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Sociology of Migration AKA: Migration as Mirror to the “State” of the “Nation”

One in five people in Canada were not born in Canada. The economic engine of both the Philippines and central Mexico is based on remittances. Rural and “dying” communities throughout Europe and North America clamor for refugees in order to boost their economies. Twenty years ago no one expected this to be the reality. Why? And what does this teach us about what migration will mean in the future? That is the driving thread of this class.

In a time of increasing xenophobia worldwide, this class explores how discussions of “migration” and “migrants” are actually discussions of the state and the nation at a given time. We will detangle concepts of “the nation” and “the state” by discussing notions of self-determination and exploring the ongoing nationalizing process. We will also distinguish between “migration” as a multi-faceted process that can be regulated informally or formally, and “migrant” as a category of person defined by the state. We will pay particular attention to how global, local and national contexts shape and shift both the definitions and the perceptions of migration and migrants. We will do this through reading academic, journalistic, memoir and policy texts. We will also engage with different mediums including films, documentaries, radio and social media, as well as host guest speakers. Students will be organizing and hosting a three-day symposium, “The State of Migration in 2026”, at the conclusion of the class.

Dr. Shayna Plaut
University of British Columbia

Visit the PDF version of Migration as Mirror to the “State” of the “Nation” to access the full syllabus.


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