Internal and international migration: bridging the theoretical divide

Type Journal Article - change
Title Internal and international migration: bridging the theoretical divide
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 1992
Page numbers 160
The interdisciplinary field of migration studies is riven with binaries, one of the most fundamental of which is its split into internal and international migration, characterised by different literatures, concepts, methods and policy agendas. Most migration scholars nowadays are researching international migration, even though, quantitatively, internal migration is more important. Yet the distinction between internal and international moves becomes increasingly blurred, not only because of geopolitical events and the changing nature and configuration of borders, but also because migrants’ journeys are becoming increasingly multiple, complex and fragmented. Nevertheless, there remain both many similarities and many differences between these two ‘migration traditions’. The paper is in three main sections. First we present a schematic model which sets out 10 migration pathways which combine internal and international migration, and return migration, in various sequenced relationships. Second, we survey the limited literature which attempts to compare and integrate internal and international migration within the same theoretical framework – both general models and some case-study literature from Mexico. We consider three approaches where theoretical transfer seems to hold potential – systems analysis, studies of migrant integration, and the migration-development nexus. The final part of the paper looks in more detail at the case of Albania where since 1990 there has been contemporaneous mass emigration and internal migration. We deploy both quantitative and qualitative methods to examine the links between the two forms of migration in the Albanian context, demonstrating how closely they are entwined both in the macro-dynamics of regional population change and in individual and family biographies of mobility. In conclusion, we argue that there is considerable potential for integrating the study of internal and international migration, both at the theoretical and the empirical level. Too often one is studied without reference to the other, yielding a partial analysis. However, we baulk at attempting any ‘grand theory’ of migration which incorporates all types of migration, in all places and at all times

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