Article

Migration

Tilman Lanz

in Anthropology

ISBN: 9780199766567
Published online July 2013 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0098
Migration

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Migration is the movement of people from one locality to another. Anthropology is invested in studying this phenomenon primarily but not exclusively in its cultural and social dimensions. Studies on migration in anthropology can be roughly divided into two categories. First, there are studies that emphasize the aspect of immigration. These studies focus on the way immigrants are perceived by the societies into which they enter as well as how they respond to these perceptions. Second, there is a sustained interest by anthropologists in the process of migration itself. Anthropologists interested in these latter issues have frequently taken recourse to scholarship in postcolonial and cultural studies, fields that have developed a rich conceptual apparatus to characterize movements and flows. Anthropology contributes to the study of contemporary migratory flows through its holistic approach, which is able to tie together many different aspects of complex migration processes. The majority of anthropological work on migration benefits greatly from intensive collaboration with neighboring fields such as cultural studies, postcolonial studies, economics, history, political science, legal studies, sociology, and geography. Anthropological research on migration is nearly always interdisciplinary. Historically, the study of human migrations was not a focus in anthropology until well into the 1950s. Before this time, anthropology (as well as continental European ethnology) focused largely on the study of small-scale localities. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, anthropology contributed to the study of migration by illuminating the implications of people’s movements from rural, “nondeveloped” areas of the non-Western world to urban, industrialized centers in the West. Important theories in the social sciences such as world-systems theory were used to map out large-scale processes that induced migratory patterns and to study how economic and political undercurrents affected individual people or small groups as they were swept up in the migratory steams of the mid-20th century. In the 1990s, the cultural and social dimension of migration increasingly took precedence over the earlier, economic one. This change was induced by two larger undercurrents of research in the social sciences and humanities as a whole. First, the cultural dimension of late modern, industrialized societies came into much larger focus in the social sciences. Second, the rise of postcolonialism contributed to a more complex understanding of migration processes and their effect on people beyond the economic dimension. A young generation of anthropologists and cultural critics began to investigate cultures as embedded in global flows and detached from the forces of markets and economics. This diversification inspired a variety of interests in studying the relationship between culture and human migrations.

Article.  10081 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology ; Human Evolution ; Medical Anthropology ; Physical Anthropology ; Social and Cultural Anthropology

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