Questioning the units of analysis of contemporary migration theory—the nation-state, the ethnic group, and the transnational community—that structure discussions of migration and development, I argue for a global perspective on migration. In deploying these units of analysis, current discourses about migration and development reflect a profound methodological nationalism that distorts present-day migration studies. The global perspective advocated in this article addresses the reproduction and movement of people and profits across national borders. Such a perspective places the debates about international migration and development and the contemporary polemics and policies on immigration, asylum, and global talent within the same analytical framework, allowing migration scholars to address the mutual constitution of the local and the global.
Nina Glick Schiller
What can Transnational Studies offer the analysis of localized conflict and protest?
Nina Glick Schiller
After reviewing the strengths and limitations of Transnational Studies, including its methodological nationalism, this article calls for the field to develop a theory of power. A transnational theory of power allows us to set aside binaries such as internal/external, global/local, or structure/agency, when analyzing historical and contemporary social processes and conflicts. Previous and current scholarship on imperialism can contribute to this project by facilitating the examination of the role of finance capitalists and of states of unequal financial and military power. However, Transnational Studies also must assess the contestatory possibilities of transnational social movements. The articles in this special section contribute to the development of Transnational Studies by examining past and present transnational constructions of locality, identity, authenticity, and voice, within social fields of uneven power. The articles also illuminate the types of transnational practices, conflict, and struggle that emerge. v
Migration, Development, and Social Transformation
Nina Glick Schiller and Thomas Faist
How should scholars interested in social analysis approach the topic of migration and development, and with what analytical tools, conceptual framework, or political stance? The topic of migration and development is becoming an important field of study, yet these questions are too rarely asked. In this special section, “Migration, Development, and Transnationalization: A Critical Stance,” all six authors, each in his or her own way, and from various intellectual and disciplinary starting points, argue that the assumptions and paradigms underlying the study of the asymmetrical but mutual transfers of resources that accompany migration are deeply flawed and continue to reflect the interests of the global North, the most powerful states, and the globe-spanning institutions that serve their interests. The articles explore the role that contradictory discourses about migration are playing as modes of explanation for growing inequalities and an expanding global regime of militarized surveillance. Moreover, the articles provide useful alternative perspectives to the current received wisdom about the relationship between migration and development.