394.1 Operationalising the study of social transformation and international migration in the 21st century

Thursday, August 2, 2012: 4:15 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Rebecca WILLIAMSON , Department of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Sydney, Australia
Derya OZKUL , Department of Sociology, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Chulhyo KIM , University of Sydney, Australia
Elsa KOLETH , University of Sydney, Australia
Stephen CASTLES , University of Sydney, Australia
Magdalena ARIAS CUBAS , University of Sydney, Australia
While policy-makers and scholars concerned with international migration often see it as abnormal and inherently problematic, this paper starts with the assumption that human mobility is a normal part of social life. At times of rapid change, such as the current epoch of neoliberal globalisation, international migration tends to grow in volume and to become an increasingly important factor reshaping societies. In this context, migration is not just the result of change, nor the cause of change, but constitutes an integral part of social transformation processes.

This paper argues for the need to develop an appropriate empirical approach to the study of these processes. It discusses this in relation to the ‘Social Transformation and International Migration in the 21st Century’ project, which draws on quantitative and qualitative research conducted in four countries that have experienced significant transformation and migration since the beginning of the phase of neoliberal globalisation around the mid-1970s: namely South Korea, Mexico, Turkey and Australia.

This paper focuses on how key methodological and epistemological issues regarding the study of social transformation and migration can be addressed in practice. This paper argues that only an interdisciplinary approach that deploys mixed methods could analyse the extent to which global factors have varying effects in different places at different scales, mediated through local and national historical experiences and patterns. Ultimately, this paper seeks to answer the questions of how to operationalise our two key concepts -social transformation and international migration- and how to establish theoretical and empirical links between them. For this, it suggests an empirical framework which identifies the key analytical dimensions, units of analysis, and a set of possible strategic indicators.