Migration in the 21st Century: Political Economy and Ethnography

Migration in the 21st Century: Political Economy and Ethnography

Migration in the 21st Century: Political Economy and Ethnography

Migration in the 21st Century: Political Economy and Ethnography

Synopsis

This edited collection focuses on global migration in its inter-regional, international and transnational variants, and argues that contemporary migration scholarship is significantly advanced both within anthropology and beyond it when ethnography is theoretically engaged to grapple with the social consequences and asymmetries of twenty-first century capitalism's global modalities. Drawn from settings across the globe, case studies explore the nuanced formations of class and power within particular migration flows while addressing the complex analytics of a contemporary critical political economy of migration. Subjects include global migrants as capitalists, entrepreneurs and "cosmopolitans," as well as workers and immigrants who are subject to varying degrees of precariousness under intensified competition for profits within contemporary global economies. By re-addressing the question of the relationship between changes in global capitalism and migration, the book aims for a timely intervention into the debates on migration which have come to be one of the most contentious emotionally fraught issues in North America and Europe.

Excerpt

Pauline Gardiner Barber and Winnie Lem

As the aftershocks of the financial crisis of 2008 continue to shake our world, the search for paradigms to explain the economic turmoil has been undertaken with some urgency. Increasingly analysts in the academy and elsewhere have turned to political economy perspectives for guidance on how to understand not only the financial upheaval but also the very nature, causes, and effects of such recurring global recessions, downturns, and crises. Political economy, particularly in its Marxian iterations, is explicitly dedicated to deciphering the inner workings of capitalism. Marx’s work has inspired many generations of scholars to debate the character of economies and societies. Today, no less than in earlier periods of upheaval and dislocations, his theories, concepts, and methodologies are devoted to analyzing the nexus of forces and social processes that contribute to capitalism’s formations, transformations, and crises. For scholarship on migration, this renewed interest in the diagnostics of political economy is propitious, for it has long been established that migration and capitalism are entwined in a relationship of complexity and inextricability. This intricate relationship is evidenced by the fact that the instabilities of capitalism and its cycles of crises are often accompanied by the intensification of the cross-border movements of people. Indeed, the vicissitudes of economic turbulence compel multidirectional human mobility, dislocation, and relocation. The perspective of political economy, therefore, promises significant insights into migration as one process that is deeply implicated in capitalism and its transformations both in the past and in the present.

In history, the movement of populations under the imperatives of colonialism and also imperialism has been allied with the development of capitalism as a global phenomenon, or as some would suggest, as a world system. At least since the last half of the twentieth century, migration has become more salient as a force in contemporary capitalism. Indeed, the restructuring of capitalist economies across the globe in the era of post-fordism and the realization of neoliberal doctrines that increasingly embed societies in market relations have both contributed to the intensification of migration within, as well as between nations. Migration then is as much a sign of ongoing . . .

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