunities to establish
themselves in ways that are unavailable at home.
A focus on the economics of migration and the push and pull
of labor markets can obscure other forces that influence
migration decision making. There are migrants who seek
destinations that will allow them to voice political opinions
that may not be respected at home. Political figures that fled
countries such as Burma, Thailand, and Iran can be counted among
many examples. Similarly massive refugee flows from Turkey to
Western Europe in the early 1980s in reaction to the military
intervention of September 1980 constitute a good case. During the
1990s, Kurdish asylum seekers arrived in almost every
industrialized democratic country to escape tensions and unrest
in Turkey. Today these Kurdish migrants form strong and
influential diasporic communities in Canada, Sweden, the UK,
Germany, the Netherlands, and France. Refugees and asylum seekers
often have few choices in terms of their destinations, but are
aiming to escape a sense of human insecurity and move towards
relatively more secure places.
Finally, and while it may seem odd, there are the unique
needs of leisure movers, highly educated movers and the elderly
who are often looking for a relatively cheaper lifestyle that
will maximize their retirement savings. While the retiree and
tourist and highly educated movers are quite different from the
migrants we have focused on, the patterns followed are similar
and reflect household resources. Thus, we should not be
surprised that we have seen a surge in the volume of Western
European pensioners migrating to Hungary where their limited
pension incomes go further compared to that in their countries of
origin (Illes 2005). These older migrants often join their sons
and daughters and sometimes at their off-springs’ request because
maintaining the family is cheaper for the younger generation as
their parents join them in Hungary.
Conclusions: the transnational household
As our discussion suggests, while the decision to migrate is
made by the individual and constructed around the household, it
often isn’t enough to think about a household as a single unit or
to define the migrant as a person who exists in a single place.
People belong to more than one household. We often establish
households upon marriage and in adulthood; nevertheless, we
remain (regardless of changing status and participation) members
of our natal households and perhaps more.
In addition, households exist across space, and include
individuals in different settings and different circumstances.
Specifically, when we are interested in migration, we need to
recognize the importance of “transnational households” and
transnational communities. Transnational households and
communities exist in two and sometimes more settings and can
often bring together individuals as single domestic unit and
inclusive social group. In other words, in a transnational
setting, we often find that individual migrants remit to a
specific household, supporting and maintaining that household or
domestic group over time in a larger community that includes many
households that follow a similar trajectory.
There are of course, situations where the transnational
household struggles just as there are examples of people
cooperating. Migrant and transnational households can be
dysfunctional. When working with a household head in Oaxaca,
Orozco notes that he or she would state a child now residing in
the US had ceased to interact with their origin household (2002).
Their remittances had stopped and they were no longer investing
in the life of the town. Perhaps they had their own family in
their new destination, perhaps they had gained new citizenship or
lost a job, but for some reason the connections were broken.
Nevertheless, what we typical find in the migrant and
transnational household are strong bonds between those members
who stay behind and those members who establish themselves in new
The household is not a static unit; rather, it changes over
time in terms of its needs, demands and structure. Often, we
make the mistake of assuming that households are monolithic and
unchanging. In fact, as households mature, demands change.
Thus, younger households often frame their wants, needs and
demands in terms of immediate materials necessary to complete
building a structure, or modernizing living space. The presence
of children brings with it a second set of needscash is
necessary to meet the desires of the children, but also to cover
the costs of education and schooling.[9]
We use a household-based approach to understand how
migration outcomes impact local social systems. Our approach
contrasts with a focus on the individual on one hand and national
level factors on the other and parallels what Faist (1997) refers
to as the meso-level to understand broadly based patterns of
movement). A household model also contrasts with a focus on the
psychological motivations of the individual actor or decision
maker. While these approaches have important strengths, neither
adequately addresses the social universe that defines migration
for most global movers. Thus, our concept of the household as the
center of decision making, and migration as a process that
typically takes account of the household and its needs, is
critical to understanding the economics and culture of migration.
Households are critical linkages for migrants and the
children of migrants who are new movers and for those how have
settled in new communities. The ties to home give the migrant a
sense of meaningful belonging and act as an anchor when a
receiving community is less than supportive of the migrants who
have arrived. The migrant is also linked to the household
through important social bonds and cultural expectations.
Whether it is real or not, often migration is framed as an
activity that one undertakes in the name of a household. A
common refrain throughout southern Mexico was that migration was
a move made in the name of the family and household. It was
something done to support others, a selfless act rooted in the
reciprocal bonds that are created in the household and that link
the members together.
1. A real challenge to anthropological and geographic research is
the fact that the human actors we study often do not perform as
we might expect. It isn’t that our models are wrong (and
generally, our models are based on well thought out research and
theory), but humans often do not perform as we might expect.
Therefore, we should always keep in mind that behaviors are hard
to predict, nevertheless, we should not abandon explanatory
2. Taraneh Baniyaghoob reported that Iranian authorities approved
a plan which forces all universities to admit only local female
students, unless they have their fathers’ or husbands’ written
permission. Although this appears to be an extreme case, it is
important as we consider the strengths and weaknesses that limit
decision making (see Girls’ education in main cities’
universities only with their parents’ available at:
3. A 2008 article appearing in the Daily Mail (on-line edition)
described a survey in which nearly two-thirds of young people in
Britain believed immigrants “dilute” national identity, while a
smaller percentage believed immigrants posed a security risk and
challenged public order (
4. Early studies on gender and migration to the US suggested that
women are as likely as men to migrate to the US. However, they
also emphasize that most migrant women are moving independently
or as supporters of householdsnot as individuals (Curran et al.
2006: 200-202).
5. Icudygu and Sirkeci note “there were only 31 female workers
registered among the total of 77,000 Turkish workers who arrived
in Arab countries between 1967 and 1980” (1998: 8).
6. Nearly 80% of all US bound movers from the southern state of
Oaxaca were men through the year 2000. Internal migration, or
movement within Mexico’s borders, was much more equitable with
just over one-half of all migrants male and just under one-half
of all migrants female (Cohen 2004). Very high levels of male
migration in Oaxaca is quite unique compared to global
international migration figures which indicate an increasingly
balanced distribution between men (50.4%) and women (49.6%) over
the last four decades (UNDP 2005).
7. Filipino international migration is also unique because of
high female domination in flows. In 2001, it was reported that
more than 90% of all overseas Filipino contract workers were
women (Nadeau 2007:18).
8. Households also fail to function, there are in fact, lots of
examples of households that fail to adapt to new situations and
settings and there are certainly people who for one reason or
another fail within their households. Sometimes the failure may
be criminal, but more often, it is simply that the individual in
question cannot or will not fill an intended role and the entire
household suffersas might the community. One older Oaxacan
argued that migration was a great way to get rid of problematic
individuals. If they stayed in their natal community they might
sow dissent and unhappiness, if they leave as migrants, they take
their problems with them and away from the community (see Cohen
9. These costs may be minimal from a Western perspective,
however, from a local perspective, the costs of uniforms,
supplies and the like may place a heavy burden on a family.
... Our focus on conflict and decision-making allows us to understand the dynamic nature of human mobility and decision-making in response to more than an economistic demand for well-paid wage labour. Securities and insecurities, as well as perceived and real conflicts, unfold for mover and non-movers over time and space (Cohen and Sirkeci 2011). ...
... Rather, it is a choice that reflects and builds upon the securities and insecurities, as well as the strengths and weaknesses, of individual movers, their households and communities (i.e. human and social capital), the resources and experiences to which they have access and the exogenous factors and external forces that more broadly define community life (Cohen 2004;Cohen and Sirkeci 2011). As well, migration is an unpredictable process. ...
... It is a complex decision that reflects immediate strengths and long-term weaknesses at points of origin and destination. Moreover, migration decisions are often based on uncertain perceptions by movers and expectations by non-movers, rather than on anything like a comprehensive analysis of the advantages and disadvantages that may come from resettlement and migration (Cohen and Sirkeci 2011). ...
... Human mobility may result in the virus moving between different populations. There is a belief that, when entering any country or group, mobile populations, including cross border migrants, may carry virus with them (Skeldon, 2000, UNDP, 2004, Sikder, 2008and Cohen and Sirkeci, 2011. In the HIV/AIDS and migration position paper, IOM (2002:2) states that population mobility and HIV/AIDS are connected to the conditions and structures of the migration process, including in the communities of origin, during transit, at the destination and upon their return. ...
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Migration has been considered as a societal security challenges since the end of Cold War, which can disrupt stability by creating inter-and intra-state conflicts. The COVID-19 pandemic and the fear of “the other” are now further changing migration discourses by increasing the focus on including the security to individual health and protection. There is no exception that migrants have been stigmatised and classified as a security threat to the spread of Coronavirus in Asia, Africa and whereabouts, thereby facing serious vulnerabilities both in the home countries and in their host countries, which would have long-term socio-economic inclusion and social stability in society. Based on the mix-method analysis of 200 returnee migrants, the purpose of this paper is to investigate the insecurities and vulnerabilities of the Bangladeshi returnee migrants upon arrival at the Dhaka airport and travel to their places of origin; the social and economic discriminations face by returnee migrants in their villages of origin; and the challenges face by social and economic reintegration of returnee migrants.
... Thus, a mobilities approach in migration studies goes beyond the traditional interpretation of movement(s) as linear trajectories to encompass movement and fixity, movers and nonmovers, their interconnections, places and power relations on various scales (Cresswell 2001;Sheller and Urry 2006;Cohen and Sirkeci 2011;Priori 2017) creating a complex assemblage of movement, social imaginaries and experiences (Salazar 2011;Glick Schiller and Salazar 2013). Nevertheless, mobility and immobility are not merely contrasted concepts or opposite sides of the same coin. ...
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Over the last three decades of the 20th century, Greece was transformed from an emigration into an immigration countryand, more recently, into a country combining emigration and immigration. Initially, immigration from the ‘Balkans’ wasat the heart of the country’s migration debates. However, since the early 2000s, migration inflows have been highlydifferentiated, and the numbers have increased for both Asian and African migrants. During the era of austerity,Bangladeshis have followed diverse employment pathways and spatial trajectories. Their so-called ‘constellations of(im)mobility’ cover an array of socio-spatial mobility patterns, ranging from being entrapped in precarious jobs to gainingaccess to/ striving towards more prestigious occupational positions (self-employed occupations). Drawing on recent empirical research, this paper seeks to explore the multidimensional precarity of Bangladeshi migrants living in Greek urban and rural areas. Given the dynamic interplay between macro- and micro-level processes, it also discusses aspects of agency along with practices and strategies for improving the well-being of Bangladeshi migrants in the host society.
... 14 People move to avoid and overcome insecurities, seeking comfort and human security. (Cohen, & Sirkeci, 2011;Sirkeci, 2007). The administrative classifications of migrants disregard this basic driver, i.e. escaping human insecurity and people are treated differently as a result (Sirkeci, et al., 2019). ...
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The concept of citizenship has changed dramatically since the term was first used in ancient Greece. Recent citizenship debates have focused on the implications of commodified citizenship and growth of the “golden visa” market as these new schemes raise ethical and constitutional concerns. Paid-for citizenship schemes undermine the traditional notion of citizenship often marked by solidarity, rights and duties. Paid-for citizenship contradicts contemporary citizenship’s essential principle of equality. Therefore, the core challenge for Turkey and other countries offering paid-for citizenship is the unethical implications of distinguishing refugee/immigrant populations by financial capability in acquiring citizenship. While Turkey does not grant full-fledged refugee status to non-European people and limit duration of their stay in Turkey, Citizenship by Investment programmes offer the rich people –including non-Europeans- an opportunity to acquire Turkish citizenship. So, the new citizenship programme in Turkey is paving the way for discrimination based on the socioeconomic status of individuals. What’s more, this actually tends to push the citizenship concept into a narrow understanding despite the expansion of the modern citizenship concept towards more inclusive rights reaching beyond the boundaries of nation states. Taking this into account, this paper aims to illustrate the discrepancies between paid- for citizenship and refugee policies by highlighting the ethical questions arising from citizenship by investment programmes in Turkey.
... Tarihin öteki dönemlerinde olduğu gibi özellikle İkinci Dünya Savaşı'ndan sonra da Avrupa ülkeleri başta olmak üzere, dünyanın birçok ülkesinde göçler yaşanmıştır. Bu dönemde, başta Fas, Cezayir, Tunus gibi Mağrip ülkeleri olmak üzere Afrika'dan özellikle Fransa gibi Avrupa ülkelerine ve birçok farklı ülkeye mikro, mezo ve makro düzeyde (Sirkeci, 2009(Sirkeci, , 2012Cohen, Sirkeci, 2011;Sirkeci, Cohen, 2013 (Vitali, 2009, s. 172;Geiser, 2008). (Cello, 2011, s. 190). ...
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Öz 1980’li yıllarda, adını Arap sözcüğünün hecelerinin yer değiştirilmesiyle elde edilen Verlan Dili ile bu süreçte gelişen Beur Yazını, yeni bir yazar kuşağını yazın evrenine taşımıştır. Beur yazını, Kuzey Afrika kökenli ya da Fransa'da doğup büyüyen Kuzey Afrika göçerlerinin özgün söylemidir. Göçün etkisiyle sömürgecilik sonrası ortaya çıkan bu yazınsal akımın romanlarının genç anlatı kişileri, sürekli bir iç çatışma içinde olup, iki ekin, iki yaşam ve iki toplum arasında algılanan göç acısı, eşitsizlik ve sömürgeleştirme duygusu içinde parçalanırlar. Özellikle 2005 yılından başlayarak, önce Yörekent Yazını daha sonra da Çağdaş Kent Yazını ve Dünya-Yazını olarak tanımlanan bu alan, yazın ve dilbilim dünyasında bütünüyle yeni bir araştırma ve eleştiri nesnesi olarak belirmiştir. Beur Yazını romanlarında yazar, farklı kökenlerden, ekinlerden ve Arapça, Berber, Afrika ve Karayip ile Çingene dillerinden oluşan toplulukların dil uygulamalarını birlikte kullanarak çoğul ve karma yeni bir dilsel / söylemsel uzam oluşturmuştur. Biz bu çalışmada Mağrip ülkelerinden ulusötesi göç sonrası Fransa’da gelişen Beur yazını ve Verlan dilini, tarihsel ve kuramsal bağlamda incelemeyi amaçlıyoruz. Anahtar sözcükler: Beur yazını, Verlan Dili, Çok kültürlülük, Çok dillilik, Kültür(süz)leşme, Mağrip göçerleri BEUR LITERATURE AND VERLAN LANGUAGE: NORTH AFRICAN MOVER DISCOURSE IN FRANCE Abstract In the 1980s, Beur literature, whose name was derived by the displacement of syllables of the Arabic word, referred to as the Verlan language, carried a new generation of writers into the literary universe. Beur literature is the narrative language of North African movers/immigrants of North African descent or born and raised in France. The young narrative persons of the novels of this literary current, which are brought about by the influence of mobility, are in constant internal conflict, falling apart in a sense of perceived mobility burden, inequality, and colonization between two cultures, two lives, and two societies. Especially beginning in 2005, texts described as suburban literature has have emerged as an entirely new object of research and criticism in the world of literature and linguistics. In Beur literature novels, the author has created a new linguistic space, plural and mixed, using the linguistic practices of communities of different origins, cultures and languages such as Arabic, Berber, African and Caribbean languages, and the languages of the Gypsy genre together. In this study, we aim to focus on the main aspects of bilingualism, multiculturalism, the search for identity, double alienation, expatriation, acculturation, and the harmony that the representatives of this paper focus on, after examining the Beur literature that developed in the Francophone literature with its historical and theoretical dimensions. Keywords: Beur Literature, Verlan Language, Multiculturalism, Multilingualism, Acculturation, Maghreb Movers.
... We put a, b, and c into the "good" category, and d and e into "not good" category) of the young people. These variables have been shown in the literature to be strong predictors and play different roles in explaining migration decisions [23,[68][69][70][71][72][73][74]: age is significantly and negatively associated with migration [71,75,76]; women are less likely to migrate than men [77,78]; the unmarried are more likely to move than married people [79,80]; the unemployed young people are more mobile in both sending and receiving countries [81,82]; migrants are healthier than both non-migrants in the origin country and native residents in the destination country [83], because transitions into another culture and work environment are easier for the healthy [80]. ...
This study examines the migration intentions of young people in Egypt before and after the 2011 revolution, driven by three sets of factors: (1) individual demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, (2) household characteristics, and (3) community characteristics and political and civic participation. Logistic regression models are applied to study the determinants of intentions to live, study, or work abroad among young Egyptians (defined as individuals aged 18 to 29), using data from the Survey of Young People in Egypt (SYPE) conducted in 2009 (N = 8488) and in 2014 (N = 5885). The surveys are nationally representative, covering all governorates in Egypt. The analysis indicates that respondents' age, gender, marital status, and employment status play a significant role in shaping migration intentions. After the 2011 revolution, the effects are dependent upon economic and institutional conditions. The employment status affects the migration intention of young people in 2009; but the effects become insignificant in 2014. Moreover, respondents who have participated in political and voluntary activities are more likely to express migration intentions. Pollution levels in the community are also positively correlated with the intention to migrate. The results indicate that those who expressed migration intentions are a selective group in terms of demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. Our findings have policy relevance because knowledge and understanding of migration intentions and their determinants can be used to assess and develop scenarios about future migration.
Este artículo se trata de que significa ser Maya durante y después de migración a los EEUU desde el área Kaqchikel de Guatemala. Utilizando entrevistas con emigrantes retornados, historias de vida, e otras evidencias etnográficas, señalamos como la vida americana se integra en comunidades Kaqchikeles mayas tras procesos transnacionales. Sugerimos que los resultados de una vida maya-américa se integran en las comunidades de origen en formas que no son tan obvias pero que sí tienen impacto en la vida maya en los pueblos de origen. Por ejemplo, consideramos las relaciones de género dentro de casas en cual alguien se ha ido a los EEUU. Consideramos también el consumo diario, la dieta, y la preparación de comida en familias con migrantes. El idioma y la integración de ciertos palabras de inglés al hablo de hablantes del Kaqchikel es tema importante. La ropa es otra forma en cual la vida americana afecta la vida maya. Se plantea que la ganga de remesas sociales y financiales es un resultado y característica de la migración bajo el régimen económico neoliberal, lo cual esfuerza la gente maya luchar por sus familias tras la migración.
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Özet İnsanlık tarihi boyunca en önemli sosyal olaylardan birisi olan göç kavramı tarihsel süreç içinde şekil değiştirerek de olsa halen devam etmektedir. Özellikle son yıllarda yaşanan ülke içi çatışmalara paralel olarak uluslararası göç, çevre ülkeleri de etkileyen günümüzün en önemli uluslararası güvenlik sorunların-dan birisini oluşturmaktadır. Bu çalışmada, uluslararası göç kavramı ile vatandaşlık, vatansızlık, mülteci, şartlı mülteci, ikincil koruma gibi kavramların tanıtımı yapılacak ve uluslararası güvenlik bağlamında ele alınacaktır. ALINTILAMA ÖNERİSİ Şeker, G. (2014), Uluslararası Göç ve Vatansızlık: Ulusal Güvenlik Stratejileri, Harmancı, F.M; Gözübenli, M. ve Zengin, C. (Ed.),"Güvenlik Sektöründe Temel Stratejiler" içinde (s.277-303). Nobel Yayınevi, ISBN:978-605-133-960-3 BİR BÖLÜMÜ BURADA YER ALAN KİTABIN TAMAMINA AŞAĞIDAKİ LİNKLERDEN ULAŞABİLİRSİNİZ
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Türkiye uluslararası göç yazınına sonradan girmiş eski bir göç ve göçmen ülkesidir. Özellikle 19. yüzyıl sonundan itibaren yaşanan uluslararası nüfus hareketlerinin önemli bir kısmı, şiddetli çatışmalar karşısında yerinden olan nüfusların sınır aşan hareketleri olarak gerçekleşmiştir. Bu çalışmada, Suriyelilerin 2011 tarihinde Türkiye’ye yönelik kitlesel akınları ile yeniden tartışılmaya başlanan kitlesel akın kavramı, çatışma eksenli bir kuramlaştırılma üzerinden ele alınmaktadır. Bu bağlamda Türkiye’nin deneyimlediği tüm göç hareketleri değil, sadece kitlesel akınlar incelenmektedir. Teorik arka planını Çatışma ve Göç Kültürleri Modeline dayandırdığımız bu çalışmada insan hareketliliğinin öncelikle hedef ülkenin çekiciliği değil, kaynak ülkelerdeki çatışmaların motive edici rolü vurgulanmaktadır. Bu bağlamda çatışmaların makro düzeyde Göçün 3KA’sı olarak ifade ettiğimiz, Katılım, Kalkınma ve Kitle Açıklarının insani güvensizlik kaynağı olduğunu ve bunların kitlesel akınları yönlendirdiğini tartışıyoruz. Böylelikle bu çalışmada, yaygın olarak “ani ve öngörülemez” olarak tanımlanan kitlesel akınların aslolarak öngörülebilir olduklarına işaret eden ve biriken insani güvensizlik algısına dikkat çekerek, kitlesel akın tanımını yeniden tartışmaya açmaktayız. ABSTRACT IN ENGLISH Understanding Mass Movements to Turkey in Reference to the Conflict Model of Migration and 3Ds Despite entering the international migration literature more recently, Turkey has long been an emigration and immigration country. International population movements to Turkey, especially movements at the end of the 19 century, was mostly by those who lost their houses because of the intensive conflicts happening in the origin countries. We discuss mass migrations to Turkey with reference to the Conflict Model of Migration. We argue that conflicts in places of origin are primarily important in mass migration movements. We look at the sources of conflict and insecurity classified into the 3Ds (Democratic Deficit, Development Deficit and Demographic Deficit) to explain human mobility. Thus, we argue that mass population movements that are often described as “sudden” and “unpredictable” can in fact be predictable if cumulative human insecurity factors are taken into account.
Argues for adapting the economists' cost-benefit approach to the study of individual migration decisions, and presents a summary two-by-two matrix in which the potential costs of migrating include such cost factors as transportation, problems of finding employment and housing, need to adapt to new surroundings; and the costs of not migrating constitute such push factors as difficulties of finding a local job, unsatisfactory family or social relationships, and political conditions. The potential benefits of migrating include such pull factors as higher pay, better employment opportunities and social services, and a more interesting life, while the benefits of not migrating may include inexpensive housing, food, and recreation, daily contact with family and friends, and assured social status. -from Editors
One dominant theme of the current immigration debate is that immigrants (and particularly the undocumented) fill jobs that nobody wants. While it is sometimes recognized that immigrants fill occupations previously occupied by African Americans, commentators seldom acknowledge that in some cases, this substitution is a response to rising labor conflict. The article presents quantitative and qualitative evidence that allows the rejection of the conventional wisdom (jobs that nobody wants) and advances an alternative hypothesis: immigrant hiring was a management strategy to deal with rising native labor agitation. I use the case of poultry processing in the southeastern United States to elaborate this argument.
Since the late 1990s a transnational Lao music industry, driven by the explosion of digital media technologies, has emerged across the communities of the Lao diaspora. These migrant Lao communities, which are dispersed across, and within, the United States of America, Australia, France and Canada, are undergoing internal changes as their younger, bi-cultural, generations reach adulthood. Using Lao music and its associated technoculture as a focal point, this article explores some of the ways Lao identity is being reconfigured and reconstructed as young migrant Lao come to terms with their cross-cultural status.