MANCEPT - New Perspectives on the Political Theory of Migration

September 11, 2023 - September 13, 2023
MANCEPT, University of Manchester

United Kingdom

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This event is available both online and in-person


King's College London

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Up to date, the political theory of migration has been operating based on several assumptions. Migration is predominantly conceived as the one-off movement of individuals from one state to another, of which they gradually become members. In this context, the debate on migration revolves around the rights and duties of individual migrants relative to their new state of residence. Scholars tend to adopt a state-centred perspective, which focuses on the terms of the migrants’ admission and gradual integration.

New work on the political theory of migration has begun to challenge these assumptions by engaging more closely with empirical research and by questioning the broader social, political, and economic context in which migration takes place. Taking this context into account is necessary to properly understand the phenomenon of migration and to develop normative theories that address the various political questions that migration poses. Nevertheless, many areas of importance remain undertheorised. There are three underexplored research avenues that our workshop is particularly interested in investigating:

1. The first research avenue focuses on how migration is inscribed in broader patterns of human mobility. In many instances, migration is not a linear movement of individuals from state A to state B. Instead, migrants engage in schemes of temporary, circular, or onward migration. How do these migration patterns inform our normative theorising about migration? Should migrants who engage in these schemes have access to different sets of rights than migrants who follow more linear migration patterns? Are there similarities between international and intranational migrations and, if so, how do these inform our reasoning about migration? What is the conceptual difference between migration and mobility? 

2. The second research avenue questions the state-centred perspective that most scholars adopt when they theorise about migration. Is it justified to adopt a state-centred perspective, or does this constitute an expression of objectionable methodological nationalism? How does the theory of transnationalism and the critique of methodological nationalism inform our thinking about migration? Should migration policies be determined at the level of the state? What is and what could be the role of cities and regional polities, as well as international unions of states, in the design of migration policies? Would our view of migration change if we adopted the perspective of migrants, instead of the perspective of the state?

 3. The third research avenue explores the impact of debates on imperialism, colonialism, and neo-colonialism on the political theory of migration. Should a state’s former or ongoing colonial practices put some limits on the state’s right to determine its migration policies? To what extent do migration controls perpetuate colonial practices? Can migration be seen as a way to correct former colonial injustices? How do global inequalities affect migration patterns and what impact should these inequalities have on a state’s migration policies? What are the points of convergence and the tensions between the claims of migrants and the claims of other marginalised social groups? More broadly, what is the normative weight of historical and geopolitical considerations in the development of migration policies?

Abstract Submission Deadline and Details:

Please email an anonymised 400-500 word abstract and title to [email protected] by 21 May 2023. Please include a separate cover sheet with your paper title, contact details (name, email, institutional affiliation), and whether you intend to participate in person/online. We are particularly eager to consider paper proposals by authors who would want to contribute to an edited book volume on new perspectives on the political theory of migration.

This year’s fees are:

Online attendance:

Academics: £ 45.00

PG: £ 20.00

Non-speaker: £ 15.00

In Person attendance:

Academics: £ 230.00

PG: £ 135.00

Dinner: £ 30


MANCEPT offers a small number of fee waiver bursaries. The deadline for bursary applications (available to current graduate students only) will be the 27th of June, and successful applicants will be informed by 11th of July. To give presenters time to apply for a bursary, authors will receive decisions by the 20th of June 2023.

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