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1There is something bold and a bit provocative in the title of Antoine Pécoud’s latest work given the current public debate on migration in which everything seems, on the contrary, over-politicized. In fact, he has analysed the depoliticization phenomenon on the basis of highly specific material: a relatively recent, growing corpus of international reports and publications on migration produced primarily by international institutions. This mass of documents, containing what Pécoud terms “international migration narratives” (IMN), reflects as he sees it a strong general interest in the migration question on the part of states, international organizations (IOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – a considerable number of actors. These highly particular narratives are the central focus of this brief work; Pécoud analyses their key arguments and how they present a certain migration reality. It is an original undertaking not only for the material, which has hardly ever been studied, but also because his analyses are based on his own approximately ten-year professional experience as an international civil servant at UNESCO, one of the international organizations that produce IMN. Since Pécoud himself comes from the world of research, he is in a good position to identify and explain in concrete terms what he considers the fundamental tension in international organizations, reflected in the ambiguous content of IMN; i.e., that those organizations operate at once as “technical bodies” supporting research activities and debate and political actors in the service of states and governments.

2In the first chapters Pécoud retraces his own professional path at UNESCO and describes the international context in which IMN appeared: increased intergovernmental cooperation on migration primarily aimed to improve border controls but also to jointly determine “‘global governance’ mechanisms.” The author stresses the active role of international organizations here, which set about launching international migration programmes and producing a considerable volume of written material on the subject. In this connection, of course, IMN play a central role because they explain necessities and priorities and how to respond effectively to them. The following chapters analyse the discourse of IMN: the author presents a select corpus of texts, discusses the various existing theoretical frameworks for conceptualizing the role and functions of these narratives, and presents the main dynamics involved in elaborating and disseminating IMN.

3Pécoud engages in a “making of” for these new modern myths, deconstructing the heavily meaning-laden categories like “migration and development,” “global governance” and “brain drain” used in these international institution strongholds. He discovers contradictory political orientations in these often anonymous discourses; their authors, far from the passions of national political arenas on these questions, seem able to produce a more coherent vision of international migration. Pécoud sees this ambiguity as structural, inherent in the dynamic of IMN, part of what is for him a profoundly counter-productive “depoliticization” process.

4This raises the question of how researchers or citizens are to position themselves in response to this development: would rejecting the depoliticization that Pécoud reveals amount to joining in the hysteria of current national political debates? More programmatically, how can IMN and the subject they narrate be repoliticized without falling back into hyper-politicization of the migration question? Though the author gives no definitive answer, he does put forward several possible ways of repoliticizing current international debate on migration.

Mélodie Beaujeu
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
Uploaded on on 03/02/2017
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