Understanding migrant legal adaptation in non-Western migration regimes: From empirical research to theory development
The workshop is organised and hosted by the Sociology of Law Department in the Social Sciences Faculty, Lund University.
The overall purpose of this three-day workshop in Lund, Sweden is to contribute new empirical and theoretical insights to scholarly debates on migrant’s legal adaptation and integration into a new legal environment. The workshop is conceived as a critical reflection on the dominant migrant legal adaptation and integration literature (and, more generally, migration studies scholarship) which is still largely based on case studies of immigrant communities in Western-style democracies. While the dominant frameworks provide useful insight towards understanding migrants’ experiences in a new legal environment, they are not sufficient to fully understand the complexity and diverse patterns of immigrant adaptation in non-Western migrant-receiving contexts. Despite the large diversity of scholarly explanations for, and approaches to, explaining the diverse patterns of migrant adaptation and incorporation, we know relatively little about how migrants adapt to a new legal environment in non-Western, non-democratic migration locales.
Unlike Western-type democracies where the rule of law is embedded into the national culture, non-Western migration regimes are often characterized by authoritarian forms of governance, malfunctioning institutions, weak rule of law, corruption, large shadow economies, poor human rights record and weak civil society. Given these differences in governance patterns, legal cultures, institutional development and state-society relations, we cannot assume that theories constructed in Western contexts would be applicable in the context of non-Western migration locales where migrants do not experience the ‘rule of law’ environment but rather experience corrupt legal system and widespread informality, inciting migrants to produce new forms of informal governance and legal order. Armed with these considerations, it is reasonable to assume that migrant legal adaptation and “illegality” are not uniform everywhere, but rather holds different meanings, forms, and functional roles depending upon the socio-political context, legal environment, economic system, and various cultural factors.
Consequently, migration governance practices in non-Western migration regimes remain underrepresented in comparative and theoretical research on contemporary migration regimes. Addressing this research gap is especially important when considering the fact that Russia, Malaysia Singapore, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia (i.e. non-Western migration locales) have become key “migration hotspots” worldwide due to their improved economic conditions. The need for empirically grounded knowledge of these relatively understudied migratory flows as well as the necessity to understand their implications for dominant (Western-centric) migrant adaptation and integration frameworks, is thus, from this perspective, substantial.
Considering the above assumption, the three-day workshop in Lund is conceived as a critical reflection on the topic with the following three main objectives:
First, it will expand the scope of literature on migrant adaptation and integration beyond the Western-centric approaches, bringing together scholars studying migrant legal adaptation and integration processes in non-Western migration contexts. In particular, we are interested in the way how migrants build a relationship with the law and law-like informal ‘legal orders’ in migrant-receiving contexts characterised by the weak rule-of-law and non-democratic regimes.
Second, it will provide a venue for developing new theoretical insights on migrant legal adaptation and integration. In particular, we encourage presenters to move beyond empirical and area studies approaches and build a case for the “varied geographies of migrant adaptation” perspective which will take into account (a) how the effects and manifestations of “migrant undocumentedness” (or “illegality”) depend upon geographical, political, and historical factors; and (b) whether (undocumented) migrants are not just passive actors constrained by structural barriers, but can also invent strategies and manoeuver around the system.
Third, the workshop will be used as a platform for creating new research network “Non-Western Migration Regimes”. So far, there has not been any systematic effort to create a network of researchers studying migration in non-Western locales so Lund workshop will be the first event where researchers studying migration in non-Western locales come together and discuss the current state of research, future events, and joint research grant application and publications. We will consider pulling together a special issue of a journal if we receive sufficient papers with a strong theoretical engagement. Empirical contributions will be invited into an edited volume.
The workshop is funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond.
The workshop schedule is still being drafted and will be posted as soon as it has been set.