How Migration Shaped Our World and Will Define Our Future

Open doors or build walls? Immigration is one of the most politicized issues. Thus, the value of the book by Goldin, Cameron and Balarajan (2011): "Exceptional People – How Migration Shaped Our World and Will Define Our Future". Before delving into the detail, this book was likely written for an undergraduate audience – those moderately well read on migration will find the first two sections ("Past" and "Present") a summary of the literature. The third section ("Future") offers some interesting food for thought that draws from the literature. It is also worth emphasizing that this book was published in the year the Syrian Civil War started, before the large movements of people into Europe and well before Trump began promising walls and bans.

In the introductory remarks, the authors make clear their position: "International migration pays dividends top sending countries, receiving countries and migrants themselves. In receiving countries, it promotes innovation, boosts economic growth, and enriches social diversity, and is a boon for public finance. Sending countries have their economies stimulated by the financial and social feedback of migrant networks. Migrants reap the welfare benefits of higher wages, better education, and improved health when they move to relatively more developed countries. High rates of migration do, however, produce costs that are carried unevenly by particular localities and countries. These costs are often short-run, and they can be reduced through resource transfers and by building the capacity of public institutions to manage the social and administrative changes presented by higher rates of migration" (p. 5-6). Later chapters (e.g. 6: Impacts of Migration), confront assumptions and assertions with evidence, which has a tendency to emphasize the positive and downplay the negative, but nonetheless makes a strong and clear case for the important, and positive, role that migration has played, and will continue to play, globally.

The first part of the book ("Past") provides an overview of migration in human history. One notable point in reflecting upon history is the novelty of citizenship and immigration restrictions in the modern sense: "Throughout the development agrarian civilizations and the emergence of the first states and empires, borders were porous, and cross-cultural encounters were intermittent but far from uncommon. Cross-cultural interaction was a primary stimulus for the growth of commerce, the spread of ideas and religion, and the advancement of civilizations" (p. 28). Yet, the value of ideas moving with people began to have less of an impact because "somewhere around 1000 CE, world history began to shift from a pattern of divergence – or separate development of civilizations – toward a pattern of global convergence. Up until this time, migration had virtually always meant a permanent departure from the home community. Around the turn of the millennium, however, the accelerating tempo of cross-civilization commerce was launching transoceanic journeys and satellite communities that were the first tremors of globalization" (p. 32). Thus, a shift occurred from migration being an important way for ideas to move, toward migration as an important way for labor and innovative people to move.

It was not until recent centuries that the world of regulations, quotas and applications took shape: "The twentieth century would witness rising nationalism accompanied by a system of states increasingly capable of monitoring their borders. As migrant destination countries received people from ever more diverse locations – and often with fewer skills – native residents demanded greater management of migration flows by the state. Opposition to migration was commonly xenophobic or racist, and prejudices toward foreigners were inflamed by economic downturns and unemployment. The defense of perceived national interests through rising economic protectionism in the early twentieth century was extended to migration control" (p. 67-68). An interesting contribution this book offers, at least in my perspective, is how many nations (e.g. West Germany) used temporary worker programs, and much might be learned from these for the expansion of such programs in countries like Canada today.

Migration is "a key driver of human and economic development and that our future will be strongly influenced by policies regarding migration. How governments craft and coordinate migration policy will determine whether our collective future is defined by a more open and cosmopolitan global society or one that is unequal, partitioned, and less prosperous" (p. 2). What do the authors see for the future (from the vantage point of 2011): "all the evidence tells us that the first half of the twenty-first century will be characterized by more migration… By the middle of the twenty-first century, our societies will be more diverse than ever before" (p. 213). Yet, some caution of what this increase entails: "The dramatic forecasts of as many as 200 million "environmental refugees" by 2050 have been widely cited in official reports, but they have not held up to wider scrutiny. We believe it is unlikely that climate change alone will lead to a tenfold increase in the number of refugees and displaced persons, and doubling of the total number of migrations, as implied by these guesstimates" (p. 237). The authors note that the "'pressure points' include intercountry inequality and wage disparities, growing working-age populations in many developing countries, and environmental stress. More people will have the capacity and propensity to move because of economic growth in poor countries, urbanization, and rising education standards" (p. 241). Additionally, "developed countries are already witnessing a contracting in the supply of native low-skilled labor, a trend that will continue into the future… Without increased migration, these labor shortages will generate a long-term drag on the economies of developed countries" (p. 250).

What then to do – what policies and approaches do the authors recommend – on the question of open doors or walls? They conclude: "We propose five key principles that should guide engagement with migrants and migration by governments and international organizations: extend transnational rights; promote social and economic advancement for migrants; widen the umbrella of legal migration; combat xenophobia and migrant abuse; and improve data collection" (p. 272). Each of the principles is outlined in detail within the book.

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Post-doc: Migration and the humanities (Harvard)

The Mahindra Humanities Center invites applications for one-year postdoctoral fellowships in connection with the Center's Andrew W. Mellon Foundation seminar on the topic of migration and the humanities.

Migration plays as critical a role in the moral imagination of the humanities as it does in shaping the activist vision of humanitarianism and human rights. Too often, the humanities are summoned merely as witnesses to the spectacle of the significant currents and crises of contemporary life. Literature and the arts are viewed as iconic presences whose primary aesthetic and moral values lie in their illustrative powers of empathy and evocation. Yet the intellectual formation of the humanities—their very conception of the nature of meaning, knowledge, and morals—is deeply resonant with the displacement of values and the revision of norms that shape the transitional and translational narratives of migrant lives.

Built around pedagogies of representation and interpretation—textual, visual, digital, political, ethical, ecological, etc.—the humanities engage with the history of shifting relations between cultural expression, historical transition, and political transformation. The ethics of citizenship in our time are defined as much by migration and resettlement as by indigenous belonging, as much by global governance as by national sovereignty. And the humanities play a central role in defining the terms and the territories of cultural citizenship as it creates innovative institutions and identities in the making of a civil society.

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Post-doc: Comparative Global Humanities (Tufts)

2017-2018 Center for the Humanities Postdoctoral Fellowship in Comparative Global Humanities

The Center for the Humanities at Tufts University (CHAT) invites applications for a one-year postdoctoral fellowship, beginning July 1, 2017. The fellows will be in residence at the Center, and participate in a research seminar on themes in Comparative Global Humanities, a project that reconceives humanities and social science knowledge in relation to histories of global relation, contradiction, and exchange.

We seek a junior scholar whose research investigates the impact and transformation of culture in relation to colonialism, racial capitalism, trade, migration and diaspora. We are interested in work that crosses national and disciplinary boundaries to reconceive the objects, methods, material culture and archives for research. The area of specialization is open and may involve one or more of the following disciplines: anthropology, history, comparative literature, religion, material and visual culture, critical theory, however, the Comparative Global Humanities project is particularly interested in an interdisciplinary scholar with the ability to think broadly and experimentally across conventional geographic, thematic or temporal norms.

The fellow will receive a stipend of $47,500, will be eligible for Tufts University health benefits, and will have an office at the Center for the Humanities at Tufts (CHAT).

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Postdoc: Migration & the Humanities (Harvard)

The Mahindra Humanities Center invites applications for one-year postdoctoral fellowships in connection with the Center's Andrew W. Mellon Foundation seminar on the topic of migration and the humanities.

The current refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East has made it clear that migration plays as critical a role in the moral imagination of the humanities as it does in shaping the activist vision of humanitarianism and human rights. The conceptual framework of the humanities is particularly relevant to interpreting and analyzing the cultural and political lifeworlds of the migrant experience. Too often, the humanities are summoned merely as witnesses to the spectacle of the significant currents and crises of contemporary life. Literature and the arts are viewed as iconic presences whose primary aesthetic and moral values lie in their illustrative powers of empathy and evocation. Yet the intellectual formation of the humanities—their very conception of the nature of meaning, knowledge, and morals—is deeply resonant with the displacement of values and the revision of norms that shape the transitional and translational narratives of migrant lives.

Built around pedagogies of representation and interpretation—textual, visual, digital, political, ethical, ecological, etc.—the humanities engage with the "deep" history of shifting relations between cultural expression, historical transition, and political transformation. They play a mediating role in this three-way process. Humanistic disciplines articulate the changing, contingent relationships between cultural meaning and social value as they shape "agents"—individual, collective, institutional—who participate in the creation of public opinion and the definition of public interest. Although they are not activist in a traditional sense, the humanities are actively involved in studying the impact of the displacement of cultural values and trajectories of knowledge-systems as they migrate from one historical context to another, moving across discursive and geographic territories, and establishing hybrid disciplinary borders.

Terms and Conditions

In addition to pursuing their own research projects, fellows will be core participants in the bi-weekly seminar meetings. Other participants will include faculty and graduate students from Harvard and other universities in the region, and occasional visiting speakers. Fellows will be joined at the Center by postdoctoral fellows from Germany, who will be coming as part of a collaboration between the Mahindra Humanities Center and the Volkswagen Foundation. Fellows are expected to be in residence at Harvard for the term of the fellowship. Fellows will receive stipends of $65,000, individual medical insurance, moving assistance of $1,500, and additional research support of $2,500.

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Logan Cochrane

logan.cochrane@gmail.com

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