The theme of the 2017 IMISCOE Spring Conference is the ‘Tyranny of Categories in Migration Policy, Research and Data Production’. It is based on the premise that categories form the backbone of policies through which they define the conditions of mobility and the concomitant set of entry, residence, economic and social rights as well orient research and data production.
States differentiate explicitly between categories of migrants and their provenance; they also differentiate explicitly and implicitly according to categories of analysis, such as gender, class, nationality, religion and ethnicity. The initial categorisation can subsequently facilitate or impede movement between categories. Hence we need to understand how states and other organisations, such as UNHCR, IOM or the European Union construct categories and how they apply them in the formulation of immigration and integration policies.
Categories developed in other sectors may also have implications for mobility and migration. Too often categories are presented as mutually exclusive eg. labour and family or as binaries eg. economic migrant/refugee; formal/informal; free/forced or mobility/migration without taking into account a continuum between categories. Being on one side of the binary may therefore open up or close off access to resources and support. Data production and collection too are shaped by the categories used and may serve to entrench them.
Of course categories are not static; they may change as a result of periods of debate, political change and economic crisis. Today in the face of an unprecedented number of refugees and the inability of European states to reach any common policy to share numbers, country of origin has become a key category for access to the asylum determination process and whether claims are justified or not, and if the latter, who is to be deported to countries deemed to be ‘safe’. Thus how people are placed into categories is significant, as is the way asylum seekers and migrants seek to negotiate and conform to specified categories.
At the same time, critical voices are seeking to open up and disrupt binaries and exclusive categories and demonstrate how they articulate with each other. Categories may change in response to campaigns or the state’s need for knowledge about designated populations. However it may be very difficult for researchers to challenge the prevailing categories underpinning policies and data production.
We hope therefore that this conference will help researchers and policy makers to understand the significance of categories and categorisations and their evolution in space and time in research, policy making and data production.
Chair of the Organizing Committee
Eleonore Kofman (Chair); Emine Acar; Alessio D’Angelo; Anastasia Christou; Olga Cretu; Janroj Keles; Helen McCarthy; Nicola Montagna; Magali Peyrefitte; Elisavet Tapini; Ben Brickley; Amy Ureta Cevallos; Estafania de Mello; Ines Fanlo Morales
Administrator: Christiana Rose
Thanks to Brian Coyne for granting us use of the cover image