3012 migration, ethnic conflicts, and racism

The international migratory process is based
on interplay between various factors and it is
impossible to identify one main movement pat
tern. The migratory process could be caused by
economic, political, cultural, or environmental
factors. Scholars differentiate between push
and pull factors. Migration process on a micro
level is seen as the result of decision processes
made by individuals. Some theorists emphasize
that individuals calculate risks, interests, and
aims to maximize and improve their living con
ditions. Proponents of this assumption highlight
that migrants act as rational choice decision
makers. Other theorists focus upon subjective
mind maps; they also take into consideration
the important role that social networks such as
kinship and family play for individual decisions
(chain migration).
Migration flows on a macro level are often
seen as a result of economic conditions and
historical relationships between receiving and
sending countries. Past and contemporary poli
cies on immigration also play an important role
in explaining migration flows. Recent debates
stress the relationship between increasing trans
national flows of capital, goods, information,
and people. Migration should not be treated as
an isolated phenomenon but rather should be
seen as an interlaced relationship of the above
factors. From an economic view, globalization
has provoked a restructuring of capitalism
which has led to a great demand for immigrant
Of course, economic conditions play an
important role in interpreting the conditions
that initiate migratory process, but they are
not capable of providing an explanation for
the unfolding and the continuation of interna
tional migration across time and space.
Considering the above, the transnationalism
approach offers a new scope of the perpetuation
of the migratory process, thus providing a new
framework for the study of international migra
tion. Here the sociological focus is on social
network building. A growing number of scho
lars identify the social networks of immigrants
as a fundamental key in understanding con
temporary migration. The reconsideration of
the migratory process is based on the assump
tion that many migrants nowadays manage to
live in two or more societies, their homeland and
their host countries. Transnational migrants
create through exchange, reciprocity, and
social support a common space or field of sym
bolic and collective representations beyond the
nation state.
While the boundaries of nation states are
more permeable than earlier times, we are simul
taneously witnessing a resurgence of nationalist
movements and politics of differentiation. As a
topic of migration study, ethnic conflict became
a prominent feature. Today, theorists observe
minority groups and identity movements
worldwide that struggle to have their culture,
territories, and sometimes even sovereign states
of their own. Such movements are, in most
cases, accompanied by activities such as racist
attacks, violence, expulsion, and extreme ethnic
Ethnic conflict refers to a struggle between
groups constructing themselves or constructed
by others through some features such as tradi
tions, a similar geographical origin, values, lan
guage, symbols, and artifacts. Ethnic conflict is
a contested category and there is not a common
scientific agreement of how the term should be
defined. Ethnic conflict addresses migration
and ethnicity studies in various ways.
Such conflicts are often seen as a push factor
regarding the migratory process, especially for
refugees who escape violence or persecution.
After the collapse of the communist system,
the proliferation of nationalism in successor
states of the former East was treated as one
fundamental factor for creating migration flows
toward Western Europe. Theorists also label
attacks on and violence against migrants in
their host societies as ethnic conflicts.
Most of the work on ethnic conflicts deals
with the meanings, origins, causes, extent, and
persistence of ethnic conflicts. Some explana
tions stress economic conditions to approach
ethnic conflicts. An early influential framework
was the split labor market theory developed by
Bonacich (1972), which focuses on conflicting
resource interests of different ethnic groups.
Working with two different ethnic groups at
different wages for the same job, such a labor
market will be created. Some theories argued
that ethnic conflicts should be seen as a conse
quence of competition for scarce resources.
Inequality among majority and subordinate
groups is often seen as rooted in former relation
ships between the colonizer and the colonized.