This field is co-sponsored by the DPDF Program and the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford.

Open to doctoral students based at universities within the U.S. and first-year doctoral students based at universities within the United Kingdom.

Workshop dates:
Spring- June 10-15, 2014 in Oxford, England
Fall- September 17-21, 2014 in Arlington, Virginia

How does development affect migration? Late 20th century explanations of the resurgence of international migration from emerging to advanced economies offered by neo-classical, structural, systems, new economics, and other theories, all held economic development central in generating the pushes and pulls that motivate migrants. Over three decades, however, interdisciplinary approaches have recast development more broadly to include "social transformation" and have drawn attention to political, social, and cultural factors that broaden and complement more narrowly focused interpretations of economic restructuring. Similarly, migration studies has broadened its scope beyond international labor to consider multiple and expanded types of internal as well as international mobility including notably: rural-urban, internally displaced, ecological, inter-corporate, tourist, and other migrations. Analytic approaches to migration have also evolved to focus on different levels of social organization and their interrelations, such as macro-level contextual structures and processes, meso-level communities and networks, and micro-level familial strategies and individual decision making and agency. As a result of these advances, the time is ripe to reassess earlier understandings and to explore new approaches to understand the nature and role of development processes and their impacts on the origins, processes, and outcomes of migration.

Innovative theoretical approaches that can draw upon advances in development and migration studies are needed to explain the effects that evolving and new dimensions of development have on human mobility. Questions to address include but are not limited to the following:

  • Will declines in fertility and increases in elderly populations create new labor shortages that will alter future patterns of international migration?
  • Is the contemporary rural-urban migration resulting from "land grabbing" and introduction of genetically modified crops a new phenomenon or perhaps an extension of displacement begun by 19th century industrialization?
  • Do global markets for unskilled and high-tech workers operate and affect migration in the same ways?
  • How will the increasing differentiation in the economic roles of cities and countries within and between the so called "global north" and "south" affect future migration and settlement?
  • Do new communications technologies significantly affect or even substitute for human mobility?
  • How do new state migration policies -- e.g. international cooperation managing movement, reaching out to overseas citizens -- affect migration patterns?
  • Put most broadly, perhaps, why does development seem to increase rather than decrease migration?

We encourage applications from students who, like the historian Charles Tilly, are grappling theoretically with big structures, large processes, and huge comparisons, but not at the expense of feasibility within the limits of a dissertation. We also encourage applications from students who are beginning on a smaller scale, perhaps exploring how individuals, families, or communities expand networks of collaboration and communication to link with and adapt to broader social structures and processes of development. Students interested in employing historical or contemporary perspectives, single or comparative cases, qualitative and/or quantitative research methods, statistical and/or interpretive modes of analysis, and social science and humanistic theoretical approaches are all encouraged to apply.


  • Youjin Chung

    Cornell University, Development Sociology

    Unsettling Resettlement: Gender, development, and forced migration in coastal Tanzania
    My research uses the contemporary land grab as a starting point for investigating the relationship between gender, development, and forced migration. It focuses on a 22,000-hectare land concession granted by the Tanzanian government in 2009 to a Swedish firm to establish a large-scale sugarcane plantation, and the resultant involuntary resettlement of thousands of smallholder farmers and pastoralists. By following this case of development-induced forced migration from the state of imminence to actualization, I hope to better understand how expectations of removal shape – and are reshaped by – local communities' relationships to land, and how these effects are differentiated by gender, class, age, and ethnicity. Furthermore, by observing the processes through which these forced migrants enter the wage labor market upon resettlement, I hope to shed light on the changing household relations of production and reproduction. Finally, my dissertation will interrogate the problematic conception of 'resettlement as development' endorsed by international financial institutions, by exploring not only the objective measures, but also the subjective perspectives and experiences of well-being of the displaced communities.
  • Peter Scholfield Hepburn

    University of California / Berkeley, Sociology and Demography

    The Development of Cultural Resources and Patterns of Emigration from the U.S. South, 1900-1930
    I propose to examine the development of cultural resources – in particular symbolic boundaries and identities, narratives, and imagined futures – and their role in enabling, directing, and sustaining migration. Exploring the development and dispersion of these cultural resources provides a novel approach to the study of migration, one that can help to enrich the field generally and shed new light on my focal case: the early Great Migration in the United States. The period 1900-1930 saw an exodus of native-born Southerners, but their destinations varied significantly by race: while blacks migrated almost exclusively to the Northeast and Midwest, whites migrated to the West as well as those regions. The extant literature suggests economic, network-based, and political explanations. I aim to demonstrate that the concept of cultural resources, drawn from the sociology of culture, can provide a new, richer way of explaining these patterns.
  • Aaron Malone

    University of Colorado / Boulder, Geography

    Partnering for Development? Examining diaspora-state interactions in Mexico's 3x1 Program.
    Substantial remittance growth has led many states to reconsider their relationship with emigrants and diaspora. Mexico's 3x1 Program exemplifies the shift, as previously ignored migrants have taken center stage in development discourses. Following more than a decade of operation, many authors have declared the program a success and other migrant-sending countries have imported the model. I argue this jump to 'best practices' research is premature and ignores unresolved questions. The program joins diverse actors in complex, transnational coordination and more work is needed to explore whose goals are being met, under what conditions, and with what effects. In addition, the intersection of migrant activism and state development policy within the program raises many interesting questions. I propose to examine how various actors affect and are affected by the program, and through this, to analyze the program as a key element in the interconnected migration-development relationship.
  • Svetoslava Milusheva

    Brown University, Economics

    The Effect of Conditional Cash Transfers in Colombia on Migration and Remittances
    Many have studied the development impacts of migration and remittances (money sent home by migrants), yet there is a need for further study of how development, in turn, affects migration. I will analyze the impact of a development program in Colombia on migration and remittances. This research will focus on the conditional cash transfer program Familias en Accion, which provides poor families with cash incentives to promote health and education for their children. I want to investigate whether these transfers lead to an increase in migration as well as how they affect the amount of remittances received and their spending. Finally, I hope to explore how receiving transfers through a mobile phone channel impacts their spending and affects remittances. Analyzing these three questions will contribute to the literature on the effect of economic development on migration by exploring in depth a particular development program and its impact on migration.
  • Julia Morris

    University of Oxford, Socio-Cultural Anthropology

    Reforming Immigration Detention: The Neoliberal Governance of Migration
    My project focuses on policies and practices of migration governance, looking at the development experts and agencies that focus on responding to increased practices of state migration securitisation. Despite a proliferation of international legal and regulatory mechanisms at the UN level, recent years have seen increasingly restrictive policies of immigration security across liberal democratic states. This project examines the paradoxical nature of development projects that aim to mitigate or end detention, but also enhance facilities and establish extensive welfare programmes for people in detention. Drawing on research conducted in Geneva, Washington D.C., and Melbourne, the research will explore the global-local interface between the ethical aspirations of development practitioners and the grounded reality of development interventions. It examines how development agendas are made and new categories of meaning are configured and appropriated, as improvement programmes are used as a tool for strengthening detention.
  • Ashley Parcells

    Emory University, History

    Forced Removals and Agricultural Betterment: Vulnerability and Authority in KwaZulu’s Resettlement Villages, 1955-1985
    My research explores the social and political lives of Africans displaced by agricultural development planning in KwaZulu's Betterment Schemes from 1955-1985. I am particularly interested in how their experiences of trauma shaped relations with Tribal Authorities in the aftermath of displacement. This project contributes to broader conversations on development-induced displacement and political life in conditions of vulnerability. My work seeks to use advances in forced migration studies and development studies to reconceptualize forced removals within KwaZulu. My research combines archival research with informal and semi-structured interviews with members of families who were forcibly removed through Betterment Planning. My interviews will document the process of their removal and lives in the first decade after resettlement. I ultimately seek reconstruct patterns of displacement in KwaZulu and illustrate displaced-peoples' relationships with political authority in the aftermath of resettlement.
  • Aparna Parikh

    Pennsylvania State University, Geography

    Bangalore to Manila: Examining Neoliberalization and Migration through Call Centers
    Neoliberal policies in cities like Bangalore, India and Manila, Philippines have helped produce landscapes dotted with outsourced call centers. However, there is little understanding of everyday experiences of call center workers and their experiences of "westernization". This research explores everyday spatial experiences of migrant call center workers to examine how neoliberalization is discernible through overlapping flows of people, capital and ideas. Outsourced call centers were largely associated with India, which had the highest number, until four years ago when India was overtaken by the Philippines. Call center workers are often internal migrants, representing a nexus of multiple flows of migration, including movement of people from rural to urban areas, capital to facilitate an outsourced industry, and ideas, by acculturating workers into 'Western' normative behavior. This research uses feminist ethnography to explore how everyday experience can be symptomatic of relations between neoliberalization and migration, contributing to migration studies and feminist geography.
  • Pronoy Rai

    University of Illinois / Urbana-Champaign, Geography

    Circumnavigating Development? Internal Circular Migration in Provincial India
    I propose to study internal, circular migration in provincial India and its impact on reduction in vulnerability to hunger, access to entitlements, and political representation, of laboring households in the home villages of rural laborers. I locate rural labor circulation in the broader political-economic changes happening in India, where, for the vast majority of land-poor or landless laborers, moving out of the stagnant agricultural sector and permanently migrating into cities is not always an option. Employing ethnographic methods and household survey in two villages and a small town in provincial Western India, this project aims to advance our understanding of the impact of circular migration on the social vulnerability of laborer households and of how reverse flow of not just remittances but symbolic modernity may impact historically marginalized groups' abilities to resist structures of class/caste/gender-based domination in their home villages.
  • Rashesh M. Shrestha

    University of Wisconsin / Madison, Agriculture and Applied Economics

    Understanding the relationship between temporary labor migration and development
    Temporary labor migration, due to its attractiveness to host governments, sending governments and migrants alike, is a growing phenomenon in many developing countries and is bound to have important implications for their welfare and growth. Yet its impact on development is relatively understudied. Most current research has focused on impact of remittances and loss of skill through "brain-drain" due to permanent migration. For my dissertation, I plan to use a new economic framework and statistical analysis to study the interrelationship between temporary labor migration and development, particularly industrialization and human capital. Incorporating unique characteristics of temporary labor migration, I develop a theoretical model that takes into account decisions of individuals to migrate and of firms to adopt new technologies, as well as interactions between them. Data from Nepal, a country where migration plays an important role, will be used to study how this process is intertwined with its development.
  • Kriangsak Teerakowitkajorn

    Syracuse University, Geography

    Socio-spatial processes and labor organizing in Thailand’s Industrial Estates
    The proposed research explores the agency and spatiality of workers in the context of labor organizing. It focuses on socio-spatial configurations shaping the spatiality of workers who are struggling to establish trade unions in two different Industrial Estates of Thailand. At the macro level, it connects the geography of uneven development with internal migration. On the micro scale, my emphasis on locality and place seeks to illuminate the relationship between workers and the geographies of capital-labor relations. This proposed research sets forth to understand two sets of questions. First, it will investigate the ways in which a nexus of government and corporate policies shape a spatial division of labor across regions, creating uneven geographies of capital-labor. Second, it will explore how physical mobility, class process and a culture of solidarity shape and are shaped by such uneven geographies.
  • Andrea L. Wright

    Brown University, Anthropology

    Geographies of Beauty, Geographies of Aspiration: Intimate Labor, Migration, and Development in India's Northeast
    My research explores the intersections of gender, intimate labor, development policy and migration in Manipur, one of India's most marginalized states.I am particularly interested in frameworks that attend to the small acts of women in their everyday lives even as they negotiate national and transnational spaces and powerful social structures. My research investigates links between global and local processes and structures of inequality by illuminating the production of the beauty worker through mechanisms of migration, gender, and market situations. Conducting multi-sited ethnographic research with Manipuri women training in Bangalore beauty establishments, my research explores the critical roles of gender and status in the personal and professional experiences of my respondents. I further attempt to weave in the specific ethnic category of being Manipuri in Bangalore, to map the lived realities of this particular professional group in one of the nation's metropoles.
  • Yingchan Zhang

    Northeastern University, Sociology

    Tapping into the Global Circulation of Talent and Becoming the Next Global Cities: An Examination of Chinese Cities’ Development Strategies
    An increasing number of U.S.-educated Chinese professionals have reportedly returned to China in recent years. Overwhelmingly, Chinese state-run media emphasize the prosperous outlook for these returnees and the state's recognition of their importance for China's development.Little is known, however, about the strategies that Chinese municipalities engage in to attract such talent from overseas, the effects of these strategies, or the role that returning professionals in fact play in the development of Chinese cities in the neoliberal era. To fill this gap, I propose to explore how Chinese cities, in the hope of becoming global cities, design and implement development strategies to recruit native talent from the U.S., and how these policies in turn affect the migration decisions and experiences of U.S.-trained Chinese professionals. By so doing, I aim to contribute to the interdisciplinary field of development and transnational migration through offering a novel perspective on China's state-led development policies.