Graziano Battistella (2014), Global and Asian Perspectives on International Migration, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, 978-3-319-08317-9, 266 pages.

Author:   Battistella, Graziano (Ed.)
Publisher:   Switzerland: Springer International Publishing
Reviewer:   Patricia Miraflores

Graziano Battistella (2014), Global and Asian Perspectives on International Migration, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, 978-3-319-08317-9, 266 pages.

The Global and Asian Perspectives on International Migration is part of a book series aimed at understanding the future of policies on migration and their linkages with development issues. This particular anthology synthesizes the contributions of migration experts from Asia, Europe, and North America who attended a conference in April 2013 on recent empirical case studies. The works in this volume aim to address and illustrate the theoretical gaps in contemporary Asian migration studies, seeing how most of these frameworks were coined and elaborated in the western context. Hence, this anthology aims to test the validity of predominant migration theories as explanatory models in Asian contexts. More broadly, it sets benchmarks to guide future theorization and situates migration studies as a linchpin in knowledge production. 

As such, this volume is divided into thirteen chapters. The first is an introduction by editor Graziano Battistella who navigates the theoretical terrain of migration studies thus far. He  also introduces the six key aspects of Asian migration systems that require further theoretical introspection. Each of these were consecutively discussed from western and Asian viewpoints in the next twelve chapters. The arrangement of the articles reflects the interregional dialogue among the contributors themselves which speaks to the greatest strength of this approach. 

 In the introductory chapter, Battistella synthesizes the broad theoretical developments in migration studies and the specificities of Asian migration systems. As the editor, Battistella’s expertise as director of the Scalabrini Migration Center was especially valuable in shaping the tone and theme of this interdisciplinary compilation. However, as he acknowledged, one main caveat is that the theoretical frameworks discussed in this anthology were limited to labor migration. On the other hand, solely focusing on labor migration foregrounded the authors’ critique of frameworks and terminologies coined in the western contexts.

The first key aspect Battistella introduces is the concept of circular migration which many receiving countries in the west implemented to reduce irregular migration. Proponents of this arrangement predict that temporary employment of migrants from developing countries can create triple win scenarios for the migrant and their destination and origin countries, which eventually regularizes migration. Stephen Castles and Derya Ozkul (Ch. 2) criticize the vague usage of this term in policymaking, finding little evidence to support the effectiveness of these schemes in lowering irregular migration. In the same vein, Piyasiri Wickramasekara (Ch. 3) gets to the crux of the issue by stating that, in the first place, very few case studies in Asia can illustrate the conceptual distinction between circular and temporary migration. Wickramasekara identifies what the oretization ought to achieve before we can characterize circular migration as a distinct form of mobility, let alone one that reaps triple-win benefits.

On the topic of multiculturalism, Christian Joppke (Ch. 4) contemplates the European context where politicians bid a “rhetorical goodbye” to multicultural policies. As it stands, European politicians are reluctant to support multiculturalism because it appears antithetical to Europe’s “notionally individualistic and universalistic” policies against discrimination (p. 91). Joppke criticizes Europe’s over fixation on these policies when “immigrant-unspecific institutions” like schools can best facilitate integration (p. 96). Meanwhile, In-Jin Yoon (Ch. 5) discusses South Korea’s integration policies primarily targeted at “multicultural families” or Korean citizens who have foreign spouses. Yoon aptly uses the conceptual diagram in Figure 5.1 (p. 106) to illustrate how Korea distinguishes among immigrants based on nationality and compatriot status. Through this, Yoon demonstrates how ethnically homogenous Asian states’ concept of multiculturalism is not synonymous to the west’s. Despite this, joint theoretical developments are needed. As Yoon perceptively argues, the existence of minorities in any given society will always be hinged on a dominant culture dictating the social order.

Another aspect that requires further theoretical introspection is the shifting gender roles and orders from labor migration. Eleonore Kofman (Ch. 6) addresses these developments from American and European perspectives. In this chapter, what stood out was the commentary on why we cannot “downplay the significance of global inequalities” (p. 124) when embedding gender in migration studies. Kofman fittingly describes the case of women from developing countries who take up gendered work in the western care industry, yet are forced into breadwinner roles which are traditionally ascribed to males at home. Similarly, Brenda S.A. Yeoh (Ch. 7) advocates for theorization in the household/family and national/citizenship aspects. Yeoh proposes a paradigm shift from western discourses prioritizing “individual rights and formal citizenship” (p. 148) to a multipolar framework that considers the household and national levels. She cites the case of foreign women in Taiwan who advocated for their naturalization as mothers of Taiwanese citizens, challenging the jus sanguinis tradition. Similar to Kofman, Yeoh tends to build on theoretical propositions using empirical expertise in gendered migration. 

            The return and reintegration of migrants in their home countries is another feature of labor migration in Asia. Jean-Pierre Cassarino (Ch. 8) conceptualizes return preparedness as a process dependent not only on the migrants’ pre-return conditions in the receiving country, but also their perceptions of the post-return conditions they would encounter back home. Cassarino simplifies these conditions in Table 8.1 (p. 162) into three degrees of return preparedness which reframes the concept of return to a certain extent. However, this is limited by its inability to capture the heterogeneity of migrants’ willingness and readiness to return. This was addressed by Biao Xiang (Ch. 9), who makes a very strong argument as to why theorization is essential despite the inability of migration theories to “produce neat schemas or typologies” (p. 172). Specifically, Xiang refers to return-oriented labor migration systems in Asia that intensified in recent decades as geopolitical shifts favored the region. This put Asia in a special global position to develop theories on return migration, seeing how Asian states have “laid claim to [returning] mobile subjects'' (p. 170) and “nationalize[d] transnational mobility” (p. 174). Xiang embeds the concept of return to broader social transformations at the global scale, providing the strongest argument in this volume in justifying Asia-centric theory development.

On the regional governance of migration, Rinus Penninx (Ch. 10) reflects on the lessons learned from the European Union. Penninx argues that economic cooperation and political will need to coincide to enable regional governance of migration. He links the EU’s regionally integrated migration policies with its remarkable features throughout history such as the free circulation of laborers and the creation of a European citizenship. Meanwhile, Fernando T. Aldaba (Ch. 11) examines the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Economic Community (AEC) which still lacks the economic and political conditions to allow the same degree of intraregional mobility. Despite this, Aldaba argues that the ASEAN itself has long exhibited features of multi-level governance on issues of migration. The question then is if this would eventually converge at the regional level into a cohesive policy akin to the EU’s.

`           Lastly, the concept of migration transition raises the question of when migrant workers will no longer be forced to find employment abroad. Philip L. Martin (Ch. 12) argues that while “there is no automatic link” between migration and development (p. 227), the combined effects of the three Rs (recruitment, remittance, return) can either result in virtuous or vicious circles of migration in origin countries. Whereas, Manolo I. Abella and Geoffrey Ducanes (Ch. 13) advocate for more holistic measures of welfare such as the indices of human development (HDI). They highlight the need for the economic conditions described by Martin to attain a certain level of sustainability to reduce labor migrations. Despite the authors’ different approaches, both chapters have the fundamental assumption that “people would prefer to live and work in the country they were born and raised” (p. 256). Among all chapters, these two are the most cognizant of the link between theories of migration and indices of development and welfare.

Overall, the joint expertise of the scholars who contributed to this volume provides an exemplary resource on labor migration that caters to a spectrum of interdisciplinary studies. Those interested in high-level comparisons of the western and Asian labor migration contexts would appreciate the chapters on regional integration by Penninx (Ch. 10) and Aldaba (Ch. 11). Those who are keen to explore emerging approaches of intersectionality would benefit from the chapters on gender by Kofman (Ch. 6) and Yeoh (Ch. 7) and the chapters on multiculturalism by Joppke (Ch. 4) and Yoon (Ch. 5). Readers with more specific field interests may find only some aspects of this publication useful. However, all researchers can benefit from its astute demonstration of how  interregional dialogue can enhance theorization and vice versa.

As Battistella (Ch. 1) explained, this entails repurposing predominant approaches and opening new avenues of thought. As such, the chapters on circular migration by Castles & Ozkul (Ch. 2) and Wickramasekara (Ch. 3) attest to the need for more nuanced conceptualization of labor migration that moves away from empirical tendencies. Whereas, the chapters on migration transition by Martin (Ch. 12) and Abella & Ducanes (Ch. 13) provide the most grounded perspectives on linking theory and practice. Finally, the chapters by Cassarino (Ch. 8) and Xiang (Ch. 9) on the concept of return provide the most thought-provoking arguments on where migration fits in broader geopolitical and social transformations. 

On the other hand, readers should note that this volume is primarily focused on labor migration. This narrows its scope to research questions on Asian migration propelled only by employment, which is also where the major shortcomings of this anthology stem from. The volume glosses over key contemporary developments such as the increased migration of the nouveau riche and international student diasporas from East and Southeast Asia. Moreover, discussions of key regional political contexts were not synchronized since the chapters were arranged according to the themes and stages of labor migration. For instance, the geopolitical factors for migration in the Asian context were only addressed in the final chapter; whereas, the geopolitical factors for European migration were discussed in the fourth chapter.

Review by Patricia Miraflores, graduate student pursuing a joint masters degree in M.A. Euroculture at the University of Groningen and Uppsala University.She is a recipient of the 2020 Erasmus Mundus scholarship award from the European Commission. Email: [email protected]



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