Across the threshold: Reconceptualising the position of states, communities and individuals in processes of migration and transnationalism

Lothar Smith, Nijmegen Centre for Border Research, Radboud University Nijmegen

Models that focus on the decision-making individual attempt to transcend the idea of the ideal homo economicus through use of notions such as ‘bounded rationality’, ‘human capital’ and ‘new economies of labour migration’. However, they still consider migrants and migrants’ households as overly rationalistic objects, which can easily be put into mathematical models to explain and forecast flows of people between countries and different parts of the world. Within this context, studies that explain transnational migration by social networks are a step forward from such demographic-economistic approaches by giving centre-stage to the individual.
To pay more attention to non-economic motives in individual decision-making to, or not to, migrate, members of the Nijmegen Centre for Border Research have developed a geographical model that seeks to explain mobility and immobility by focusing on the role of thresholds.

While conceptually the model seems apt for explaining the relative immobility of the masses, its empirical rigour, notably in terms of the methodology it calls for, is still underdeveloped. In this paper we seek to methodologically apply the model to 3 empirical situations. First we apply the model to transborder migration within the European Union. Second we transpose the model to research in The Philippines focusing on the role of state interventions on migration flows and trajectories. Third, we consider its relevance for explaining the sustainability of transnational flows between urban actors in Ghana and Ghanaian migrants abroad.

Venue: Kapoenstraat 2, Maastricht

Date: 15 December 2010

Time: 12:30 - 13:30