Migration theories

A critical overview

Authored by: Karen O’Reilly

Routledge Handbook of Immigration and Refugee Studies

Print publication date:  October  2015
Online publication date:  October  2015

Print ISBN: 9781138794313
eBook ISBN: 9781315759302
Adobe ISBN: 9781317638773

10.4324/9781315759302.ch1

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Abstract

The role of theory in social science is to provide analytical frameworks through which to examine social phenomena. To a great extent lay, policy, government and mass media understandings of migration are based on an assumption that there is a problem to address or something unusual to explain. To a social scientist, alternatively, migration is simply another social phenomenon, with related social processes, actions, patterns, arrangements and outcomes – the examination of which illuminates our understanding of human life. International migration (on which we focus here, although the theories discussed are often also employed in relation to domestic migrations) is a particular challenge to theorists because it has ‘nation’ at its heart. Despite the drive to explain migration that is given impetus by nation states’ demands for monitoring, control and limitation, social scientists study international migration because it has the potential to change individuals and societies in diverse and interesting ways, as well as the potential to exploit, to enrich, to bring about competition and to engender change. It raises questions about identity, belonging, location, resources, social cohesion and social divisiveness.

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