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Theories and typologies of migration: an overview and a primer

posted on 2023-06-09, 07:04 authored by Russell King
Whilst the literature on international migration expands at a seemingly exponential rate, significant statements about the theorisation of migration are much less common; probably they are hindered by the increasing diversification of types of migration. This paper first reviews the various types of migration, and emphasises the need for an interdisciplinary approach to the study and theorisation of migration. In the main part of the paper I provide a personalised overview of theories of international migration, divided into the following sections: push-pull theory and the neoclassical approach; migration and development transitions; historical-structural and political economy models; the role of systems and networks; the ‘new economics’ of migration; and finally approaches based on the ‘transnational turn’ in migration studies. In the conclusion I point up some future challenges to theorising migration: the need to embed the study of migration within global processes of social, economic and political transformation and within the biographies of migrants’ lifecourses; the importance of also explaining why people do not migrate, and the notion of access to mobility as a differentiating factor of class and inequality; and the relevance of existential and emotional dimensions of migration. The paper is explicitly aimed at a student audience and is intended as a primer to understanding some of the complexities and challenges of theorising migration.


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Malmö University

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