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workshop on the sociologies and cultures of globalization

The Global Migration module of the Transnationalism Project is an evolving collaborative and interdisciplinary investigation of the causes and consequences of migration and its regulation. The faculty researchers—Saskia Sassen, Director of the Transnationalism Project and Ralph Lewis Professor of Sociology; Susan Gzesh, Director of the Human Rights Program and Lecturer in the Law School; and Mae Ngai, Assistant Professor of History—are undertaking research into several of the key processes shaping migration dynamics. Initial funding for the GMP has been provided by a grant from the Dean of the Social Sciences.

International migration is produced by several key dynamics that have gained strength over the last decade and particularly since September 11, 2001. These dynamics lie within and across the traditional domains of several different social sciences disciplines as well as law, and the premise of our project is that their study will benefit greatly from interdisciplinary faculty collaboration. Among the most prominent of the key dynamics are the following:

1. economic conditions in poorer countries which are likely to function as inducements for emigration and trafficking in people especially given the "bridges" created by economic globalization connecting poor and rich countries.

2. the demographic deficit forecast for much of the global north, particularly for Western Europe and Japan, with a sharp absolute fall in population size and a sharp increase in the share of people over 65 years of age; this is likely to lead to the need for more immigration as a way of expanding the workforce.

3. the increasingly restrictive regulation of immigration in the Global North, with new restrictions after September 11; this regulation occurs in a context of expanded and strengthened civil rights and human rights throughout the Global North for citizens and to some extent for permanent resident aliens.

The organizing hypothesis is that in a context of globalization and the associated forms of (often forced) inter-state collaboration, some of the tensions between the key dynamics identified above are exploding the boundaries of the legal, political, and ideological instruments through which the developed countries have handled in-migration formally and practically. Our research focus will therefore be on the formal and practical features of the tension between, on the one hand, increasingly restrictive immigration policies in much of the global north and, on the other, the growing military, economic and political interdependencies worldwide. These interdependencies are facilitating multiple types of cross-border flows between immigrant sending and receiving communities, are producing new migrations and refugee flows, and are facilitating the global circulation of human rights and civil rights both as instruments and as aspirations.

The first phase of our research, being undertaken during 2002-03 with internal support from the University of Chicago, singles out three key features of this configuration of restrictive policies and increasing interdependencies, and by restricting our focus at this point to the case of the U.S. and some of its major sending countries. These three features are:

1. the growth of multiple cross-border grassroots networks connecting communities in sending and receiving countries, a growth that has partly been facilitated by the infrastructures --technical, economic, political, of the imaginary-- of globalization: these are creating de facto transboundary conditions in a context of growing de jure restrictions and anti-immigrant sentiment in receiving countries;

2. the implementation of specialized regimes and laws which enable the cross-border circulation of professional workers and business travelers, a key component of economic globalization, along with increasingly restrictive regimes for non-professional, low wage workers and non-natives (whether residents, applicants for entry, travelers) considered suspect, particularly concerning terrorism; and

3. earlier legislative attempts by states to accommodate and regulate migration: what can we learn from these earlier efforts which also took place under conditions of very dynamic change and major challenges for governments? Further, to what extent are we replicating today what turned out to be in retrospect generally recognized mistakes in those policies and laws?

Each of these features lies at the intersection of formal systems and actual practices. Each also lies at the intersection of specialized disciplinary bodies of knowledge. The problematics represented by each of these features separately and together map onto more than one disciplinary treatment not just of migration generally, but of these particular features. Finally, each of these features reflects the past and current research experience and interests of the faculty researchers. As a research project, the combination of the subject and the types of scholarship represented by the three principal faculty allows for the development of analytic categories that cut across the categories through which sociologists, legal scholars, and historians have, respectively, addressed the subject.