Locating Race in Migration and Diversity Studies

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Introduction to Migration Studies, 2022, pp. 265-280
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Since race was scientifically invalidated in the aftermath of the Holocaust, there has been extensive academic debate about its conceptual significance particularly in the ‘Global North’ where alternative terms and concepts have been offered up to classify group differences and understand forms of inequality in societies once structured explicitly by racial regimes. In earlier debates, an alternative focus on ethnicity, culture, class, and nationality drew criticism from scholars who saw the abandonment of race discourse as glossing over enduring power structures that perpetuated racism. Today, debates about the salience of race now also grapple with how different kinds of human mobility (and immobility) are further making complex relations of power and inequality especially in diverse immigrant-receiving societies. While older forms of migration, including the forced and violent movements of people in the transatlantic slave trade through to indentured labour migrations, came to underlie a colour-line created by nation-states principally formed around racial logics, newer forms of South to North migrations either forced or voluntary and as well accelerated South to South border crossings, now make even more complex the terms of difference. This chapter locates conceptualisations of race in migration and diversity studies, drawing from intersecting fields of scholarship such as studies of race and ethnicity, critical race theory, comparative migration studies and diversity research. It traces the wider genealogical history of the term in the ‘Global North’ then discusses how race as a concept is applicable to the ‘Global South’ where existing understandings about race are reaffirmed and unsettled. This chapter demonstrates the continued importance of considering race not just as a variable, but a key discursive framework in understandings of migration and diversity.
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