Newsletter of ISA (International sociological association) – Research Committee on sociology of migration, Autumn 2012.
Academia in general has become a worldwide market. Migration studies in particular have also become a worldwide market. Markets always imply competition for leadership or at least for an increase in each participant’s share of that market. In nowadays’ competition in the global migration studies market, as in other branches of the academic market, it is crucial to be intensively productive and highly visible. All of us, and our work, are regularly assessed, evaluated, monitored and our careers depend on the results of these exercises. The number of our publications matters. But the number of our publications in highly ranked international journals matters more. Being involved in the local and national academic life matters. But travelling across the globe to be in the “academic places to be” in international migration studies matters much more. Raising money locally matters. But getting huge supranational grants matters more. Being in the local media matters. But being called as an expert in global media matters more.
Clearly, the ascent to academic leadership is steep in migration studies too. Gaining shares of the market is increasingly difficult. Clearly, it is not enough to produce solid and serious research to do so. One has to make a buzz! One come to come up with something apparently new and flashy, be it a concept, a theory and (for the most self-confident) of us, a new paradigm in order to open all the gates and become a star on the global migration studies market. This is a reason why conceptual, theoretical and even paradigmatic fashions and trends develop constantly. This is fine! We all want to improve our understanding of the causes and consequences of the various forms of human movements on earth. But many times, the so-called new developments in migration studies seem to be more aesthetic than substantial. For example, migration is apparently now too old-fashioned to be of any use – we need to replace it with a new mobility paradigm. Today people would not migrate anymore – they would be mobile! And we would need a new paradigm to make sense of the new forms of mobility. Of course, in this brief column, I can only oversimplify the issue but the point I am trying to make is rather simple. The rules of the migration studies global academic market stimulate us more to put “old wine in new bottles” than to take the time to make new wine first and then to discuss where to store the wine. The first strategy potentially allows for more visibility and quicker on the academic migration studies market;, while the second strategy probably closer to an interesting vision of “slow science” is certainly less rewarding at least in the short term.