Migration has emerged as a key theme of our times, but migration, as such, is nothing new. People have always and everywhere been on the move —although the scale, directions and motivations have changed over time.
As social anthropologists, we research migration in fine-grained ethnographic detail, and always within a broader social context – migration is never an isolated phenomenon. We look beyond the usual focus on ‘the migrant’, for instance by looking at the practices of those who encourage, enable or control migration, and do not restrict our analytical gaze to the global North – or to the global South. Instead, we consider migration as a journey that often exceeds such spatial containers. Though largely neglected in science and in politics, a focus on migration as a journey zooms in on places along the way, on transit routes, on the hubs where migrants stay and sometimes detect new pathways. Hence, an analysis of the routes of migration allows us to explore how hopes and aspirations are formed, disappointed or reconfigured along the way.
Our fields of research range from an analysis of internal migration towards urban centres in East and Central Asia, to state-induced repatriation programs to the transnational brokerage of labour in Southeast Asia; from a description of migrants’ makeshift temporary settlements in sites of transit to the situation of refugees kept in camps in Africa or at the borders of the European Union, like in Turkey; from the role of remittances and the impacts on those ‘left behind’ to the exploration of management of ‘diversity’ in Swiss schools. We are interested in global histories of entanglement and new developments, in connections and ruptures, patterns of exclusions and feelings of belonging, in the interplay between local, national, and global configurations.