The Migration Equation: Rebooting Migration Theory Beyond Nations, Immigration and the Birthright Lottery

The Bauman Institute is co-hosting, with the Sustainability Research Institute: The Migration Equation: Rebooting Migration Theory Beyond Nations, Immigration and the Birthright Lottery.

The future of migration politics has never looked so bleak, questioning humanity’s ability to solve the migration equation: how to reconcile rights to increasing and diversifying spatial mobilities, while overcoming the profound colonial legacy of the “birthright lottery” and global inequalities, and respecting the self-determination of bounded democratic populations. Optimistic liberal views on the potential of regional integration and the migration-development nexus have swung back towards pessimism amidst a democratic backlash of nation-state sovereignty and a rejection of international law.

Meanwile, the methodological nationalism of a receiving society view remains the default in mainstream thinking on immigration and integration. At the same time, dominant trends in critical theory are stuck in a Marxist-Foucauldian orthodoxy which suggests the migration equation will be solved through bio-political governmentality: a “neo-liberal” conflation of markets and states, delivering a functional global order based on spatially and morally differentiated hierarchies of “managed migration”, from the “good mobile citizen” and “selective immigrant” to the “deportable worker” and “abject refugee”.  

In this light, as the near future science fiction of contemporary theory becomes the routinised practice of advanced capitalist democracy now, its works read less as emancipatory critique and more as cynical manuals of modern governance, discipline and control, in the service of The Prince and The Leviathan. As an alternate, retrieving elements of classical liberalism and anarchism, my presentation will ask what is left of the radical post-national, even decolonial, promise of the “fourth freedom” – the freedom of movement of persons – sketching the normative principles of a “political demography” that might yet be able to reboot progressive thinking on migration and mobilities.

For full details visit the SRI website.

Location Details

Seminar Room 8.119
School of Earth and Environment 
University of Leeds

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