CfP (Special Issue): The End of Migration? What May the Future of International Migration Look Like?

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The End of Migration? What may the future of international migration look like…

In its simplest form international migration has always been understood as a crossing-border process whereby a migrant moves between countries to seek opportunities elsewhere. What sets international migrants apart from internal ones is that they have to engage with rules and regulations imposed the migration regime of a receiving nation. Over time rules and regulations have become increasingly fine-tuned. If we look at the way migration programs, especially those in the Asia-Pacific and Gulf region, are organized three general observations can be made:

1.They are designed to attract limited numbers of the best and brightest to its shores, encouraging a selection of them to stay on permanently;

2.This runs parallel to the recruitment of significantly larger numbers of labour migrants on a strictly temporary basis with the specific aim to meet skills’ shortages locally;

3.Finally, migration systems often impose separate/selective rules to regulate other groups of migrants who do not neatly fall in the first two categories, e.g. international students, medical migrants, working holiday makers etc. The so-called ‘mobile middle’.

Since the start of social scientific inquiries into migration research has tended to reflect and resonate with the way receiving nations organize/categorize different groups of migrants. However, migration research has also gone through various paradigmatic shifts over time, influenced by research findings and changes in the geopolitical, sociocultural and economic landscape across sending and receiving nations. From a functionalist approach with its weighty neoclassical focus that sought to explain migration via push and pull factors, research turned transnational instead. Held to challenge the legitimacy of the nation-state itself, the argument which studies started proposing was that a growing number of migrants could be observed to maintain multiple ties and connections between home and host country. An inevitable consequence was that migration research had to refocus its attention on the multiplicity of migrant lives and thus move away from earlier models that were utilized to investigate migrant trajectories. More recently, the introduction of a new mobilities paradigm has offered a fundamental recasting of social science by drawing attention to the constitutive role of movement within the functioning of social institutions and practices. This paradigmatic shift is not only about asserting that the world is more mobile than ever, rather it seeks to highlight that the complex character of mobility systems draws upon the multiple fixities or ‘moorings’. From this it follows that the systems that regulate or lubricate mobility are deeply infused with notions of il/legalities that in itself are constructed upon sociocultural and political ideas of belonging and what the nation-state is imagined to stand for.

This special issue builds on these insights but proposes to take the consequences of this new way of thinking about migration one step further. While the mobilities paradigm draws our attention to the way migration regimes not only facilitate but also markedly obstruct, pause and even bar movement, we ask if we can then still, in effect, speak of migration? Is what we are observing globally in terms of the increasingly stricter regulation of migrants’ movements (housing them in purposely built facilities on the outskirts of cities), denying them the option of staying on permanently, and regulating their ‘biological’ freedoms (e.g. banning pregnancies, cancelling visas when injured, excluding bodies from local burials) indicative of a shift in thinking about the fundamentals of migration itself? In summary, this special invites papers that offer the following:

• A critical rethinking of our conceptual tools: migration, transnationalism, mobility, and/or;

• Case-studies that challenge the way we reflect on what migration entails, and/or;

• In-depth analyses of the (updated) working of migration regimes and their consequences for migrants (in specific contexts), and/or;

• Comparative studies that bring to light different ways of governance of migrants and its consequences for livelihoods and future.

Ultimately what this special issue seeks to asks is what we are observing now in effect signals the end of migration as we knew and understood it. Is there a future for migration and if so, what does this future look like for our field of study and the people it focuses on?


Abstracts due: July 2022

Selection notified: August 2022

Papers due for review: November 2022

Revisions & Resubmit: July 2023 Publication: October 2023

For further inquiries, please contact: Michiel Baas, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology,

CFP Special Issue for Transitions: Journal of Transient Migration: Intellect Books | Transitions: Journal of Transient Migration