Multinational Migrations: Onward Migration Patterns and Possibilities in Asia and Beyond

Sharon Ong Announcement
Subject Fields
Demographic History / Studies, Geography, Humanities, Southeast Asian History / Studies

This workshop is jointly organised by Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, and Yale-NUS College, Singapore.

A growing body of migration scholarship has highlighted the inadequacies of a single-origin-single-destination model for thinking about international migration in the 21st century. Even as more and more people around the world are moving out of their country of birth and into a new one, many of them subsequently move again to a third (or fourth or fifth) country. Literature on the “global elite” demonstrates that this class of expatriate migrants tends to hold careers with built-in multi-national mobility expectations. At the same time, scholarship on irregular migrants has documented how they are also driven by long-term mobility aspirations and also often travel across multiple countries, though typically through undocumented means. Meanwhile, middle-rung migrants – IT professionals, nurses, international students, and even domestic workers and sex workers – have been observed adopting “stepwise international migration” patterns as they seek to leverage the human, economic, social, and cultural capital they acquire in one overseas destination to secure access to another, preferred overseas destination.

Several terms – onward, stepwise, serial, secondary, triangular, multiple, and transit migration – have been coined to describe these multiple moves within a single migratory lifetime, but the lack of consensus on the terminology to use to describe these migrations is indicative of the lack of theoretical clarity on this emergent phenomenon. Understanding these overlapping categories of “multi-national migrants” and the factors that lead to the emergence of these onward migration patterns requires a concerted, comparative effort on the part of migration scholars. This proposed workshop would do just that, bringing together scholars whose research investigates various patterns of multinational migration across a range of migrant categories and spanning multiple world regions, but with a particular focus on multinational migration journeys that originate, terminate, or pass through Asia.

The proposed workshop will advance the nascent but growing body of scholarly research on the various categories of onward migration that have been observed around the world, their causes, constraints, and consequences for the onward migrants themselves and also the sending, intermediate, and receiving communities/countries. Scholars who engage in comparative research across multiple categories of onward migrants or multiple populations are especially welcome, as are those seeking to address the following questions:

  • What is the role of individual agency versus opportunity structure within the adoption of a multi-national migration?
  • How does the emergence of multi-national migrations affect or alter international migration theory?
  • What is the relationship between the emergence of multi-national migrations and the international migration regime?
  • How are particular transnational stepwise pathways structured by broader overarching structures (e.g. the temporary migration regime in Asia and the barriers to residency and citizenship for example) which in turn structure migrants’ migration goals and aspirations?
  • How does the emergence of multi-national migration relate to non-migration and immobility?
  • How do historical patterns of colonial migrations and diasporas influence more recent trends in secondary migration in and out of nation-states?
  • What methods are best suited to studying multi-national migration as a potentiality and an actuality?

Both qualitative and quantitative research, particularly those that are comparative and longitudinal in nature, are welcome.


Paper abstracts should be submitted by 27 April 2018. Submissions should include a title, an abstract of 250-350 words (with sufficient details of the significance of the research question(s), conceptual framing, methodological route and key findings), a brief biography (maximum of 100 words) including name, institutional affiliation, and email contact. Draft papers of 6,000 to 7,000 words are due on 3 September 2018.

Please note that only previously unpublished papers or those not already committed elsewhere can be accepted. The organizers plan to publish a special issue or edited volume with selected papers presented in this conference. By participating in the conference you agree to participate in the future publication plans (usually a journal special issue) if your paper is selected for inclusion.

The organizers will provide hotel accommodation for three nights and a contribution towards airfare for accepted paper participants (one author per paper).

Please submit your abstract, using the provided paper proposal form to Ms Sharon Ong at by 27 April 2018. Notifications of acceptance will be sent out before end-May 2018.

Contact Information


Associate Professor Anju Mary Paul
Yale-NUS College, Singapore

Professor Brenda Yeoh
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

Contact Email