Anthropology, Migration studies, Refugee studies, Sociology

Course date

1 July - 5 July, 2019
14 February, 2019
Course Director(s): 

Celine Cantat

Center for Policy Studies, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary

Prem Kumar Rajaram

Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary
Course Faculty: 

Zsuzsanna Arendas

Center for Policy Studies, Central European University/Center for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary

Olena Fedyuk

Center for Policy Studies, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary

Shahram Khosravi

Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University, Sweden

Vera Messing

Center for Policy Studies, Central European University/ Center for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary

Katerina Rozakou

Department of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Violetta Zentai

Center for Policy Studies, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary

Zsuzsanna Vidra

Center for Policy Studies, Central European University/Institute for Intercultural Psychology and Education, Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest, Hungary

This summer school will be led by interdisciplinary scholars working on different aspects of contemporary and historical migration and their connections to broader social and political questions. Participants will be encouraged to critically assess the epistemological, methodological and political implications of doing ‘migration studies’ in relation to their own research. The course will centre on the concept of the field: how is the field of migration studies produced and bordered? How are our individual fieldwork experiences framed and navigated? Based on non-traditional, interactive lectures combined with group work sessions and peer-to-peer engagement, the course will focus on problematising how knowledge about and around migration is produced, ‘owned’ and circulated. By the end of the course, participants will gain knowledge of key social and political issues that impact on the study of migration and be able to reflect on these in relation to their field.  

Undertaking migration research is an exercise fraught with a number of potential pitfalls.  Migration researchers work with vulnerabilised populations, in areas oft-described as crisis zones. Researchers are also encouraged to take on positions of ‘experts’, people able to explain the complexity of contemporary human mobility, re-iterating and recycling modes of understanding and framing that sometimes speak more to the conceptualisations and concerns of Euro-American academia than to the complex realities of contemporary migration.  

One consequence of this is that ‘migration studies’ emerges as a distinct field with concerns, questions and issues that separate it out from other similarly-constituted disciplinary areas. This leads to a series of dichotomies that structure how we study migration. Migrants are ‘outside’ of nation-states, their histories and their political and social formations. Opposed to ‘citizens’, migrants are exhaustively accounted for in terms of lack - they lack political subjectivity, their histories and the politics that structure their mobility become simplified, understood in relation to the fulness of citizenship. A second consequence of this is that migration studies and research become coloured by these assumptions. Migrants are people ‘on the move’, who require ‘integration’ and who actively threaten the political and cultural boundaries of nation-states. A third consequence is that migrants become framed in ways that allow the instrumental assertion of a specific and also highly simplified national community. This allows for the cultural or political exclusion of people who don’t fit - migrants as well as internal ‘others’. Migration scholarship can be complicit in these processes of dehistoricisation, depoliticisation and rendering abject so long as the assumptions that structure the production of knowledge about migration and migrants - or better, human mobility - remain unreflected upon.  
Studying migration involves a range of diverse, sometimes conflicting, political and social actors, institutions, histories and interests. Researchers need to navigate complex social and relational landscapes that require making difficult methodological, ethical, epistemological, and political choices. During the course, participants will hear reflections from scholars with experience of different forms of fieldwork and will be encouraged to share their own reflections on these issues.