Sussex Centre for Migration Research

7th SCMR-JEMS conference

On November 20th, 2019, the Sussex Centre for Migration Research (SCMR) and Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (JEMS), will host the seventh SCMR-JEMS International Conference.


 7th SCMR-JEMS Annual Conference – Migrations in Turbulent Times


@ Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK

10.10-10.30 Professor Paul Statham - Director SCMR & Editor JEMS, Welcome and Introduction

10.30-11.15 Professor Rhacel Salazar Parreñas, University of Southern California Dornsife. The mobility pathways of migrant domestic workers

11.15-12.00 Public Q&A

12-1pm Lunch

1pm – 1.55 Professor Willem Schinkel, Erasmus University Rotterdam. Migration as Border

1.55-2.50 Dr Renee Luthra, University of Essex. Origins and Destinations: the Making of the Second Generation

2.50-3.10pm Coffee break

3.10pm-4.05 Dr Rahsaan Maxwell, University of North Carolina, Chapell Hill. Does local context affect asylum seeker integration? County-level data from Germany

4.05-5.00 Professor Paul Statham, University of Sussex. Living the long-term consequences of Thai-Western marriage migration: the radical life-course transformations of women who partner older Westerners

Drinks to follow

All Welcome, Attendance free, but for catering purposes please register at

Keynote Speaker: Professor Rhacel Salazar Parrenas, USC Dornsife parrenas

Professor Parrenas is an ethnographer whose research examines experiences of migrant workers from the Philippines. Her earlier works examined the constitution of gender in women's migration. Her more recent works focus on the construction of migrant workers as "unfree laborers." Her current project focuses on the experiences of migrant domestic workers in Dubai and Singapore. This study examines their experience of indenture and identifies and analyzes how various stakeholders -- states, recruitment agencies, employers and domestic workers – recognize and accordingly attend to their state of unfreedom. 

 Confirmed Speakers: 

 Dr Renee Luthra, University of Essex 

LuthraRenee Luthra is Senior Lecturer in sociology and director of the Essex Centre for Migration Studies. Her teaching and research expertise include international migration, social stratification, education, and quantitative methods.  Her current research examines immigrant integration and ethnic inequality in the UK, Germany and the United States. Her book (with co-authors Thomas Soehl and Roger Waldinger) Origins and Destinations: the making of the second generation, was published in 2018 by the Russell Sage Foundation.

Dr Rahsaan Maxwell, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

 R MaxwellRahsaan Maxwell is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.  The central question for his research is how national boundaries operate.  Within that theme, he has pursued numerous topics including immigrant integration, political representation, identity and political behavior, primarily in Western Europe.  His recent work focuses on urban-rural divides, cultural diversity, globalization and national culture.

Professor Willem SchinkelErasmus University Rotterdam

Schinkel Willem Schinkel is a professor of social theory at Erasmus University Rotterdam. He is the Principal Investigator of an ERC project that studies practices of social imagination in the monitoring of migration, climate change and financial markets.  He publishes in a wide range of subjects, including social theory and social philosophy, the sociology of art and STS. 

Professor Paul Statham, SCMR Univeristy of Sussex

Paul Statham is Professor of Migration and Director of the Sussex Centre for Migration Research (SCMR) in the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. Paul is a political sociologist. His current research and writing is in two broad fields. First, he studies the political accommodation of Islam and Muslim minorities in their European societies of settlement, with a focus on culture, religion and acculturation. Second, he researches on “transnational living” that results from migration, mobility and exchanges between Europe and SE Asia (Thailand) with a focus on “marriage”, wellbeing and life-course. This collaborative research programme focuses on the impacts of “transnationalism” between Thailand and the West on the life-chances of Thai people.




The mobility pathways of migrant domestic workers

Rhacel S. Parrenas

This talk identifies and examines the mobility pathways of migrant domestic workers, meaning the course of action they undertake as migrants to advance economically. Mobility pathways refer not only to migratory practices and processes but also concerns shifts in one’s employment, legal and social status. This talk examines the mobility pathways of migrant domestic workers in order to interrogate the possibilities of socio-economic mobility allowed by their migration. A discussion of mobility pathways foregrounds the structural conditions impeding migrant settlement which for domestic workers would include their ineligibility from permanent residence, disqualification against family reunification, and labor market segregation. Drawing from 85 in-depth interviews conducted with migrant domestic workers from the Philippines employed in the key destination of United Arab Emirates, this talk establishes three salient mobility pathways of serial migration, prolonged migration and return migration. The analysis shows that for migrant domestic workers migration usually results in the social reproduction of the poverty that initially propels migration among unskilled temporary labor migrants, dispelling the notion of migration as an inevitable pathway to mobility.

 Migration as Border

Willem Schinkel

How does ‘migration studies’ have its object, or, how does ‘migration’ become an object that is available to a variety of publics? In this contribution, I argue, as an extension of or perhaps footnote to Mezzadra and Neilson’s perspective on borders as epistemic devices, that social science is co-constitutive of what gets to be ‘migration’. Far from a specific movement of persons across borders, migration requires registration and visualization from within territorial forms of government, and social science is enrolled in this work of registration and visualization. From the idea that border is method, then, follows the idea that method is border, i.e., that a thing called ‘migration studies’ is of necessity complicit in the constitution of a thing called ‘migration’, and that migration emerges as a relatively recent incarnation of the colonial difference and as an effect of bordering.
That social science is co-constitutive of its object is an entirely unsurprising statement, given both decades of research in STS and the available postcolonial critiques of the historical role of the social sciences in colonial forms of government. But its acknowledgment should have two as yet scarcely accepted consequences for the ways in which social science should relate to ‘migration’. First, it requires a break from a stance as a broker of the facts about migration, and from an indignation about the disregard for these facts by states or right wing populists. Second, it enables a recognition of the ways in which a social science that is invested in an order that sees ‘migration’, might also contribute to what Walter Mignolo has called ‘border thinking’, a knowing from rather than about borders. This would mean both a disinvestment in the associations (such as states and markets) that seek to differentiate subjects through border work, and an investment in the multiplication of the border struggles that always accompanies such differentiation as a radical potentiality.


Origins and Destinations: the Making of the Second Generation

Renee Luthra

As of the last census in 2010, one in four children in the United States had a foreign born parent. This growing “second generation” immigrant population represents the most diverse segment of American society: coming from all corners of the globe, their lives are influenced by the (sometimes lasting) exclusion from full civic membership and international social ties of their immigrant parents.  As a result of these uniquely international influences, an international perspective is necessary to understand the diversity in second generation school, work, ethnic attachment and political life. This talk will present our recently published book that develops and then applies this necessary international perspective. As a whole, it is a work of synthesis, absorbing and systematically assessing hypotheses from multiple theoretical frameworks – foremost assimilation, segmented assimilation, and transnationalism – and demonstrating the utility of the international perspective for understanding second generation outcomes. We draw on internationally standardized measures of sending country value orientations to glean new insights about how the origin context shapes the lives of the second generation. Using multi-level modelling techniques, we also discover that, despite the preoccupation with ethnic group difference in the second generation literature today, the majority of variation in second generation outcomes is found within, rather than between ethnic groups. Previously unobserved international influences at the family level - differences in legal status and the strengths of cross-border ties - matter for the children of immigrants raised in the United States. Thus, the international perspective we develop is crucial to understanding within-group differences as well as differences between groups of second generation migrants.

Does local context affect asylum seeker integration? County-level data from Germany

Rahsaan Maxwell

Since 2015, Europe has received the largest influx of asylum seekers since World War II but it is unclear whether and how these asylum seekers will be integrated. Moreover, while researchers have begun to study Europeans' reactions to the asylum seekers, we know very little about asylum seekers' perspectives. In this paper, we use a new German dataset to analyze how the local context affects whether asylum seekers feel welcome. We leverage the as-if random assignment of asylum seekers to different German counties to make inferences about whether county-level characteristics affect asylum seekers' integration. Our central finding is that asylum seekers feel more welcome in German counties with larger percentages of foreign residents. We also find that under some circumstances asylum seekers may feel more welcome in urban as opposed to rural counties, in counties with lower unemployment rates and in counties with lower levels of support for the AfD. Our findings have several implications for our understand of asylum seeker integration and local contextual effects.

Living the long-term consequences of Thai-Western marriage migration: the radical life-course transformations of women who partner older Westerners

Paul Statham

This article examines how relationships between Thai women and older Western men transform over the long-term, from a woman’s perspective. We present a model that identifies stages in the life-cycle or ‘narrative arc’ of a long-term partnership. This framework allows to study how negotiated exchanges (material, emotional) between the couple evolve in ‘stages’ over time, and the degree to which a woman is empowered from her initial position of relative subservient dependency. We examine three factors that shape her relative autonomy in a partnership in ways that can result in greater security, wellbeing, and status. First, increasing access to individual formal rights (primarily through marriage) can lead to relative financial independence and security. Second, differential ageing in a couple can shift the balance of dependency as he becomes relatively infirm. Third, her changing obligations to natal family members, balanced with caring for her partner, can importantly shape her wellbeing. The study is based on 20 biographical interviews with women in partnerships for 7–30 years. We find that almost every aspect of a woman’s life transforms radically. Most consider it a worthwhile life-strategy, but many suffer hidden psychological costs as a result of living this ‘unintended transnationalism’ over the long-term.