Over the past two decades, scholars in migration studies have paid increasing attention to the linkages maintained by migrants between their countries of origin and destination. Distinct conceptual and methodological frameworks have been developed in France and the United States focusing on the circulation of migrants, their cross border practices and the implications of those practices for the way that social and cultural relationships can best be understood in an increasingly mobile, globalized world in which space and time function in new ways. The French paradigm of « circulation migratoire » and the Anglo-Saxon « transnationalism » begin with a focus on migratory or transnational social fields produced by individual and familial practices, modified by collective behavior and by circulation across national borders.  While earlier approaches to cross border migration tend to depict migrants as embedded in a transnational field of opportunity, more recent approaches put greater emphasis on the “here” and “now” of migrant actors dealing with a range of non-migrant institutions, a reappraisal that rebalances the cross-border connections and  “situated lives” of migrants.

We will revisit the francophone, anglo-saxon, and alternative approaches to cross-border migration by exploring relations between the objective conditions of immigrant lives and daily practices with migrants’ subjectivities and their imagined projection into supranational fields.  This framing of the field raises questions whose answers can benefit from multidisciplinary perspectives, including for example:   What are the reciprocal effects of integration and long-distance ties?  How can we account for the variety of cross-border social and cultural formations, from elusive translocal linkages to diasporic social formations with hybridized cultures, practices and politics? What can we learn from new narratives of migration in literature, music, dance, cinema, and contemporary art?  Do the ways in which these expressions represent the experience of migrancy both reflect and shape identity and identification? How can one interpret the appropriation, the creation, and the circulation of images that translate cross-border sensitivities? To what extent should concepts for understanding integration, such as assimilation, race, diaspora, and even society itself, be reassessed in the light of the transnational paradigm? How have theories of cultural production, interpretation, consumption, imitation, mimicry and hybridization influenced our understanding of both the migrants and the societies that receive them?

Our goal is to engage students from the social sciences and humanities to explore how research carried out with quantitative, qualitative, ethnographic, humanistic, and comparative methods makes possible new approaches to cross-border social and cultural formations and criticizes or reaffirms aspects of older approaches. Our intent is to create a cross-fertilizing dialogue between disciplines and between anglo-saxon and francophone traditions. We seek research proposals that explore the articulation between the migrants’ daily life in their place of temporary or permanent settlement and their connection to trans-border social and cultural references with a view to reassess current paradigms of cross-border migration. We encourage submissions with research designs that address these issues comparatively across migratory systems and/or that entail data collection in both sending and receiving countries of a given migratory flow. We also encourage proposals that study migrant populations in both European and North American destinations, but other contexts will be considered.

NOTE: This is the international field for the 2012 competition, organized in partnership with the MIGRINTER--a Unit of Research of the CNRS (the French National Center for Scientific Research) at the University of Poitiers, the Social Science Research Council, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The field is open to students enrolled in doctoral programs within universities in France as as well as students enrolled in doctoral programs within universities in the U.S.

Spring workshop: June 11-15, 2012 in Poitiers, France
Fall workshop: September 12-16, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


  • Jess Auerbach

    Stanford University, Anthropology

    Rocking the Boat: South-South Migration between Angola and Brazil and the Quest for a New World Order
    During the 1500's Angolans began to journey to Brazil, taken by the Portuguese as slaves to enrich the colonial empire. Until the abolition of Brazilian slavery in 1888 vast numbers crossed what can be denominated the 'Southern Black Atlantic' for uncertain futures in the New World. Shared language and colonial-era familiarity facilitated consistent low-level migration until the beginning of the current century, when once more thousands of Angolans travel from Luanda to Rio de Janeiro annually, this time to establish business partnerships, receive education and participate as political equals as the stars of the two nation-states begin to rise. South-South migration challenges the theorization of transnationalism and 'circulation migratoire' by questioning ideas of center and periphery that have typically entailed a crossing of hemispheres. This project proposes an ethnographic South-South study of Angolan nationals living in Rio de Janeiro that will explore bilateral migration policy, the geo-spatial location of Angolans in Rio, investment and financial security of Angolans of diverse socio-economic class and the identification of an appropriate second site for further research in Angola. By engaging the Brazilian academic canon it also brings into dialogue an extensively developed 'Southern' literature on migration that merits serious consideration.
  • Anne Bouhali

    Université Toulouse 2 le Mirail, Geography - Urban Planning - Environment

    Arabic Souks: A Spatial Study of the Globalisation of Marketplaces in the Middle East and Northern Africa.
    In a context of economic globalisation between "Southern countries", markets of the Arabic world are the locus of a transnational commercial circulation of goods and people. This informal circulation connects South-east Asia with marketplaces in big cities of the Mediterranean and Middle East regions, a phenomenon called "globalisation from below" (Portes, 1989; Tarrius, 2002). My PhD dissertation proposes a spatial approach of globalisation from below through the study of spatial consequences of this new circulation of people and goods in the Arabic marketplaces. The aim is to study the deployment of these new silk roads in a specific national context, the use of modern logistic tools by the merchants, as well as their consequences for spatial organisation and urban landscape in these marketplaces. My dissertation also aims at studying construction and modifications of urban spaces by this transnational circulation of economic actors. The main field work will take place in Cairo, Egypt, but I will adopt a research methodology both comparative and "multisited" (Marcus, 1995). A comparative analysis will enable me to contrast Cairo with Arabic cities located in other national contexts, such as Algeria, while a "multisited" approach will shed light on the specificities of the Egyptian capital.
  • Tristan Brown

    Columbia University, History

    The Storm Beneath the Surface: Chinese Muslim Trading Diasporas and the Making of Modern China
    My dissertation plans to document the rise and significance of a series of Sino-Muslim trading networks in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Borrowing from Mediterranean historiography, which has seen the treatment of Sephardic Jewish and Armenian trade networks as trading diasporas and circulation societies embodying "communitarian cosmopolitanism," I propose examining these networks as trading diasporas and mapping them within China using Historical GHIS. Chinese Muslims (the Hui), who live between the Chinese cultural area and critical borderland regions (Xinjiang, Tibet, Mongolia, Southeast Asia), helped to connect these regions economically through monetary circuits and commodity chains, on which the state became increasing dependent over the nineteenth century as its power was weakened. The dissertation will illuminate one of the least understood transitions in modern Chinese history: how did the Chinese state manage to preserve most of the historical territory of the Qing empire into the twentieth century, a feat that almost no other empire (Ottoman, Prussian, French, etc.) accomplished? For scholars of other fields, this dissertation will provide an unexplored example of a trading diaspora that continued to flourish well past the age of European colonialism and the Industrial Revolution, unlike the Sephardic or Armenian trading diasporas.
  • Marwa El Chab

    L'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Anthropology

    Lebanese Traders in West Africa: Business Networks over Time and Place
    For more than a century, Lebanese have been going to West Africa, settling in new societies, new cultures, and working mainly in the trading business. During the French colonization, they essentially acted as middlemen between the colonial population, the white folks, and the locals: two very different worlds and economies. In many ways, Lebanese traders took advantage of boundaries - those that define societies, cultures, countries, and social classes – developing as time went, from one generation to the next, new strategies and "savoir-faire" (knowhow) in this domain. This work is not about the history of these communities in West Africa, but rather an outline of the horizontal and vertical evolution of these communities: as in the geographical evolution of the link, its nature, how it concretizes itself, and the intergenerational evolution of the practice.
  • Nancy A. Khalil

    Harvard University, Anthropology

    Living Terrorfied: (un)Welcoming Transnationalism
    Post 9-11, Muslim-American institutions find themselves facing the responsibility of not only addressing the everyday needs of their diverse constituents, but also representing those constituents within the mainstream media and negotiating on their behalf with the media, governmental agencies and law enforcement officials. Organizations across the country are facing struggles from external forces, such as expressions of Islamophobia and unwelcome, accusations of foreign allegiances and fostering homegrown terrorism, and intra-faith contestations that problematize attempts at heterogeneous representation. Critical to this question is an interrogation of various transnational forces and their intersection with these organizations' diffusion of institutional values and practices. How can faith-based organizations, striving to balance international and local influences, understand, operationalize and struggle to fulfill their mission and service their constituents while negotiating threatening transnational influences and satisfying socially constructed norms necessary for a public acceptance of their Americanness? With Boston as my field site, my research hopes to further understanding of the constitution and diffusion of faith-based institutional practices in antagonistic times informed by perceived dangerous transnational actors.
  • Alex Lee

    University of Illinois / Urbana-Champaign, Anthropology

    Building Atop Sedimented Histories: South Korean Professional Migrants in Dubai
    My dissertation research examines the variegated experiences of contemporary South Korean business migrants in Dubai, the largest, most-populated city-state in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Since 1973 large, family-owned conglomerates like Hyundai have played a vital role in South Korea's state project of industrializing rapidly via export construction in places like the UAE. Meeting this demand for cheap, overseas work was a South Korean (mostly male) migrant population of "skilled" and "unskilled" labor ready to work in the "impossible desert." Today, the largest number of South Koreans in the Middle East (3,500) still resides in the UAE—with the majority (3,000) working and living in Dubai. In what ways are the motivations and trajectories of South Korean business migrants in the Middle East today different than those of similar South Korean migrants before? To what extent does the context of South Koreans in Dubai conform to, deviate from, or contest current theoretical frameworks that contend that "neoliberalism as exception"—especially in "non-Western" contexts—is reconfiguring the relationship between "governing and the governed"? (Ong 2006) To help answer this question, I will conduct ethnographic fieldwork (participant observation and intensive interviews) this summer in Dubai to investigate and analyze my data.
  • Josepha Milazzo

    Aix-Marseille University and Autonomous University of Barcelona, Research Units TELEMMe / GRM

    Bolivians of Rural Spain: Between Cosmopolitan Rural Practices and Transnational Constructions or the Geography of an International Migration System
    In 2010, Bolivians constitute the sixth migrant nationality present in Spain, concentrated in economic cities, just like most of foreign communities for which this phenomenon seems however to last. Yet, Spain is quite a recent international labor destination for Bolivians, having at the most ten years or so. If sixty percent of the 200 000 Bolivians in Spain prefer cities to towns, it is nevertheless in small-sized municipalities where their representation sometimes exceeds ten percent of local population. Not very studied by the academic sphere, Bolivians' spatial scattering and lesser presence in Spanish rural spaces both spark definitional concerns relative to their mobility modalities and spatial relations. Our research project joins a scientific context marked by the necessary renewal of migratory transnationalism and system approaches to comprehend at best new patterns of mobility, territorialities and identities at globalization time. We are interested in the singular construction of these mobility systems transforming spaces practiced by Bolivian migrants. The treasures of cross-border connections question the nature of these transnational territorialities as well as the dynamism of migratory socio-spatial representations and practices, making of migration a relevant understanding key of mankind-space relations within the framework of a multi-situated geographical quantitative and qualitative analysis.
  • Sihé Néya

    University of Paris/I (Sorbonne), Geography

    Return Migration of Burkinabè of Ivory Coast and the Construction of Transnational Life Spaces
    My dissertation research seeks to show that the construction of transnational life spaces can be understood not only through the relationships that international migrants maintain with their country of origin, but also through the relationships that the returning migrants or their descendents maintain with the country to which they had immigrated. How does return migration participate in the construction of transnational life spaces? Who are the actors in this construction? What are the places and relationships which permit us to understand the construction of these life spaces? A qualitative approach through semi-structured interviews, observation, documentary research and secondary data analysis in Burkina Faso, particularly Ouagadougou, the province of Comoé, and the railroad and roads that connect Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire will be used to address these research questions.
  • Amelia L. Schubert

    University of Colorado / Boulder, Geography

    Impacts of Out-bound Marriage Migration on Korean Minority Communities in China
    South Korea, like many East Asian countries, has experienced an abnormally high male birthrate since at least the 1980s. Despite an aggressive government campaign that has now normalized the gender ratio, over 20 years of imbalance left a generation of men with limited marriage options. Many are now seeking brides from overseas. The Korean minority in China, a population of 2.6 million that speaks Korean and shares a claim to traditional Korean culture, has proven a popular source of wives. Over 30,000 Korean Chinese women have moved to South Korea as marriage migrants since 1992. These transnational marriages have created both opportunities and problems for sending and receiving communities. The two populations of Koreans have each undergone dramatic cultural, political, and economic transformations since 1949. Their sudden re-introduction has highlighted their divergent paths. My dissertation will investigate how sending communities in China have experienced their new-found familial ties to South Korea. I will specifically address how increasing connections with the South Korean population have altered Korean Chinese understandings of their Korean cultural identity. Through one year of fieldwork in the Korean Chinese minority prefecture of northeast China, I will combine participant-observation and interviews to give voice to Korean Chinese experiences.
  • Kathleen J. Sexsmith

    Cornell University, Development Sociology

    Transnational Moral Economies in Comparative Perspective: Veracruzano Workers on US Dairy and Fruit Farms
    The 1990s collapse of agricultural commodity markets in Mexico precipitated new transnational migration systems between rural Veracruz and the US. While kin- and community-organized labor networks have formed between the Altotonga highlands and New York dairying areas, the village of Pahuahueca became integrated into the annual Florida fruit harvest through temporary work visas. I will develop the concept of 'transnational moral economy' to analyze how labor circulation between Veracruz and these two US locations are transforming agrarian class systems and associated notions of economic justice at both ends of migratory systems. In New York, dairy production facilitates on-farm integration among workers and with their native-born colleagues and employers, due to solidarities within labor networks and paternalistic ties on farms; in Florida, the institutionalization of labor contracting inhibits moral economic alternatives to market logics. These contrasting outcomes may be transferred through transnational labor circuits to Veracruz sending sites, where notions of economic justice may undergo more marked transformation in dairy than fruit industry sending communities. Multi-sited ethnographic research will examine how labor mobility systems affect whether and how Veracruzanos and Americans combine notions of economic justice on farms, and diffuse new economic value systems to sending regions.
  • Sadio Soukouna

    University of Paris/I (Sorbonne), Political Science

    The Logics of the Decentralized Cooperation North South: A Comparative Analysis of the Realities of International Action of the French and Canadian Cities in Relation with Malian Immigrants
    The dissertation research analyzes the intervention of the Western territorial collectivities in the field of the cooperation with the country of origin of immigrants. It is mainly the international action of French and canadian cities in relation to the Malian immigrants which will be the subject of a thorough study. It is question of evaluating in France and in Canada, the role of the migrants in the Southern Northern cooperation by the means of their individual actions (either gathered in organizations for the development of the village of origin) or via international solidarity projects initiated with their local authorities. These projects made it possible to the Malian immigrants to acquire a legitimacy in both the country of origin and destination.The dissertation research focuses on transnationalists theories.The fieldwork focuses on French and Canadian cities networks and migrants associations for the development of the area of origin.The aim is to know what are the various logics we can find in the partnership of immigrants and cities for the development in Africa particularly in Mali.
  • Niandou Toure

    University of Paris/V (Descartes), Sociology

    Highly Qualified International Migration and the Development of the Southern Countries in the Case of Malians in France and Morocco
    The topic of my dissertation research is built around the question that consists to ask myself if and how can the highly qualified participate to the development of their emigration countries. After having read some theories of the brain drain and brain gain, I want this research project to give answers to these questions: Are the Southern highly qualified leaving their countries? In what proportion do they stay abroad and what are their relations to the departure country? Does a Malian Diaspora exist? How organized are the Malian migrants that live in Morocco if we compare them to the community of Malian migrants in France? Which option between the definite return and "transnationalism" is the key to development? How does "transnationalism" operate in the case of very qualified Malians living abroad, particularly those living in France and Morocco? These questions are some of the first that made me begin this PhD thesis. My investigation will essentially consist to meet qualified migrants (some are listed by the Malian minister of international cooperation) and students in my two countries. I expect this dissertation to permit a better analysis of the Malian migration, its changes and the exact mesure of this migration that doesn't have been studied enough.