Introducing February’s theme: Migrations

Illustration: ‘Journeys’ by Pardafash

Paul Jones and Priya Sharma

Boundaries and their implications are of central concern in sociological inquiry. Early sociologists were fascinated by the ‘real’, patterned outcomes of what are intangible social boundaries and borders that had material effect on the lives and experiences of individuals and groups. Of course, there are also many materially existing technologies associated with boundaries, their surveillance, policing and realisation too.  

Our sense is that sociological inquiry has much to offer our understanding of these entangled issues, and we were hoping for proposals for a set of illuminating blogs that drew on both theoretical and empirical analyses. It’s fair to say that we have been absolutely delighted by the range and quality of the pieces that we have received and are able to present to you as a key part of this month’s thematic offering.

Against this backdrop, this month our digital platform is publishing a range of material on migrations. These are political designations of people as well as places, and serve to close down the scale and scope of social life for us, while opening it up for others. We were hoping to receive pitches that not only troubled the stability of state boundaries that in many ways come to define migration formalistically, but that also get us close to the social experiences of migrating.

Michaela Benson and Nando Sigona, reflecting on the presence of borders in the contemporary UK news cycle, observe a ‘coincidence of COVID and Brexit has produced a perfect storm, as public health concerns and necessary containment measures have become entangled with the emerging post-Brexit geopolitics, and often weaponised to score political points’. Also drawing our attention to the careful analysis required when approaching migration, Sangeeta Roy addresses questions of ethnicity, belonging, and gender from the positionality of those at the intersections of ethnocultural identities and subject positions.

In “How does it Feel to Be an Iraqi Refugee? Precarity, Uncertainty, and Resistance”, Jared Keyel skilfully explores “what possibilities currently exist—and which can be opened—for resettled refugees to contest the social and political exclusions they may face and how American-born citizens can push their society to be more open to newcomers”. Questioning the ‘race’ and racialisation vis-a-vis migration, Doğuş Şimşek draws on research with African migrants and Syrian refugees to challenge an implicit ‘methodological whiteness’ in many sociological studies of migration.

In reflecting on her own dual citizenship, as well as the general sets of paradoxes associated with the status, Themrise Khan draws our attention to the tensions associated with occupying such a position; exploring direct experience of the liminal social spaces occupied by those who ostensibly straddle citizenship memberships. In their powerful piece entitled “Everyday Survival in the Southern Caribbean’, Elron Elahie and Shelene Gomes examine a series of structural degregations and precarities experienced by migrants in situations politically hostile to migrants through the lens of Ernesto’s journey from Venezuela to Trinidad.

Also featuring this month is a super interview with Gurminder Bhambra. Reflecting on modernity, boundaries, and exclusions, Bhambra suggests ‘I am not convinced that the solutions that we have developed within the social sciences for the manifest problems that we see are adequate to addressing those problems’. A must read!

The illustrations for this month’s theme are by Pardafash. Pardafash is a Bangalore-based illustrator and designer, and has provided us with some absolutely excellent images to accompany the textual reflections on migrations and borders.

In addition to these fascinating original blog pieces, interviews, and illustrations, we are also making three articles on migration from The Sociological Review free to read throughout the month. Fatin Shabbar explores the issues associated when the category of ‘migrants’ is over-generalised, and the cultural lives and social positions are elided. Laura Jeffrey’s ethnography addresses forced migrations, and the ‘wide geographical arc of British colonialism’, addressing time, space and displacement in the process. And in their paper on lifestyle migration, Michaela Benson and Karen O’Reilly unpack the ways in which relative affluent groups explore aspirant and distinctive sets of living conditions as part of the ‘migratory chain’.

We’re really delighted with the quality and range of sociological engagements with migration that constitute our thematic understandings. We really hope that you enjoy reading what we think are a thought-provoking set of analyses. If you are interested in writing for our digital platform, and helping us realise our aspiration to share sociological thinking as widely as possible, please do look at our write for us page, which contains some information on our forthcoming themes and guidance on what we’re looking for.

— Paul Jones and Priya Sharma

Illustration: ‘Bureaucracy’ by Pardafash
Illustration: ‘Police brutality’ by Pardafash

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