The problem of unmarked categories in Migration Studies

On 6th June 2018, I will be giving a talk at the Unversity of Erlangen-Nuremberg (Germany) on “The problem of unmarked categories in Migration Studies”


Why is there a field of study named Migration Studies but there are not Immobility Studies? Why do we talk about ‘left behind’ or non-migrants but not about enabling or transnational stayers? Or, why is there so much research about the ‘other’ but so little about ‘us’? In this presentation I would go back to the basics and think about the core categories migration scholars are, and are not, using in our research. Non-marked categories do not attract academic attention because they seem obvious and apparently there is nothing to be learnt from looking at them. Drawing on my ethnographic research on Ecuador, Mexico, and Spain, in this presentation I would like to question such understanding by exploring three key non-marked categories in Migration Studies: immobility, left behind and autochthony. What are those non-marked categories? Why are they “obvious”? And what are the academic and political consequences of such non-distinctiveness? I will finish the presentation by providing a tentative way forward to overcome the marked/non-marked distinction based on the idea of relational concepts.