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1This book brings together contributions from 32 researchers working on migration, as it has been studied over the last 3 decades in the Migrinter laboratory, founded in 1985 by Gildas Simon. The book brings to light, or recalls, this research unit’s contributions to what, after having long been largely neglected in France, has now become a major research field in the social sciences. Research at Migrinter illustrates a collective dynamic that has persisted through time: although the various authors do not belong to a unified school, they have mutually stimulated each other in exploring diverse lines and domains of research. The body of work presented here is thus eclectic, but far from haphazard.

2The book’s four sections demonstrate the diversity of research conducted in a unit that, while dominated by the field of geography, has been marked by interdisciplinarity. The book’s first striking aspect is the multiplicity of topics explored. One of Migrinter’s specialities from the beginning was the analysis of migration in terms of flows and trajectories, supplemented not long afterward by an approach in terms of circulation and territories (Part I). But its many theses and multiple research programmes have also focused on urban dynamics (Part II), connections to societies of origin in a transnational perspective (Part III), and what is known as forced migration (Part IV). In addition to these four organizing themes, the chapters explore issues of spatial segregation, health, commercial centralities, migrant associations and networks, migrant children, the use of new technologies, and, in the background throughout, questions of ethnicity.

3The book’s richness is also in part due to the editors’ decision to take stock of several decades of research in the unit. This means paying tribute to the researchers whose major theoretical contributions have made the unit one of the key centres of migration research in the French-speaking world. The contributions of Gildas Simon, Alain Tarrius, Emmanuel Ma Mung, Michelle Guillon, Stéphane De Tapia, and others are helpfully presented and will serve as a reference for future students. But this retrospective also showcases the many contributions of doctoral students, early-career researchers, and colleagues who are now key actors in research on migration.

4The multiplicity of the authors cited reflects the great variety of sites around the world where researchers from the Poitiers laboratory have conducted their fieldwork. They represent complementary bodies of research carried out in France, the Hispanic worlds (Spain and Latin America), the Arab worlds (with a particular focus on Tunisia), North America, and, more occasionally, South Africa, Haiti, Eastern Europe, and other regions. While the approach taken here to this diversity of sites is not comparative, these works nonetheless shed light on the diversity of forms that general processes can take.

5The final aspect of this wealth of studies that particularly commands attention is its methodological richness. The research in this volume displays a variety of methods which draw on the resources of a range of disciplines. Quantitative approaches are complemented by qualitative methods, inspired by anthropology in particular, based on the collection of actors’ speech and on biographical information. Over the past decade, several innovations have been attempted in the domain. Notably, the book presents an original chapter on an unprecedented use of the R statistical software to analyse the narratives of young migrants recounting their African journeys. While further work is needed to make a compelling case for the heuristic value of this method, the approach shows Migrinter’s characteristic methodological audacity.

6Various chapters also pay fitting tribute to the Revue européenne des migrations internationales, better known by its acronym, REMI. The research published in this journal over more than 3 decades highlights the careers of fundamental notions in migration research and the diversity of work in the domain, well beyond the circle of Migrinter itself. Recognized as one of the main French-language publications in migration studies, it is unquestionably one of the laboratory’s great successes.

7While Migrinter has undoubtedly contributed to improving understanding of human movements around the world, it has taken relatively little interest in certain issues concerning the structural constraints determining the realities individuals face. The power relations that weigh so heavily in the immigrant condition, forms of (institutional) discrimination, confinement to low-status work, racism, economic exploitation, the social exclusion of the undocumented, etc., have been relatively little studied at Migrinter. There has thus been little research in the laboratory on the political dimension of migration, at a time when it is a major political issue.

8Nevertheless, the contributors to this volume have collectively produced a major work, offering many insights into research in the making, in a highly dynamic and constantly evolving laboratory. It constitutes not only a precious record for the history of this field of research, but also a guide that stands to be of great use to anyone with an interest in migration studies.

Uploaded on on 06/07/2021
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