Escaping methodological nationalism - How migration research can profit of the sociology of space
Institute of Sociology University of Vienna Vienna, Austria
Much scholarly work has been done during the last years covering transnational aspects or circular mobility of migrants. On a theoretical level, the insights gained in such empirical works have led to discussions of methodological nationalism and its damaging effects on migration research. Since then, migration scholars worked on possible escapes out of the troublesome consequences of nationalistic thinking.
In my presentation, I will suggest that a look into another area of sociology might help us out of this methodological-nationalist trap: The sociology of space suggests that space-informed methodological approaches can help us to go beyond nationalistic and hegemonic interests built into some of the migration methodology and methods. The literature on the sociology of space shows us that we are at the moment basically confronted with two conceptions of space: a container-like understanding on the one side and a relational, social constructivist view on the other side. Based on my empirical and theoretical work I would like to suggest a "space-sensitive" approach to migration research methodology. It is operating on three different levels:
(1.) the level of the constructions of space the actors themselves are coming up with and their implications for social interaction;
(2.) the level of space constructions migration scholars are (implicitly or explicitly) using when they are conducting their research;
(3.) the level of social systems and institutions and constructions of space that are built into them (e.g. the nation-state, the national educational or labour market systems; the European Union, etc.)
Looking in such a way at the conceptions of space can give us insights into specific social contexts as to how they are bound to questions of power, of inclusion and exclusion - and thus questions intrinsically important to the analysis of ethnic relations and migration. Based on empirical examples of my own research I will argue that such a "space-sensitive" approach to migration might be of considerable help in order to escape the methodological nationalism already described during the last years.