A space-sensitive approach to migration: New ways to migrant participation beneath and above the national level
Department of Sociology University of Vienna Austria, http://www.soz.univie.ac.at/elisabeth-scheibelhofer/
During the last years, some migration researchers have pointed out that social scientific research is hampered by some limitations that Wimmer/Glick Schiller (2002) named methodological nationalism. There exists already a considerably amount of empirical studies suggesting that the participation in social groups, networks and/or institutions of many migrants are not anymore limited to one nation-state and thus that their ways of participation is not adequately perceived by "classic" migration research because of its focus of the activities within one nation-state at a time. With this assessment in mind, it is now the question how we could go beyond these limitations. It is clear that we need new research strategies and new concepts in order to perceive the diverse social realities and social relations migrants are involved in. Thus, in this paper I suggest that we could profit at this point having a look at the social scientific theories of space in order to shed the limitations of methodological nationalism. This blooming stream of research on space (recently also in sociology) is making it obvious that we are confronted - as well as in the empirical world as in the sociological thinking - with different concepts of space: First, a container-like and essentialist understanding of space, second a relational understanding of space and third a socially constructed space. Surprisingly enough, there is only scarce evidence that migration researchers are reflecting upon their own conceptions of space. I argue that a space-sensitive approach to migration research could help us to shed the limitations of empirical nationalism and thus have a more accurate look on immigrant lives, their participation in diverse networks and communities. In this presentation, I will bring examples from empirical migration research in order to show how such a space-sensitive approach can open up more adequate ways to consider migrant participation not only within the confines of the nation-state but also on other scalar levels such as above or beneath the national container.