Border crossings conference

International Interdisciplinary Conference
Border crossings: bridging disciplines and research agendas

10 June 2011, 9:00 – 18:30
Aix-Marseille Institute for Advanced Studies (IMéRA), Salle de conférence de la Maison des Astronomes, Marseille, France

Michèle Lamont, Harvard University
“Boundaries, recognition, social resilience, and other keys to successful societies”

“Over the past two decades, a gap has developed in the field of border crossing studies between scholars studying the building of walls and those caring about bonding and bridging, the division of labor sometimes reflecting disciplinary boundaries, with sociologists and anthropologists and social theorists enthused by “transnational practices” and legal scholars, political scientists and political philosophers worried about securitization and control before and at the border. There are signs that scholars interested in border control policies and those interested in flows across borders could not durably ignore one another. In France, there has been some recent work by anthropologists interested in borders and mobility (eg the French National Funding Agency Frontières project). In the US, after ignoring or deprecating policies, there has been an evolution and more emphasis has been put on the implementation of policies and local policy practices that affect migrants’ experience, strategies or quality of life (eg Light 2006).

It is time to study exactly how bordering, rebordering, bridging and bonding interact. What are the national and local policies that affect migrant practices? How have border control policies affected migrants’ social strategies, economic achievements and cultural practices? How do non-state actors and organizations assist migrants in bridging the ‘here’ and ‘there’ despite new forms of border enforcement?  How do efforts of internal rebordering and differentiation between members ‘of’ and persons ‘in’ the polity affect post-migration experiences and the emergence of bonding in the long term? How do the changing strategies of sending states vis-à-vis emigrants and the governments of their host countries influence the dynamics of bridging and bonding?  How do these effects vary depending on the life cycle of the individual and the family, the type of legal status and the forms of ethnicization and racialization migrants endure?

Answering these questions is challenging from a theoretical, analytical and methodological perspective.

Theoretically, a fruitful dialogue could emerge between scholars interested in cultural and social boundaries, those working on legal/state borders and their legitimacy, and those concerned by “transnational citizenship” (Bauböck 1994).

Analytically, we need to identify policies that may affect migrant flows in the home and destination countries and the type of life experiences affected by policy or legal frameworks. This should allow us to devise an analytical framework to understand the variety of policy/practices matrices and the factors that explain variation. In this way, we could empirically study whether and under which circumstances migrants take into account, ignore or circumvent policies.

Research design will also be a challenge. One needs to take into account the interaction of different levels of analysis. Individual decisions to migrate are often helped by meso-level organizations and infrastructures and take place within regional migration systems, yet they also depend partly on macro trends, and the structure of the “globalized” economy cannot be ignored. Once arrived, migrants’ experience may vary from one city or state to another depending on the enforcement of national or federal policies. Data collection is also an issue.  Large-scale surveys are typically produced within national boundaries and issued by national public authorities. This “methodological nationalism” is compounded by the relative lack of data in countries of emigration. While qualitative studies do not face this problem, they face others such as sample selection of interviewed migrants, and access to informants involved in intergovernmental negotiations.

This one day conference will bring together scholars from different disciplines that study border crossings and bridgings to discuss these theoretical, analytical and empirical challenges and open new research agendas.”

For further details, see the original post.