Theories of voluntary and forced migration
Abstract No clearcut delineation can be made between voluntary and forced migration, but it is fair to say that most attempts at theorizing migration – in the sense of suggesting general frameworks of understanding based on regularities1 – address cases where potential migrants retain a fairly high level of agency and are not “forced” to move. On the contrary, as stated by Zolberg: “The most obvious thing about refugee flows is [for most social scientists] that they are unruly” (Zolberg 1983: 25), and thus hardly suitable for theorization. However, with the growing salience of concepts such as “mixed migration” (Van Hear, Brubaker, and Bessa 2009) and “survival migration” (Betts 2013), and calls to go beyond the structure versus agency dualism in migration studies (Bakewell 2010), a promising perspective of investigation opens up for reembedding forced migration within a more general migration theory framework or within the even broader framework of a theory of social transformation, development and crisis (Castles 2003; Lubkemann 2008; Van Hear 2010; de Haas 2014). As I have argued elsewhere, such a move would also be fruitful in the specific case of environmentally driven migration studies (Piguet 2013), a subfield which developed to a large extent in isolation but is marked by a shift from monocausal environmental “push” theories toward “a greater integration of context, including micro-level, meso-level, and macro-level interactions” (Hunter, Luna, and Norton 2015: 377). Achieving a full reconciliation of these schools of thought is beyond the scope of this chapter, but I will try here to pave the way by giving a brief overview of some of the main theoretical directions suggested by researchers of both voluntary and forced migration.
Citation Piguet, E. (2018). Theories of voluntary and forced migration. In Routledge handbook of environmental migration and displacement (pp. 17-28). London and New York: Robert McLeman and François Gemenne.
Type Book chapter (English)
Year 2018
Book title Routledge handbook of environmental migration and displacement
Publisher Robert McLeman and François Gemenne (London and New York)
Pages 17-28
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