CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

1 In this open-access book, Anastasia Christou and Eleonore Kofman briefly retrace the history of the emergence and development of the field of gender and migration studies. The book draws on a rich bibliography centred mainly on Europe. It offers an accessible synthesis of this abundant research literature, while pointing to several questions and problems that have been little studied.

2 The introductory chapter explains the major scientific significance of work that brings together questions of gender and migration. While women currently represent a little under half of international migrants, what makes this combination important is not essentially quantitative. Rather, gender and migration are co-constituted realities that must be thought together. Migration is structured by gender, which shapes the drivers of migration, means of movement, etc., and migration structures gender relations at various scales (in migrant households and communities, and both host and origin societies). The second chapter presents major theoretical developments in the field, particularly the shift from a perspective centred on migrant women to one centred on gender relations. In the 1970s and 1980s, the first studies on women migrants ended their invisibility in earlier research and challenged the assumption that women necessarily migrate to follow a man for family reasons. However, an exclusive focus on migrant women risks reducing the question of gender to women alone. This perspective was thus progressively supplanted by other approaches where gender is theorized as a power relation, and some studies now look at migrant men through a gender lens. This chapter also presents other theoretical perspectives central to the field, such as intersectionality. The choice to present as many approaches as possible sometimes detracts from the clarity of the text, although a number of explanatory boxes provide some guidance for readers.

3 The rest of the book is organized into thematic chapters on labour migration, family migration, asylum, and ‘integration’. Chapter 3, on the gendered division of migrant labour, includes a stimulating discussion on the central concept of ‘global chains of care’, which refers to the transfer of care work from the Global South to the Global North. In the North, this work is delegated to migrant women from the South, who then delegate such work in their country of origin to other, poorer women who remain in the country. The chapter examines the limitations of this conceptual framework, arguing specifically that its focus on transnational mothers reflects its heteronormativity. Crucially, the authors explain, the labour market, and not only care work, is highly gendered for migrants. They thus encourage researchers in the field to investigate other sectors, especially skilled labour, which has been little studied.

4 Chapter 4 looks at family migration, now the largest category of migrant arrivals to Europe. Christou and Kofman give a detailed account of the history of research in this area. Here again, their choice to present large numbers of different perspectives makes it difficult to follow the thread of the text. Chapter 5 (on asylum) and Chapter 6 (on integration) are probably the richest and most original parts of the book. Chapter 5 includes a discussion on the notion of ‘vulnerability’, which has been playing an increasingly central role in asylum policies. The results are particularly restrictive for asylum seekers, prompted to present themselves as devoid of all capacity to act, or even to deliberately make themselves vulnerable, as they confront a ‘culture of disbelief’ where gender and sexuality are central. Finally, Chapter 6 details how research in this area has mobilized and criticized the notion of ‘integration’, and partly dismissed it as a device for neocolonial control over migrants. The instrumentalization of gender equality has taken the form of the ‘integration contracts’ implemented in many European countries in recent years, requiring migrants to make formal commitments to the State.

5 The book offers a stimulating, enlightening, and quite educational synthesis of a field of research particularly lively and rich on both theoretical and empirical levels.

Uploaded on on 28/07/2023
Distribution électronique pour Ined Editions © Ined Editions. Tous droits réservés pour tous pays. Il est interdit, sauf accord préalable et écrit de l’éditeur, de reproduire (notamment par photocopie) partiellement ou totalement le présent article, de le stocker dans une banque de données ou de le communiquer au public sous quelque forme et de quelque manière que ce soit.
Loading... Please wait